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How I got Zendaya's attention by recreating her Elle cover photo-Photographer, Don Ulysse

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

Atlanta photographer, @donllyphoto went from recreating an Elle Magazine cover photo to being featured in Vogue! His work has been recognized by celebrities like Zendaya and Macaiah Carter. Don’s perseverance and passion for photography easily secured him a place in our spotlight! Here's Don's inspiring story:

My name is Don Ulysse. I am a fashion, model, photographer, and art director. I moved to the U.S. from Haiti in 2010 after a devastating earthquake that struck Haiti. To fast forward to now, I found a love for photography in high school it was about 5-6 years ago, which I purchased my first ever camera (Nikon D3500) in January of 2019, and ever since I purchased my camera, I immediately realized that photography is one of many things that I am passionate about in the arts.

Photography means expressing one’s thoughts and vision into pieces of photographs. Being a photographer has allowed me to tell incredible stories through photos, showed me new skills I didn’t know I had in me, and it has allowed me to be fearless with my creativity. There are not many Haitians that are fashion photographers. I want to inspire my people and the world that as long as you do not give up anything is possible.

Some of my favourite photographers are Karl Lagerfeld, Nigel Barker, Macaiah Carter and much more- the list would go on and on. But these three stood out to me because they tell a story with every photograph whether it is fun, charming or something to make you feel an emotion or to feel present at the moment and I love that about their work. Although Karl passed away his work will live on forever and the passion that he had for fashion was beyond amazing.

I remember there was a time where I stopped posting on my photography page for a year. I had a business partner where we both co-owned a multimedia company, where I was the lead photographer for the company. During that moment I felt like I lost the fire that I had as a photographer, I stopped posting on my personal photography page for almost a year. I decided to leave that company and went back to being solo, and it was the best decision I could have made. I regained the fire and creativity that I knew I always had. Back in October of 2020 I returned to my old photography page (DonllyPhoto) and I started to photograph again everyday which made me fall in love with it even more. People around me have always praised me for not being afraid to express my creative mind and as for family I think they are still getting used to me pursuing a career as a creative.

My aesthetic as a photographer constantly changes. I’m always introducing myself to new things but I’d say my aesthetic is almost this film-like color, this warm color I love to emphasize in my photos; I believe that allows me to give a nostalgic look to my viewers.

I’ve been featured on Vogue quite a few times and first and foremost, I want to thank God for giving me the skills and knowledge that I have about photography which have led me to be where I am at now and I am super thankful to have been featured on Vogue. As for Elle, I actually recreated Zendaya’s Elle cover which gained the attention of Zendaya and Macaiah Carter and I think that was a great way to start the year in which Zendaya liked and commented and honestly it felt great because I have worked so hard to be where I am at and it is only up from here.

I envision myself working with Nike, Alexander Wang, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, H&M, Zara and that’s just to name a few. I pick those brands because whenever they release a new line of clothing, it immediately catches one’s attention, and as a creative, I have some over the top concepts ready to break the internet with those brands.

Don explains how he prepares for an editorial shoot.

I typically have videos of the behind the scene process that I take before photoshoots. To start with, I typically work on coming up with a concept, there are normally 2 or 3 concepts created and the clients get to pick their favorite or whether or not they would want to do all concepts created. Next, we confirm dates, location, outfits. Another very important factor is weather; ensuring the weather will be perfect for the day of the shoot. As far as equipment, my camera, camera lights, batteries, lenses, reflectors, and props for art direction, Dressing up nice, traveling to a new place, city or country. You must do a photo shoot. (Laugh out loud) you must let the world know where you are and how you're stepping!

Projecting what the future holds, Don sees himself accomplishing everything that he always wanted to do or have. He believes they are attainable. Then shares words of advice to upcoming professional photographers

My advice to emerging photographers is to find your niche and run with it. Shoot as much as you can, tell a story, make your audience feel connected to the story you’re telling. Be known for a specific style of photography and do not be afraid to fail because you will always get right back up as long as you continue to push forward. For those that do not have the resources, you just have to keep working hard and one day the things you didn’t have will be easily accessible!

Prefer listening ? Listen to Don's interview here



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