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Meet Charlie Spadone

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charlie Spadone.

Charlie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As long as I can remember art has been a huge part of my life. As one of four kids, it was a useful escape from a constantly busy household. My family encouraged me to explore art. My sister and I would spend time every day drawing, painting, crafting, taking pictures, and making videos. Having someone my age to create with kept me motivated and playful.

My family moved from Los Angeles to San Diego when I was eight. It took a while to find new friends, and I found myself joining online art communities. Befriending teenage artists as a preteen gave me a network of support, advice, and perspective from people further along in their artistic journeys. I was so impressed by their work it motivated me to seek out any knowledge I could find through tutorials and books.

As a teenager, I started a YouTube channel so I could explore video making. I mainly used the platform to talk about my experiences as a young nonbinary person, since I couldn’t find that representation myself. I found a community that was passionate about activism and art. I attended several YouTube conventions, even being invited to speak on a panel, which gave me an insight into the internet influencer world. I have since left YouTube but I am grateful for what this part of my life taught me.

I began taking photos of concerts for publications when I was 16. I took visual and digital art classes in school but learned photography through my dad, my friends, and online resources. Concert photography was the gateway to exploring this medium. It was exciting and challenging and I realized photography lit a fire in me that I’ve never experienced before.

I was determined to pursue photography on my own when I graduated high school and took two years off to work day jobs and attempt freelance on the side. I grew a lot but didn’t make much money, and felt stagnant and frustrated.

I decided I wanted to pursue further education, and am now studying photography and time based media at a university in London. I am excited to be surrounded by a community of artists in person and have mentors guiding me in my studies.

I have tried different ways of turning my creations into something to support myself. I’ve had an online jewelry store, created illustration and graphic design commissions, and have had experience being hired as a photographer as well as selling zines and prints. I’ve continued posting my art online to this day and find it the easiest way to share with other people, but I am interested in exploring more ways to connect with people in person.

Art is a self expression, stress relief, community connection, and a never ending passion all wrapped up into one. I am excited to see where it will take me in the future. For me art has never been a question of whether or not I should do it, it’s always been a necessity and I know will continue to be the main focus in my life.

Has it been a smooth road?
I am grateful to have known from an early age what my passion was and to have had a supportive family and community acceptance of my interests and identity. I’ve had struggles along the way, but coming out on the other side with new lessons and perspective is always a powerful experience. I dealt with homophobia and transphobia when I was creating videos online about my experience as an LGBT++ person. It was shocking and painful to receive so much hate. I also felt disillusioned by the companies involved and celebrities being promoted. I made the tough decision to step away from YouTube. It was hard to leave because it was the first LGBT+ community I had been involved in, as well as the most successful creative endeavor I have pursued so far. I still admire the work activists do, but I don’t feel comfortable explaining myself to strangers anymore. I learned how to find security and love within myself and am now more intentional with the energy I give out to the world. I will always value the impact of LGBT+ people following their passions publicly. I believe that diverse representation is important to open up space for more people to live their lives as honestly as possible.

Please tell us about your work.
I am an artist, a student, and am focusing on photography as a career. I have worked as an illustrator, graphic designer, makeup artist and jewelry designer in the past. I am constantly exploring new mediums, and am excited to continue experimenting with combining my interests. I believe every skill I have learned will influence what I create in the future, giving me more perspective creatively and empathetically. The work I am most proud of usually portrays a strong sense of joy and peace, either through people or nature. I love working with other creative people to document and express their art and the emotions and stories that come along with it. I enjoy capturing the communities I am a part of and creating our visual history.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The biggest shift in photography happened before I was born when digital media was introduced. I grew up surrounded by the internet, fully immersed in online content that I didn’t have to pay for. I know the internet will keep affecting how photography is sold and distributed. It is challenging to get paid as a concert photographer, as not many people want to buy an image they feel they can find online for free. I have noticed that musicians are increasingly reposting local photographers instead of hiring a touring photographer. It is a complicated topic, because building connections is an important part of creating a career, and giving back to the arts community is valuable. However, it is frustrating when it feels like people take advantage of that concept to get out of paying for work, believing that exposure equals compensation. I know photography will continue to be an important tool in society to document the world, but the sources of income could drastically shift as time goes on. It is becoming more accessible for anyone to take high quality images with their phone or an affordable camera, but I think that having a unique voice will always stand out.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
The photo of myself was taken by Jay Whitehead, all other photos are by me.

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