Photographers on Photographers: Alex Henderson in Conversation with Tenny Rudolph
Representation is important in many communities. In my conversation with film photographer, Tenny Rudolph, we touched on how representation can directly inspire the creative process as well as some of his new work. Rudolph was a coworker at a photography studio in Jacksonville, Florida. He is one of the most individualistic photographers I have had the pleasure of knowing. From his vintage clothing style to his exclusive artistic style, Rudolph is growing his practice by combining musical influences with film photography.
Tenny Rudolph is a 24-year-old Florida based & native photographer. Rudolph focuses on capturing the individuality displayed by youth around him with the goal to break societal standards. Alongside photography, Rudolph is an R&B Singer and often videographer.
Follow them on Instagram: @tennyrudolph
Tenny Rudolph: Do I introduce myself?
Alex Henderson: You can, that’s fine!
TR: I’m Tenny, I am a film photographer. I’m currently based out of Jacksonville, Florida.
AH: Can you tell me a little bit about your creative process and what that entails? What does it look like? What does it sound like?
TR: My creative process is honestly pretty messy and all over the place. I usually start with an idea in my head of what I want to do. I have creative friends that I can go to for advice on what I should do. These are what I should do and nine times out of ten, I don’t really listen to what my friends usually say. I always end up going and doing it how I want anyway but I like to go to them just for advice.
I usually start out with the idea 1st and then I figure out who I can see fitting in my creative process. Honestly, it just happens. I find the location that I feel is necessary and the models, of course, and then, boom, that’s that. After that, I usually edit my work while listening to a lot of 70s and 80s music. I like for my work to feel super nostalgic and not a part of the current time period. Usually, I like listening to music that relates to the project itself and just vibe.
AH: Okay and you bring it all together. Cool! You said that you really liked 70s music. Do you have a favorite Artist or band?
TR: This is really cliche, I don’t even know if Marvin Gaye is in the 70s, but I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye. I’ve been listening to a lot of Donna Summers. I listen to her a lot. Frank Ocean isn’t a part of that era but I listen to a lot of Frank Ocean while I’m editing. I listen to a lot of Earth, Wind and Fire. I usually just go through Apple playlists and look up 70s playlists that just fit the vibe.
AH: Do you feel that your vibe fits into the 70s era?
TR: I think so, yeah. Most of the time that’s literally what I’m going for. I like for my work to feel like it’s in a whole different world. I don’t want it to feel like the present day.
AH: That makes sense. I feel like I’m kind of the same way, but with 90s.
TR: Yeah, a lot of people love the 90s too. I love the 90s.
AH: Is there anything that draws you to the 70s? Is it the historical aspect of the time or the vibe of the time?
TR: It’s mostly the vibe. It’s not more so the historic aspect of it. Most of the time, it’s the fashion. I kind of like to dress the way that I take photos. I love that style. I love the way the hair was during this time & the nails. Everything. I just love everything about the 70s, 80s, and anything that’s not in this current day.
AH: Okay, I like that, I like that! Do you prefer film photography over digital?
TR: 100%. Yes, 100%.
AH: I feel that on a personal level. Do you ever work with medium format?
TR: Oh, medium format is all I work with right now. I use 35 mm but I’ve been trying to shift away and only do medium format. Most of my recent work is medium format.
AH: Is there a reason why you are choosing to only shoot medium format?
TR: I think I did one shoot with medium format and the quality of the photos that I took just drew me back into wanting to only work with medium format. I mean, I love 35mm but medium, it’s so crisp.
AH: What camera do you use for medium format?
TR: I use a Mamiyah RZ 67.
AH: Since we’re kind of talking about camera gear, what’s your favorite piece of photography gear that you own?
TR: Are you talking about cameras or anything extra?
AH: We could do both because I think it’s so easy to choose a camera instead of choosing another piece of gear.
TR: I never thought about this. I would say my tripod because when I’m shooting medium, that camera is so heavy, so using the tripod when I’m shooting medium is so good. The 120 is my favorite camera, but also my VHS camera is probably another one of my favorites too. I can’t really decide between those two.
