Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Written by Lauren Burke Photographed by Foster White
When Foster K. White is behind the camera, he sees in triangles and light. Light is a forever-obsession for White, born watching sunsets through the windows of his mother’s home as a child in Philly. “It’s nice to watch the last bit of light vanish from the inside,” he says of those early memories. “The setting sun … brings a lot of lines. It brings a lot of warm light.”
Yellow hues characteristic of that sunset ‘golden hour’ are White’s favorite shades. And though it is now pervasive in his body of portraiture work, this connection between light, color, and photography was unexpected. “I didn’t realize [photography] would lead me so far into color,” he says. “Colors react to light differently. And all of them evoke different emotions. Warm lighting feels a certain way.”
The effect of lighting is so important to White that he jokes (somewhat seriously) that he “would almost rather not see stuff than hate the lights.” The absolute worst are harsh overhead lights like school and office building fluorescents, he says. “That is the most abusive lighting that I can imagine. I feel my brain dying when those lights are on.”
It seems only fitting that White’s ‘aha’ moment with photography came in a space almost completely devoid of light—his high school photography darkroom. “Being in the darkroom is definitely where it got addicting to me, for sure,” he says.
The triangle portion of White’s photographic vision has less distinct origins but remains equally present in his work.“I can’t get into why, but…I do love triangles,” he says.
The shape can be found throughout White’s portraiture and even in his own posture, in the bend of an elbow or a knee. Triangles, White says, keep the viewer’s eye in the frame, allowing it to catch new details that it might have missed before. The ability to craft these details is key to White’s choice of portraiture over other specialties like street photography, where controlling the entire frame is nearly impossible.
“My portraits allow very little room for the unexpected,” White says, likening the ability to pick and choose details in a photo to the process of a painter selecting which colors to use. Control and precision might be central to White’s work, but he admires their opposites. He loves to travel not necessarily for art but for the challenge of being in a completely foreign place. He thrives on the confusion of not knowing the small things, like whether or not he received the correct change. He also finds release in music, particularly jazz, evident in his extensive library of self-made Spotify playlists. Their titles, reflecting their moods, range from Elevator Music to Backpack Shawty. “Music is what I go to when I don’t feel like dealing with photo stuff,” he says. Even more so than music and traveling, White turns to his friends when he needs to press the refresh button after falling into a creative rut. Some are muses, some are creatives, and others are far from either. But all have passions.
“People who are just compelled by something,” White says. “I need to have them around.” Friends in the photo space come with the added bonus of being able to riff on the day-to-day of being in the field. In conversation with them, White can work through the uncomfortable parts of the business, like the inevitable tension that arises between the photographer and the model when the photos aren’t coming out as expected. (White’s take is that this is never the subject’s fault, but it tends to feel like it.) He also credits his nine-to-five in DC as a photographer with keeping his art moving. “There’s a certain type of polished you become from just working day in and day out. Sometimes I get the feeling that it takes away from it… [but] those are only on my tired days,” he says, adding he’s “very thankful for that.”
And for the other creatives honing their craft in day jobs or side hustles in the DMV and beyond, White has simple words of wisdom: “I got no advice except keep doing what you do. And, you know, check me out. ”That’s fkwhite_ on Insta, @FosterKWhite on Twitter, and fkwhite.com.
P.S. – White might just follow you back. In his own words, “I got nothing to gain by looking at my own stuff for very long…there’s too many dope things on this planet.”