Memphis photographer specializes in vivid images
By Ron Wynn
Memphis photographer Patrick Covington specializes in vivid, striking images, whether he's taking shots at weddings, doing models or capturing expressive moves and maneuvers during a video. His studio, located almost directly opposite the famed Sun/Memphis Recording Service on 639 Marshall Street in a locale with some topflight painters and artists, is filled with compelling portraits. But to Covington, a native Memphian and 2012 Southern Entertainment winner for Photographer of the Year, his work is about much more than superb craftmanship: it's about telling the truth via images.
"I grew up in the streets," Covington said during a recent interview conducted at his studio in the midst of a busy session where he periodically ducked out to ensure things were going smoothly. " I've always had that gift, the eye to be able to tell you how something should look. I always seek the truth in visual expression. It's much more than just pointing the camera or telling someone where to stand or how to sit. It's about really communicating a feeling, a vision, a look. What I always want to do in any situation is give the client not only what they want, but what I feel is honest and real. The camera doesn't lie, but you also have to know what it's saying and how to best present it."
Covington travels extensively, both in his role as a photographer and his other duties as a broker for Federal Express. He's constantly in demand, as his versatility has him doing family portraits one week, supervising and shooting on locale fashion models, or venturing to different cities for candid photos or videos of rappers and singers. In recent weeks he's gone from Nashville to Texas, Atlanta to the Midwest and West Coast, and calls himself a "seven day a week guy," meaning he's always ready and willing to take assignments. Covington puts the number of folks he's shot at well over 20,000, and in a given month may do up to 300 jobs, depending on such variables as locale, specifications, and turnaround time.
He began early in his professional life doing landscapes with a 35 millimeter, doing what he now describes as "learning the business." But his skill soon became evident as he graduated to other areas and settings. Some recent musical clients include Luv B & Jason Da Hater, Duce, Amika, Wave Chappelle and Porcela Chalet. He's also photographed many models, from choices for Model of the Month like Envi Nicole, Antoinette Mercedes and Shaniece to Cicely Perry, Ashley Carson and Gennell P. In each case, Covington doesn't just settle for standard looks, opting for visually compelling and entrancing shots and looks.
Despite already being a prolific, successful professional, Covington always looks ahead to the next challenge. One thing he's interested in expanding concerns more work in Hollywood, and he's even going to Los Angeles later in the month. But he acknowledges there's one thing which makes that scene a bit tougher to crack than many others: the presence of that contingent of photographers otherwise known as "paparazzi," the hordes whose antics following actors and other entertainers have led to many colorful stories and incidents,
"The paparazzi are very territorial," Covington said.. "They regard that area as their turf, and they don't tend to be very friendly or welcoming to new people. But that's OK. I always enjoy a challenge, and that's an area I'm really exploring. I don't know how soon I'll be getting into or how heavy at first, but it is something that I'm really going to seriously consider. I've even been pondering maybe going out there for a while, but that's a big decision."
Meanwhile, Covington often finds himself encouraging younger photographers, both in Memphis and other places, and he has some suggestions for anyone considering the business, especially Black photographers. "You've got to know what you want to do," Covington said. "This is both a serious and expensive business, especially when you're getting started. You've got to have the right cameras, the correct lenses, have the technical stuff that's required for the job, or the people you're trying to impress will just look at you and dismiss you without giving you the chance. I would say on estimate at least $400-$500 for just the basic stuff."
"Then once you get in the door, you've got to produce. I can look at a situation or a locale and immediately figure out what I need to shoot, where people need to be, what the obstacles are, where to place the lights. All those things have to become secondary in your mind to planning what story you're trying to tell visually. It is possible to go to school and learn the technical end, but then it just becomes a matter of polishing your skills and your eye."
"For me, it's (photography) always an evolving thing," Covington concluded. "It's something that I love and something that I never get tired of doing."
(Patrick Covington can be reached at patrickcovington,com. His office is located at 639 Marshall Street in Memphis).