AH: Do you have a favorite film stock?
TR: Yeah, I love portra 400. I just ordered a few rolls of Cinestill 800. I’ve never used it before, but I’ve always seen good reviews.
AH: I’ve seen some good reviews about Cinestill too. To be completely honest, I think I’ve shot a few rolls of Portra 400, but I’m so partial to Ilford, I don’t know why. I love Ilford, I’ve tried different things, but nothing hits like HP5 and XP-2 for me.
TR: I’ve been wanting to try a black & white film. I’ve never shot black & white film before, which is so weird. Actually, I have shot a roll of black & white film, but I haven’t gotten it developed and I don’t even know what I did with that roll but I need to find it.
AH: Okay, cool! How did you get started in photography?
TR: Let’s see, I had a friend named Hakeem Summers who is also a film photographer, his work is so good, we did a shoot in 2016. It was something that I creatively directed and he shot it and I loved the images but if I had shot it, I would have done some things differently. The photos were amazing but they made me want to pick up a camera. I felt like I could do this.
AH: Sounds like you had your own vision.
TR: Yeah, I felt like I could put my vision out there. He suggested the 35mm, Canon AE-1 for me. I got that camera and then I just started shooting film. I didn’t start with digital. I just started with that and that really got me into it.
AH: Would you say that your friend Hakeem was an inspiration to you?
TR: Oh yeah, definitely.
AH: Do you have any other inspirations or photography inspirations?
TR: I do, I have a lot. Khalil Osborne, he’s like my best friend. He’s an inspiration. I love Myles Loftin, he’s another black queer photographer. Renell Medrano, she is an amazing black photographer. Tyler Mitchell. I love Tyler Mitchell. He was the first black person to shoot a Vogue cover. Yeah, that was 2017-2018, I think.
AH: Oh yeah, I remember that. That was crazy! That was huge.
TR: So good, I was like, oh my God! I also love Micaiah Carter. He’s another black photographer. I love black photographers. I really look up to black photographers.
AH: I can relate. Honestly, it’s a lot different when you see someone who represents what you look like and the things that you believe in.
TR: They are out here doing their thing!
AH: Yeah and succeeding at doing exactly what they want to do, it’s amazing!
It’s so funny trying to find your own direction within photography and not trying to stick to what other people do. When I started photography, I didn’t even know of any black female photographers. Now that I’m a few years into photography, I have to think about if I know of any black female film photographers. So it’s important.
TR: It’s definitely important.
AH: I feel that. Something else that I noticed is that black joy seems to be a recurring theme in portraits of you. What is your connection to the idea of black joy?
TR: I just like smiling and being a joyful person. It’s like, I have a positive energy and I’m just this happy person. It’s not anything that’s made up. I love being able to represent young black guys who can just feel and be themselves. Open to being themselves, dress how they want, and feel how they want without worrying about people judging them. They’re able to do whatever they want, standing on that and not caring about what other people feel. It feels good to be that type of representation for someone else.
AH: Yes, I love that! Do you feel that you fit into one style of photography or music genre?
TR: No, because I like to explore a lot. I don’t like to be put in a box. Sometimes I like to do a lot of fashion photography and other times, I like to do editorial and commercial work. I like to do a lot of conceptual and portraiture also. So I don’t think so. I like doing multiple things.
AH: Cool, cool. Your past work shows your passion for highlighting the youth in your community and connecting your images through your own creative world. Do you feel that you have accomplished these goals through your photography?
TR: Oh, definitely, definitely. Growing up in Jacksonville, there wasn’t really an art scene for me to be a part of. It feels like now I have access to shoot people who want to be into photography and who want to be into modeling who are just young and want to create. We don’t really get enough representation of the youth in Jacksonville. Being able to show that off, I feel like I have done that in most of my work so far and I think I’m going to continue doing it until my time is up here.
