When I started this profile piece I had a short list of people that I wanted to make sure I got up here. One of those guys was Top Shelf Junior. I used to watch a couple of his older videos a lot, two in particular. Mirrors by Jhene Aiko and My Type Of Party by Dom Kennedy. I still watch those videos to this day (Had to include those two videos into the profile as well in case you haven’t watched them). So check out this profile on Top Shelf Junior and be enlightened.
TRS: What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Danny Williams, AKA “Topshelf Junior” and I’m a Director + Photographer.
TRS: Where are you from and how has being there affected your creativity?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA…and I’d have to say being here affected my creativity in a number of ways. LA is a very diverse city, and growing up I was able to see a bunch of different things, people, cultures, and that allows me to be versatile in my creativity and things I work on. LA is also very fast paced, so it kinda forces you to be creative, but constantly, consistently…you have to be creative and fast. Nobody has patience in LA haha.
TRS: Explain what initially got you into shooting?
My Mom actually got me into shooting, photography. She moved from the country of Jamaica, to the city of New York…when she was 20 years old, and to kind of deal with/document that experience/culture shock, she took a lot of photos. There were a ton of photos in our household, photo albums, and my Mom always had cameras around. Naturally, she’d pass em down to us, tell us to play with them…so it kinda stuck with me. I always loved movies growing up, but in high school is where I really fell in love with them, especially 9th grade, in our film production class.
TRS: Explain what does an average day look like for you?
An average day for me is actually pretty random and all over the place. For example, this week Monday there was nothing scheduled, so I used that time to do some research, some writing, listening to music, domestic duties, personal errands etc. Tuesday, I’m shooting a video for Omarion, Weds I have a meeting at Atlantic Records and Interscope Records, Thursday I have another meeting and a photo shoot for an artist at a recording studio, Friday is a business lunch and another meeting also. So, being that I don’t have a 9 to 5 job, I’m always following up, executing, exploring the avenues/clients that bring money in. There’s no set schedule for me, it’s always about half meetings, half shooting.
TRS: What things do you look at or watch for inspiration?
In terms of inspiration, I’m constantly looking at books or reading things or researching art/works from the people I grew up admiring, and some of the greats too. I always revisit old work from the people that were successful at it. I also draw a lot of inspiration from my peers in the same field, artists of today, people constantly putting out consistent content or art. The internet is an amazing resource for that.
TRS: What camera setup do you currently use (camera, lens, other accessories, etc)?
My camera setup often changes, depending on the job. I have a pretty solid setup of photography cameras and film/video cameras, because I like to be versatile and prepared for whatever a client might ask for. For many years, the Canon 5D Mark 1 and Canon 5D Mark 2 never left my side, it was able to handle both photography and video. Naturally I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark 3, with an almost full set of L Series lenses, but also a couple tools for documentary stuff also (mic + onboard light). For larger film/video projects we shoot on Arri or RED, depending on the job/budget.
TRS: What do you specialize in or what do you enjoy shooting the most and why?
I can’t really say I specialize in anything particular, but I’ve had more success on the film/video side of things. Music videos is really what got me on the radar, but photography wasn’t too far behind. A lot of people compliment me on my colors in photos, as well as in videos, but I think what I really bring out in my work is a very honest and real feeling. Photography was my first love, but Directing is my current love. Shooting videos and docs right now is something I enjoy more than photos, but not by much.
TRS: 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?
Top 3 albums of all time ? Wow, definitely can’t answer that but… I can vividly remember the effect Outkast’s first (3) albums had on me. Each album, for the time that it came out, was very creative in their own ways, and definitely didn’t sound like anything else out at the time. Outkast’s first album told their story, provided their foundation. Their second album switched lanes, changed the sound/feel/look. Their third album elevated everything that they were good at, and made it great. They put their stamp on their brand/music/art. And those characteristics alone, those three albums, is how I approach the creative process when working on something or working with an artist, that’s what I try to do for them. Story and foundation. Switch it up and come with something new. Take something good and make it great.
TRS: How did you initially get to doing work for Jhene Aiko and other celebrities?
I initially got to work with Jhene after I had been making a little noise on the indie music (video) scene in Los Angeles. She had seen some of the stuff I was working on and agreed to a meeting after I reached out to her thru mutual friends. In terms of other celebrities, a lot of them come thru word of mouth x social media x business relationships with mutual friends/clients. LA is a big melting pot, but also a city x industry where a lot of people look at from all over the world. If your business side is in place, it’ll make communication easier for new clients to reach you and do business, that’s what kind of happened with me. A snow-ball effect.
TRS: What do you do at the Top Shelf Company and what type of work do you all specialize in?
At The Topshelf Company, I’m CEO x Director x Photographer x Editor. I’m the glue, the foundation. I do it all, from picking stylists for jobs, editors for jobs, crew, to taking meetings, to producing, to castings, to writing, etc…I built it from the ground up.
TRS: Who are some shooters that you follow and what do you admire about their work?
Some photographers right now that I admire are Jessica Foley, Dana Washington, and Pavielle Garcia. They each have a certain look to their work that isn’t like anyone else, but there’s also a soul to it…there’s a feeling there.
TRS: What is one tangible piece of advice that you would give somebody who has just started shooting?
Advice to someone that just started shooting ? Don’t listen to anybody haha ! On a serious note, I think for someone just starting out…it’s VERY important to just go out and shoot. Shoot what your gut instinct tells you too. There is no right or wrong way to shoot, there’s no right or wrong content or person or thing to shoot, just simply go out and shoot. Challenge yourself, use cameras or lenses or go places you’ve never been, and just shoot. You’ll make mistakes, but those mistakes are lessons.
TRS: What is next for you?
What’s next for The Topshelf Company + myself is, films. Movies is the ultimate goal, and we’re slowly but surely inching closer to that. Documentaries, TV shows, commercials, short films, feature films. We’d like to touch all of those, as well as continue to shoot photography and music videos.
TRS: Where can people find you?
Our company site is: www.thetopshelfcompany.com / Twitter: @weshootpeople /// My personal site is: www.topshelfjunior.com + Instagram/Twitter is: @TOPSHELFJUNIOR for both.