A picture is worth a thousand words for a reason. We had to catch our breaths slightly when we got glimpse of popular Instagram account @skinny_nyc for the first time and the heart-stirring photos taken by photographer, Karston “Skinny” Tannis. Karston is a native New Yorker based in Brooklyn specializing in portraiture and capturing the beauty of Brooklyn and New York. Besides photography, his hobbies include freestyle BMX, urban exploration, and starting conversations with strangers.
When he’s not updating his portfolio and documenting his BMX adventures, he’s busy preparing for his upcoming photo gallery music showcase in TriBeCa called #skinnywashere.
He acquired his nickname from a childhood friend who couldn’t remember his real name, but today, no one seems to forget Karston “Skinny” Tannis after stumbling across his portfolio or Instagram account.
You have always possessed an affinity for visual arts and exploration. How did you get into photography from the BMX scene and become a photographer?
BMX like many other action sports is fast paced and adventurous. I started taking photos to document the adventure from many roadtrips. I’ve met many people and made many friends all over the world through BMX. We were always in front of the camera and eventually ended up behind it, similar to actors who become directors. Every trick has a certain level of danger or creativity. We capture the trick by photo or video to compile videos or web edits for our friends. I’d actually like to thank a few friends for putting up with my random questions regarding photography and film throughout the years including Matt Brown, Launchpad, Keith Romanowski, Keith Terra, and Glenn PP Milligan.
You were born and raised in Brooklyn, tell us how the city has influenced your style of photography.
Growing up in Brooklyn has influenced my photography by challenging me to find an interesting image in any setting. I’m also into documenting the changes that occur in the urban landscapes of New York. From the terrain to the tenements, it’s interesting seeing luxury lofts next to pre-war buildings.
Your portfolio includes a range of shots from portraits, editorials and landscapes. What has specializing in portraiture taught you about people, if anything? What has your most memorable shoot been so far?
Shooting portraits is a psychological tug of war. I interact with the subject and try to pull out a range of emotion. My personality allows me to create a rapport with the subjects. I usually say some pretty outrageous things to get the awkwardness out of the way and keep the vibe positive.
Every shoot is memorable because they are all unique learning experiences. The one that stands out the most is from my trip to St. Vincent. My family is from the island of Bequia. It was an eye opening experience and brought me closer to my family and their history. You can view the St. Vincent gallery here: http://karstontannis.com/vincy.html
What is your personal motto or mantra?
Laughter is the fountain of youth.
Who are your style and/or entrepreneurial icons?
There are a few brands and friends that have supported me throughout the years that I support as well. These brands help me convey my style: Frontstreetny.com, 718video, lax films, animalbikes.com, basebrooklyn.net, dahshop.com, weirdbrand.com, ampmbmx.com, bulldogbikes.com and volumebikes.com
Fast forward 10 years. Where will Karston Tannis be?
Hopefully in 10 years I will be sipping on margaritas in the backyard with my family, or traveling to an unknown destination with a group of friends. I’m all about having a good time.
What is your favorite item from Wantering’s Tumblr and why?
This Bottega Veneta double breasted shearling jacket. New York winters can be harsh, it’s often hard to find something that is both functional and stylish. This jacket compliments my adventures through the city.
If you could give one piece of advice to your 14 year-old self, what would it be?
Pick up a camera along with your bike. There’s not much else I’d change about my journey. It’s helped to cultivate the person I am today.
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