AH: Have you set new goals for your photography?
TR: Yes, I have set new goals. I haven’t been shooting recently because I’ve been trying to plan out new ideas and I don’t want to continue doing the same things. I want to do different things.
AH: Yeah, that makes sense.
TR: Exactly, and it’s kind of cool that you can create things that you did not see before. You can use that in your own work. This has to be the best thing about being an artist now. You really don’t have to stay in this box that everybody told you that you had to be a part of. Now you can create opportunities for yourself. You can team up with people who have the same ideas as you. Do it together.
AH: The last thing that I want to touch on is your Van Nuys project. What was your inspiration behind that project?
TR: I moved to California last year from February through June. It was right at the beginning of the pandemic. I moved there with my partner and we were cool. Things went down with her and we moved back here, but we stayed in Van Nuys.
AH: Van Nuys is a town or a city?
TR: Yes, it’s a city in California. Very shady, this song was very shady. The song was basically about my relationship and how we moved across the country together and how drama and disloyal things happened.
AH: How was the experience of working with the team that you worked with?
TR: Oh, that was amazing. My friend, Tyler, was a part of it. He was the one who gave us the car for the shoot and he took a few photos. My friends, AJ and Khalil did video work. Matilda, their artist name is Leo Sun, they played the guitar and did the vocals on it and Indie did vocals too. We got it mixed, mastered and produced at A Friends of Friends recording, a local studio in Jacksonville. It was really cool.
I started the song in October of 2020. We didn’t finish it until April of this year. We did a rough draft in October, worked on it in April and released it in July. The team was great just being surrounded by a bunch of creative people who are so creative in other forms other than music. We bounced ideas off of each other and it just came together.
AH: Is this your first visual performance that you’ve debuted with your music?
TR: It is. I’ve actually shot a couple of videos for songs, but I never released them at all. This is the first one that’s really out there.
AH: How does it feel?
TR: It feels good, it wasn’t really supposed to be a visual. We were just playing around. We weren’t supposed to record anything. We were just taking photos and AJ was like, “Yeah, I brought my camera.” and Khalil was like, “Ok, I have the VHS camera.” We just put it all together and it came out really cute. So we just put it out.
AH: Well, that’s dope. I love that you guys did push through and actually put it out. It’s one thing to listen to the song, but to actually get a visual with it, on the consumer side, that was really nice. Your marketing for that project was done really nicely also. From the release of the song to the visual performance and merch, it was all done nicely.
TR: Thank you!
AH: So what’s next for you, Tenny?
TR: What’s next for me? I’m going to New York for a month and a half. Probably just to get a new perspective and new ideas for my photography. I’m probably going to shoot a little bit while I’m out there. I’m working on a small project before I leave. A photo project with couples and individuals asking them about their first time falling in love. I’m going to do a photo booth idea similar to the photo booths that are in the mall or movie theater. I’m going to shoot that hopefully before I go to New York. Trying to write new music and my next big thing is probably gonna be a photobook but this photo project is going to be the first introduction to that.
AH: Nice! Sounds like some good things are in the works! I hope that you have fun in New York.
TR: Thank you!
Alex Henderson is a documentary and portrait photographer currently based out of Jacksonville, Florida. She is a student at the University of North Florida studying photography with a concentration in black & white and color film photography. She has worked alongside artists Jaleel Campbell and Cristian Kaigler on their project ‘Feel That Funk’ in 2018.
Her work involves filling comfortable and familiar spaces with different narratives and viewpoints that show perspectives that can often be overlooked and easily taken for granted. Henderson is a mental health advocate whose work ties emotional awareness with visual documentation of self progress. Through engagement with her personal community, Henderson works to assist in creating a better version of others through self work, self expression and visual representation. She encourages her community to value their own happiness, truths and selves through personal acceptance. She captures moments shared within everyday life as documentation of growth and overcoming triumphs. Her current work is rooted in documenting her interactions and time spent with family and friends.
Follow her on Instagram: @alley.raw
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