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Recent SCAD grad’s work featured in ‘Empire’

It’s not always easy to get work right after you graduate from college. However, for Vegas Giovanni, he’s not only started a promising freelance photography business, but he’s also had his work featured in Fox’s hit drama “Empire.”

Giovanni graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) Atlanta campus in June.

The Pensacola, Fla., native moved to Powder Springs when he was in the eighth grade, which is when he began to explore his creativity.

“I was kind of off in the cut, so to get to my house, you had to pass cows, all kind of farms and stuff,” Giovanni said. “I remember this long stretch of road, I think it was Rutland Drive, and I was like, ‘I guess this is it.’ You wake up, and you’re 13 years old, and you look around and you’re like … I guess this is what I have to work with.”

This sparked Giovanni’s interest in anime, cartoons and video games, all of which strongly influence his photography work today.

“When you go to a different (video game) level, there’s going to be a completely different color scheme and a completely different type of feeling,” Giovanni said. “It’s a lot more uncontrolled and out there than normal life can be.”

He soon moved to Atlanta, where he said he was exposed to real-life situations and problems. He especially noted the differences in education he experienced while attending Benjamin E. Mays High School in southwest Atlanta.

“(High school) is where I really got the Atlanta treatment, because when you’re in Powder Springs and Cobb County, it’s a completely different situation than when you come to the inner-city, Atlanta public school system,” Giovanni said.

He then enrolled in SCAD as an interior design major, but he changed to photography after he borrowed a friend’s camera, which he used to shoot for fun. However, classes soon became the opposite of fun for him.

“I almost stopped photography because when you get into the nitty-gritty, technical aspects of photography that you have to know to succeed, it gets really complicated and tough very quickly,” Giovanni said.

Shortly after graduation, he received an email asking if three pieces of his works could be featured in Cookie’s apartment on the season 3 premiere of “Empire.” Cookie, played by Emmy and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, is a fan favorite.

“They actually contacted me, and I was surprised to learn that they actually found a couple other SCAD students to have their work featured on previous seasons of ‘Empire,’” Giovanni said.

Giovanni said two of the pieces chosen actually came from SCAD projects he did for classes, while the other one was a photo he took of a past lover in his apartment, titled “Full Bloom.”

He’s never seen an episode of the show, and even though the episode containing his work premiered on Sept. 21, he still hasn’t seen it yet.

However, he has seen the layout of the apartment and how it incorporated his work.

“I didn’t know why they picked them at first,” Giovanni said,” but once I saw them in the space, I was like, ‘OK, it makes a lot of sense.’”

Aside from this one project, he’s been keeping himself busy shooting for agencies and brands both in and out of Atlanta. He’s also photographed entertainment figures and celebrities such as Jacob Latimore, 21 Savage, Joseline Hernandez and Offset, one of the members of Atlanta-based hip-hop group Migos.

As far as what the future holds, Giovanni said he’s taking it one shoot at a time.

“I’m really just trying to figure it out as I go, and that seems to be the toughest part — staying mentally balanced and just focusing and trying to be productive,” Giovanni said. “I just take every opportunity as they come, and hopefully it turns into something magnificent.”

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