Zach Wolfe on Alfamega:
This shot is front of the Hilliard Street [Residence] Hotel, which is off of Auburn Avenue and Edgewood Street, downtown [in Atlanta]. It’s abandoned now and completely boarded up; it was in the process of being shut down at that point. The nickname on street is Pink City—crackhouse, whorehouse, pretty much one of the hardest spots in downtown Atlanta. The video I did with Pill is right in that area—not “Trap Goin’ Ham;” I did “Glass,” the black and white one right after that. They came after me to do that video right after “Trap Goin’ Ham” came out. They were like, “We want to shoot in the same area.” I was like, The only way I can do it without looking like I’m biting these other guys is if I shoot it black and white. So I just did a real grittier black and white play on that video. That was my first video that got to MTV. That was pretty cool.
Anyway, this shot right here: the day before the album cover shoot—which his album never came out—we were scouting and I showed up to the hotel before him. I pulled into the parking lot and a couple of guys came out and started yelling at me. They were like, “You need to get out of here or we’re gonna put something in you.” I was like, Whoa. They kept saying it over and over: We’re gonna put something in you. I was like, “I get it, I get it.” They’re like, “We’re gonna steal your camera, man. You’re done.” They had me trapped in the parking lot. I was by myself. I was like, This is it. These guys are dead serious. I see Alfamega pull up in his Dodge Ram and he could see from, like 30 yards away that I was like, C’mon dude, get out of your truck and help me out.
He gets out of his truck and starts screaming, “You got a problem with Zack, you got a problem with me! It’s going down!” He runs up the stairs—Alfamega’s not a small dude—and just gets in these dudes faces, starts spitting at them and basically like two minutes later everything was cool.
The next day, I convinced the label to go shoot there—without telling them that story—knowing Alfamega said, It’s all good now, they’re all clear. But, even on this shot right here, these two guys, apparently after I shot this shot right here, went up to him and they were like, “We’re gonna steal his camera. You gotta tell him if he shoots one more shot of us, we’re gonna take his camera and all his gear.” [Alfamega] came up to me and he was like, “I’m not gonna stop them. So I suggest you stop shooting me with those dudes in the background.”
I’d say a month later that place shut down, so I feel lucky that I got to cover that hotel before it was gone. I was definitely not the first person to shoot there, but probably the first person to shoot here with Octobanks and go in there pretty deep.
More Alfamega x Zach Wolfe here.
Zach Wolfe on Gucci Mane:
This was my first time shooting Gucci—my first time meeting him, all that. There was a lot of buzz around him in Atlanta at the time; an insane amount—anywhere you drove around in Atlanta you would hear Gucci being bumped in the cars. Two years ago, at that time it was just like “Guccimania,” so it was exciting to get a chance to finally shoot him. It was Gucci Mane, Shawty Lo, OJ da Juiceman and Soulja Boy [for the cover of XXL Magazine]. That was a real stressful week because no one knew how to get all four of those guys together at one point in time. It basically came down to us to having 30 minutes with all four of them and [XXL] wanted two cover options, two 2-page spread options and solos. I’m like, It’s not possible. You’re killing me. We ended up doing the whole shoot in 23 minutes, it was crazy. I’ve never in my life been tested like that. It was a 90 degrees, dead summer day, there were entourages—entourages had entourages—it was ridiculous.
The cool story about Gucci was that we were setting up a couple hours before that. We were actually on Hilliard Street, but a couple of blocks back in another pretty seedy area of Atlanta. I picked that area because they wanted an urban vibe, but I knew I could do without anyone knowing I was doing it because it was abandoned. Anyway, we hear the roar of a car coming at us. We were like, What’s going on? And it was Gucci in a yellow Lambo, just flying down the street. He came up to us, unrolled his windows and he was just laughing his ass off. He was 30 minutes early. He was just laughing, smoking, like, “I bet you didn’t think I’d be early, did you?” I’m like, “No.” He rolls his window up and drives off. He was so excited that he was going to be on the cover of XXL that he couldn’t hide it. Also, we also didn’t know if OJ da Juiceman was gonna show up, but OJ da Juiceman was with him in the car and they were both just smiling, loving it.
I shot him for Vibe a month after that as well. Gucci’s photogenic. I think Gucci’s a lot sharper than people think he is. He was fun to shoot. We’re not talking about how to pose him, or whatever. He had an energy. I think I measure true superstars like that. Sometimes I feel [photographers] have to be swagger coaches and that’s not my job, in my opinion, personally. I’m here to capture who you are and make it a little richer than what it is. But I’m not here to give you style. Gucci deinfitely didn’t need any style points—he’s a character in front of the character. I have probably 2,000 shots of Gucci and almost all of them, I think, are useable as far as interesting shots are concerned. Sometimes you shoot someone and you get 500 shots and it’s like they just turned their head to the left or to the right or up and down—he’s got different energy for every shot.
Zach Wolfe on Mims:
It was February. February in Atlanta is really intriguing to me because it’s really foggy and it’s almost a Seattle-style of weather where you get really weird clouds that move really fast and sometimes it’s misting, sometimes the sun will pop through—it’s really unpredictable weather. There was a field—it’s not even a field, it’s just a lot; a housing project that they just leveled—and there was this huge, several football fields-big, empty piece of land right downtown Atlanta. And there’s a huge neon red Coca-Cola sign and at night it just illuminates the whole field. I had been going down there and scouting and I’d randomly done a location scout shot during the day and underexposed by like five stops, which is basically exactly what you see with this Mims shot. The person I was scouting with was completely silhouetted and had all of these dead trees behind him and I felt that if I could shoot Mims like that, but just popped one light on him, it would just be a moody shot. The album that I shot for was titled Guilt. I thought it would fit good for that theme: guilt based off of all of his success and coming from nothing—that was his mindset for the visuals for the album. It just came as a happy accident because I had been scouting a lot in that area. It’s a very somber shot—just pretty simple and really underexposed and shot with one light popping on his face.
More Mims x Zach Wolfe here.
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