What is your name and what do you do?
I’m Alex Belardi (some people just call me Belardi) and I’m a freelance photographer
Where are you from and how has being there affected your creativity?
I’m originally from upstate NY but I’ve lived in Virginia Beach/Norfolk for the majority of my life. I think the fact that we don’t have a ton of varying scenery here forces me come up with more out of the box concepts and it helps push my creativity to new levels. Don’t get me wrong, we do have some beautiful nature scenery here but after a while it gets old shooting at the same looking locations. You have to at least try to disguise them and make those locations look cooler. It’s not like major cities such as New York or Chicago or LA where you have all the cool architecture around every corner to use as a backdrop. So in a way it’s both a blessing and a curse.
Explain what initially got you into shooting?
At first I made videos….I started shooting those when I was about 14 with a little handheld camcorder and would come up with ideas for really short films. Later on I got my first DSLR and started taking the video thing more seriously. I shot music videos, events, behind the scenes stuff, etc. I tried taking pictures here and there with my DSLR but they came out super terrible because I had no idea what I was doing haha. I had fun with creating videos for a while but eventually realized I wasn’t enjoying editing them as much as I used to and so I started exploring photography more. I found out I really loved the process of taking/editing pictures and so I focused on trying to improve on that. I ditched creating videos and haven’t looked back since.
Explain what does an average day look like for you?
Most days I work at my day job and then fit in as many other productive things as I can. On my days off I’m usually out adventuring and finding new locations to shoot at and hanging out with my other creative friends. I love exploring and shooting abandoned locations and I search for those quite frequently. Also on an average day I’m usually drinking coffee, browsing content looking for inspiration and fitting some games of Call of Duty in too, of course.
What things do you look at or watch for inspiration?
I like to watch music videos, documentaries, random artistic short films (Vimeo is a great place to find them) and also videos pertaining to artists and their process behind doing what they do -thecreatorclass.com is a site with a lot of amazing content for that. I believe watching/reading diverse content is the best way to gain inspiration because you acquire more perspective which leads to new ideas. In addition to what I watch I also enjoy reading articles on fashion and lifestyle websites. Can’t forget about podcasts either!
What is a quote or motto that you live by?
“Success is right outside of your comfort zone”. I’m not really sure who the quote is by or where I heard it but it resonates within me and is undoubtedly true. It’s not just about success, it’s about being happy in general. If you stay inside a shell (your comfort zone) and don’t try to experience new things, you’ll have a mundane life and won’t be truly happy. I have had plenty of times where I’ve been nervous about a new opportunity but every time I push myself to go through with it, I’m always happy in the end and am slowly breaking out of my comfort zone each time. It’s an amazing feeling once you start to realize that nothing can ultimately hold you back – you are in control.
What camera setup do you currently use (camera, lens, other accessories, etc)?
Right now I’m rocking with the Canon 6D. I’ve had it for about a year and a half now….it’s a great camera. With it I usually am sporting a Canon 50mm f/1.8 or a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. Both lenses are great for different reasons but the 50mm is my favorite for shooting portraits and other close up shots. Anyone that does photography has to have a 50mm prime lens in their collection. It’s a must. Especially since it rings in at just over $100. Overall I keep it really simple, I’m not one of those photographers that has a bag stuffed with a ton of accessories. I’ve always made it work with what I’ve had.
What do you specialize in or what do you enjoy shooting the most and why?
I enjoy street photography, so shooting urban landscapes and architecture but also getting candid shots of people around the city. Candid shots are great because you get to capture raw emotion. Fashion and conceptual shots are also ones that I enjoy shooting. Recently I’ve been into capturing more portraits to mix it up from just taking pictures of landscapes. It’s a fun time working with people and having them contribute ideas while we’re shooting.
Since we believe that music is the center around all things creative, what are your top 3 music albums, and what about those albums that gets you in a creative zone?
Man, this is a tough one. I have so many albums I really rock with! If I had to choose three, I think I would say Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar, Epoch by Tycho and Currents by Tame Impala. With LongLiveA$AP by A$AP Rocky coming in right after. To me, they are masterpieces and are all perfect to vibe and chill out to. An awesome thing about great music is it can take you somewhere else for a short period of time and that’s what these albums do for me. They help me fully zone into creating. I’m actually listening to Epoch right now while responding to this interview haha.
This is a handful of the photographers who have work that inspires me to get better at my craft. There’s probably a bunch more, I just can’t think of them right now. I admire the fact that they have their own unique styles. A lot of people that I come across on Instagram nowadays have pictures that all look the same…there’s nothing that differentiates them. I’m also all about the vibes when it comes to artwork and all of these photographers bring them with every picture. Another photographer worth mentioning is Vivian Maier. She’s no longer living but she basically originated the street style of photography and her work is amazing. She has a lot of those candid street shots that I was talking about before.
What is one tangible piece of advice that you would give somebody who has just started shooting? (besides shooting more)
I have a few pieces of advice that all sort of tie in together. Don’t be discouraged when you first start shooting and aren’t getting the results that you would hope for. It takes a lot of time and practice to be able to turn what you vision in your head into a tangible piece of art. Find your own style and don’t try to template match other styles just because you see them getting a lot of attention. You may not get the recognition you deserve at first when you have a different style than most others, but in the long run it’ll be worth it when everyone else’s work just blends together. Lastly, just enjoy creating! People forget that the point of art is to have fun with it and do what you want to do…..that’s the best thing about creating – there are no rules!
Random Question: what do you think is the weirdest emoji that people use?
Definitely 💩. I mean, it’s a piece of shit with a smiling face on it haha. No other words needed.
What is next for you?
Hopefully a move to NYC later on this year. It’s the greatest city in the world! Other than that I plan to keep on grinding it out with this photography thing and network with new people. My main goal is to do freelance full-time and become my own boss. I also am a co-founder of a creative agency called No Preserves and plan to continue to work to get that off the ground. We’ve thrown 5 or 6 events called SHAKE in Norfolk so far and it’s been a great experience thus far.
Where can people find you?
In real life I’m always on the move so you have to track me down haha. Online you can find me at afbelardi.com, shoot me an email through there if you want to reach me. I can also be found on Instagram – my handle is @afbelardi