The Real Wiz Khalifa
A photographer’s work is to show us his subject. Every audience approaches a subject with preconceptions, judgments, and a cultural filter. If they are known to their audience, they bring that audience baggage and history with their gaze, coloring every experience. Photographers get to recontextualize all that. For some photographers, an image is an opportunity to show their version of the subject. Through framing and composition, the photographer has the chance to show the audience their version of the person they’re shooting. It can clear up misconceptions, correct the record, or indulge whatever expectations exist.
To look at Wiz Khalifa, for those who are not familiar to him, his style is unique and aggressive. It’s daring as much as it dares you to take umbrage with it. But for as assertive as his look is, when Marc Hom shot him for the cover of Office Magazine, he wanted to show the Wiz that he’s known for years. Marc shot the cover of Wiz’ 2012 album o.n.i.f.c., and the Wiz he knows is of a different ilk than quick judgments would permit. “The first time I photographed him I really liked that album, it was almost like a modern Bill Withers,” Marc says. “Wiz had a really distinguished voice. There’s something quite sincere about him that I really like.” Wiz names Jimi Hendrix as one of his biggest influences, so it stood to reason that he and Marc went to Electric Lady Studios in New York City for their shoot.
The two artists met inside and started shooting in the shadowy, intimate studio created for Hendrix, attuned to his sensibilities. The shoot was a mere four hours, but they went through at least six looks. “People like him, you’ve got to be really quick. He knows what he wants. So we started inside, and then went outside for variation,” Marc explains. “That gave the story a little bit more air.” That air allowed the space to show off Wiz in a way that was accurate to Marc’s experience. It was the perfect opportunity to set the record straight for those who aren’t already familiar with the musician. “He’s a really, really sensitive guy. He’s super appreciative, he has a great sense of style, but he’s a very good listener,” Marc says. Those are all crucial qualities to be a successful artist, and skills Marc had to employ to get an honest portrait of his subject.