Vivid, raw and nostalgic: Yavez Anthonio uses photography as a medium for storytelling
Based in New York and Amsterdam, the photographer and creative director shares his mother’s advice that never left him.
- Alif Ibrahim
- 13 November 2020
Splitting his time between New York and Amsterdam, Yavez Anthonio prefers to have a degree of freedom in the projects that he takes on. “My creative practice would be best described as photography, creative direction and multidisciplinary creative. My favourite projects are the ones where I have creative freedom and the ability to tell a story,” Yavez tells It’s Nice That. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and art direction from Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Yavez cut his teeth in the creative industry at a small advertising agency in Amsterdam. “A couple of months later, I started to realise that this job wasn’t it for me.”
Around that time, he found his old camera and started shooting photographs again. “I remember feeling so motivated, optimistic and excited. It reminded me of my dream to travel the world,” Yavez says of this renewed passion for photography. “The thought of travelling the world and taking photos was so tempting to me that one day I just woke up, quit my job and moved to London to pursue my dream.” Yavez mentions that he got into photography because of his grandfather, though he didn’t seriously consider the idea of becoming a photographer. At first, he was more interested in graphic design, typography and calligraphy.
“My mom was born in Suriname but moved with my grandma to Amsterdam when she was around four years old. She was really young when she had me so she raised me together with my grandma and grandpa,” Yavez says. His mother’s advice to Yavez and his sister Yacelyn to dream big and work hard never left his mind. “As I grew older, her way of thinking became an important part of my life and how I viewed the world and all its possibilities. It resulted in me living my dream.”
Yavez mentions a project with footwear brand Filling Pieces as one of his recent favourites. Receiving a brief around the theme “respect the old and invest in the new,” Yavez and his collaborators developed a concept of shooting barber culture in Los Angeles, highlighting how knowledge between generations gets exchanged at these barbershops. With friend and producer Josh Ilyas, they found a barber called Kev who owns a shop in Crenshaw. “My favourite part about this shoot was that the story of Kev was more important than the product, which in its own way validates the product even more,” Yavez says. Yacelyn, his sister, was an intern for the creative team at Filling Pieces at the time, giving the pair the opportunity to work together on the project.
This resulted in a series of photographs brimming with personality, each frame meticulously composed, creating a dynamism signature to Yavez’s brand of visual storytelling. In one image, a row of palm trees descend in the distance against a cloudless sky while his subject stands in the center of the frame, his shadow extending horizontally in the warm Los Angeles afternoon.
This affinity for creative freedom is also prominent in his project with Gap. After they reached out asking if he wanted to do a shoot in New York, Yavez suggested that the shoot take place in Rio de Janeiro instead, the city he travelled to to work on his personal project. The company accepted. “For my personal project I met a beautiful couple, Rosa and Ébano. I suggested them as potential models and Gap loved them,” Yavez explains. “What I liked most about this shoot is that they gave me full creative freedom to cast the models, scout the location and tell a story. I would say that this is one of my favourite projects so far.”
Currently, Yavez is completing the aforementioned personal project, his first that’s titled Rivers of January. “I want to focus more on other personal projects, dive deeper into storytelling and eventually start working on a short film,” he says. His deep connections with his subjects, and his skill of weaving stories together in his photographs, makes his work stand out as one that’s vivid, raw and nostalgic.
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About the Author
Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.