WEST PHILLIPS | The Wanderlust Lens
by Herb Sosa
My parents instilled a great sense of wonder and appreciation
for different cultures in my sister and I while growing up.
Due to my father's career, we relocated often and rarely
stayed in one place longer than a few years. As a child it was
difficult at first, but as I got older I realized that it was because
of this moving around and all of these different experiences
that I was able to move so freely and easily between all sorts
of different people. I had friends from all walks of life, all
back grounds and when we would arrive at a new school I
was able to make new friends in no time. By the time college
came I was ready to start branching out on my own and
making my own path. I've since taken this sense of
adventure to a new level and despite all of the travel and
living abroad my parents did when they were younger, I have
them beat for countries visited! I love returning home after a
long trip abroad and talking to my family about my travels and
all that I experienced. They used to call me a gypsy or a
nomad, but now with my photography career it's easier to
justify this wanderlust.
Meet the charming & talented West Phillips.
What got you interested in photography?
My interest in photography was first sparked when I was
living in NYC in 2010. I was inspired by the incredible city
around me - the architecture, the people, the food. There
was always something new to see, always someone new to
meet and I found myself carrying my camera with me nearly
everywhere I went, constantly documenting what, where and
who I saw.
How did you get started?
It's funny, my first 'models' I photographed were actually
people I was dating at the time. Before I knew it I was
photographing friends, then referrals from others and within
a few months I began receiving inquiries for actual paid work.
It was at this time I realized that I could actually earn
some sort of living at this passion I stumbled upon.
Favorite (photo) subjects?
Some of my personal favorites were from my travels abroad.
I found the best way to truly experience a different culture is to simply stop and observe. Something so routine and insignificant to the
subject could be a beautiful moment captured by the lens and preserved forever. One of my favorites is of the back of a restaurant in my
old neighborhood in NYC. The restaurant staff are on a break together and are enjoying a moment together, laughing and talking. The
moment was over in the blink of an eye and I'm so grateful to have been able to capture it.
How did you handle your intital transition on South Florida - culture, languages, food, etc.?
Culture shock! I moved to Miami from North Carolina with my partner at the time. This was by far my biggest jump away from home at the
time. The language difference enough wasn't the biggest challenge. I had a basic foundation of Spanish from school to help me out and
clearly being a bit of a minority in Miami, I had no choice but to learn more! I think the biggest challenge for me was adjusting to the laid
back and slower pace of life down here, which carries over into many, many aspects of day to day life. I must say that since moving down
here my taste in food has improved. I love all of the great restaurants and cafes here! Cuban, Peruvian, Colombian - I love it all.
How has that experience helped you as you have traveled/met new people?
Living in Miami has taught me to be a more patient person! I think to be surrounded by such a
beautiful and diverse Latin community here in South FL is a great way to familiarize yourself with
a culture removed from your own. To be fully submersed into the food, the people, the culture is
eye opening and teaches an appreciation of all that is out there.
You recently did a homecoming of sorts to Miami - Why? the sun, the boys, work, what?
Miami and South FL are very special to me and since arriving here for the first time in 2005, I really
feel it has become home for me. Granted, my family is all up north, but some of my closest and
dearest friends are here in Miami and the memories I've made here truly make it home to me. In
addition, since I started my photography last year I've been eager to return here. I'm not sure if
you've noticed but Miami has some gorgeous people and I'm looking forward to seeing what
magic I can come up with here! The sun, beaches and boys certainly are icing on the cake.
What do you look for in a model? In a location?
For my own personal projects I enjoy photographing models of all backgrounds. The mass
media here in the US tends to gravitate towards the more main stream blonde hair, blue eyes.
I found in my model selection I have a very broad taste. There are beautiful people in every
ethnicity. I always say that "Hot is hot".
My locations range from urban to rural to indoor spaces. I tend to work outdoors a lot and love
the variety that different locations can provide. I would love for the viewer to find something
beautiful about the background regardless of the model that is also in the photo. I love to
incorporate architecture and landscapes and thankfully South FL has plenty of both to keep me
Who/what do you want to photograph, that you havent yet, and why?
I have different things I'd like to do with my photography long term. Part of me would love to build
a reputation as a fashion photographer and then another side of me would like to photograph
celebrities in my own style and taste, as I think that would be a thrill and of course an incredible
opportunity. What may surprise a lot of people is that the other side of me wants to set back out
into the world with my camera and to capture people, cultures and events that are happening in
places far removed from my own.
What makes a photograph memorable?
For me, it's all about the moment. If I'm working with a model, it's about the chemistry and connection I share with that person. A lot of
times taking these photos require a level of intimacy that few may understand. Sure, there can be sex appeal and attitude conveyed when
photographing a model, but there can also be a great deal of personality. Some of my most memorable photos are the candid shots
captured when neither one us is trying. I'm very fortunate to have met some amazing people through my photography and at the end of the
day, each photo is memorable in it's own way, regardless of how many models I've photographed.
Has photographing hot boys and girls all day affected your relationships? How?
I must say that it certainly has. When I really began photographing seriously, I was dating someone who wasn't sure how to react to my
weekly shoots with these hot models. There was certainly an amount of jealousy, but with any relationship you have to deal with that I
think. It's a matter of trust and communication. Hopefully my standards in potential dates doesn't become unattainable! The models are
great but when it comes to dating and romance I'd much rather have a partner who I'm compatible with and can share a mutual passion for
one another with. A Miami beach body is great but not a requirement.
Would you/have you dated your subjects?
My first subjects were people I was dating at the time. They were my guinea pigs at the time, I guess. Since then I've certainly become
more professional in my photo shoots and my model selection. There are times when it can be awkward working with someone,
especially if they are giving me signals that they are interested in more than just a photo shoot. The key for me is to draw that line and to be
smart about what sort of reputation I want to develop as a growing photographer. That's not to say that I haven't dated any of my models,
just not on camera =)
What are the 3 words that you would use to describe your work. And your person?
WORK | Cinematic, diverse, adventurous
Me | Adventurous, daring, wanderlust
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My primary message
I try to convey with
my photography is
the beauty and art
that can be found in
Whether it be a
model who the
viewer may not
notice on the street,
or a location that
was once magnificent
and now sits in
overtaken by weeds
and graffiti, beauty
is all around us.
All we have to do
is see the potential.