Cody Hamilton is an Austin-based advertising and editorial photographer specializing in the creation of images with a visual twist and an off-beat humor. His style reflects his love of the great surrealist painters with a modern and clean aesthetic. He is also the founder of the newly-opened Whitebox Studio.
Are you from Austin originally?
I grew up in Wyoming and went to school at the Art Institute in Colorado. I lived in Missouri for a bit then moved to Austin about four years ago.
What inspired you to open a studio space?
It’s something I have always wanted to do. I’ve had the name for the studio in mind for about six years. The time finally came around, and we got the right people together to do it.
Is the main focus of the space to foster collaboration? Or was it to fill a void in the Austin studio scene?
Both. All the members wanted a space to create more community but also offer it as space to rent. More and more studios are closing which makes it harder to find a space to shoot in. So, that was a big motivational factor for me to get everybody together and to get us a space. I wanted something that was nice enough and that we could all afford. Collaboration and community are a big part of what we do. Also, we’re hoping to do quarterly industry parties as soon as we get settled in a little more and finish building the studio.
Collaboration and community are a big part of what we do
I saw the “Making of” video on your Brew Methods project. How did you come up with that concept?
Well, I was talking to my dad actually, about trying to come up with ideas on personal projects and he asked me what I was passionate about and of course, he knew that it’s photography and coffee. So that got me thinking of ways to try to showcase coffee that have not been done before and trying to do something that’s not cheesy or the typical coffee related photo. I played around with building some lettering before so that naturally came together. Then, building the words on the different ways of brewing coffee came after. It took a ton of time but it was fun… six pounds of coffee later.
How long did it take to produce from start to finish?
Since it was a personal project that I did on the side, it took about three months because it was done in the evenings in between jobs. The longest thing was gluing all the beans on. My wife helped a little with that but did not like gluing beans as much as I did. Then, the actual cutting of the letters and space structure actually only took a couple of days.
What is the best part of producing a new body of work, from conception to the finished product?
Actually doing it. Having people see the work is fun and hearing that they enjoy looking at it is great but for me my favorite part is the actual process. I started doing more and more constructed pieces to where it’s almost like creating sculptures and then photographing them. That’s probably one of my most favorite things about it because there is the challenge of figuring out how to do that but also how to do it in a way that photographs well. That’s why I’ve done some of the behind the scenes stop motion stuff because I want people to see that’s it’s not CGI. It’s actually being crafted versus being done on the computer. As good as CGI is there’s still this soul that’s missing from it.
What are your views on extreme postproduction in any of your images, advertising or otherwise?
I have nothing against excessive retouching as long as it’s done tastefully.
What is your thought process in set design as far as using props and developing color schemes? Do you have a background in set building?
As a kid, I grew up building different things. When I was in high school my dad and I built a log house. My grandpa was an electrician so he showed me how to wire the house. It was always a part of my life growing up and I like to apply that in my photography. Color scheme is important but I like to let my wife handle that. She’s the color guru.
Is there a new project that you’re working on now? If so, could you tell us about it?
I’m experimenting a lot right now trying to figure out how my style translates into motion. I’ve been avoiding the transition but there appears to be a need in the direction my clients are taking. Not necessarily full on commercialized videos but clips that can be used for additional billboards and things like that. My next project, I’m playing with the idea of that but nothing too specific yet. There will be something soon though.
I’m experimenting a lot right now trying to figure out How my style translates into motion.
How did you know you wanted to be an advertising photographer? Was it your first choice?
No, actually. It’s funny because if people were to look at my portfolio when I was in school, they would have had no clue that it was the same person. Everything in it was a lot of editorial portraits. So now if you look at my website you can’t find editorial portraits even though I still shoot them. Advertising just seemed to happen naturally. I always found myself going back towards my digital roots of Photoshop and retouching. Compositing was always a thing I loved doing in high school and it just seemed to rear it’s head up every now and then with whatever I was shooting at the time. After living here for a couple of years and getting a lot of guidance from Adam Voorhes, it definitely steered me in that direction. The same thing happened with The Butler Brothers. I sat down with Marty Butler one day and and asked him to look through my portfolio and give any advise he could muster. He specifically pointed out a lot of my conceptual work and said not many people in Austin can pull this off so perhaps focus there.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to pursue commercial photography?
I think specializing is a smart thing to do. It seems that people tend to generalize their work, but I think if you want to do advertising then specializing is a must because clients are going to come to you with a specific thing and you want to be the person they go to. I think if it’s too general they won’t come. Another is to shoot a ton and just shoot what you love.
I think specializing is a SMART thing to do
What photographers are you inspired by lately?
Simon Duhmal is one. Duhmal has a collaborative studio in Canada called Made of Stills. Duhmal and some of the other guys at Made of Stills do a lot of projects similar to what I do.
I am also drawn to the work of European photographers. I go to the site Ads of the World often, and I’m most drawn to the photographers from European counties like Poland and the Czech Republic. Brussels has a lot of cool work too. That whole area seems to be willing to take more risks in advertising.
Do you have any favorite photography books?
Archives’ 200 Best Advertising Photographers is my favorite thing on earth to flip through.
What are your favorite places to hang out in Austin?
El Tacorrido Drive-thru and Salvation Pizza are some of my favorites.
I also like hanging out at the dog park with my daughter and dog.
+ Whitebox Studio has one more spot open & they’re looking for someone that can fill it. They also want students that are looking for internship possibilities and maybe have collaboration with surroundings schools with that.
+ Get ready! Whitebox Studio will be having Grand Opening party as soon as they finish the last of the construction process.