Alvin Brown didn’t know he had an eye for photography.
It was in the unlikely surroundings of Cedar Point, where he washed dishes and served snacks to guests visiting the popular Ohio amusement park, that he discovered his career path.
Brown, a Flint native, was asked to perform a seemingly routine favor and snap a cell-phone shot one day about five years ago, while working his summer job in the park’s concessions area. Though he says he had “no interest in photography, whatsoever” at the time, the reaction from a group who’d requested the image inspired him.
“They were so pleased with the picture and so happy to have that one moment that they could carry for the rest of their lives,” says Brown, 26.
Until the moment he learned of his natural talent, “photography wasn’t even in my mind,” he adds.
Since his first unofficial, camera-phone photo shoot, Brown has pursued a professional life behind the lens. Evolving from a still photographer and freelance studio artist, he has incorporated video filming and production to the services of Eye Snap Studios.
“Something about it brings a bit of nostalgia to each and every person” he photographs, Brown says.
After returning to Flint from his last summer at Cedar Point, Brown shared his newfound passion with an older sister who was interested in exploring multimedia work. The siblings struck a deal to take a step toward achieving their goals: He would buy a camera and she’d invest in a Macbook. But only one of them kept the promise.
“She instead became a truck driver,” Brown chuckles.
Meanwhile, he purchased a “super zoom” Canon PowerShot SX50 HS and began a learning process. Brown’s first camera came with features that let him develop techniques that might otherwise have required more advanced equipment.
“It was a great way to start teaching myself photography, because it had all the same functions,” Brown says.
He began developing as a professional by photographing events for Artistic Visions Enterprise, a Flint-based talent showcase that was held bi-weekly. Brown and his cousin DeWaun Robinson launched the ongoing series, featuring spoken word poets, actors, martial artists and other local performers and their creative peers.
Brown was Artistic Visions Enterprise’s resident photographer for about three years until the program’s core group began moving into different areas of interest and the showcase became less frequent.
He became a photographer for TheHUB Flint in 2017, snapping images for both the publication’s monthly, print issue and the website. Still gaining his professional footing, he hadn’t expected the opportunity, since he had no formal training.
“It was actually a true blessing in disguise, I could say, because I never really dreamed I could work with a magazine or publication,” Brown says.
He went on to photograph for TheHUB high-profile community events including 2017’s Flint Homecoming and the CANUSA Games. Brown later filmed video at 2018’s “Savor the Flavor of Flint” at the Dort Event Center.
“To be able to do that, it felt so astonishing to learn that you could step into a realm and now the possibilities for your career are endless,” Brown says.
Currently pursuing his associate degree in photography at Mott Community College, he is working to expand his company, Eye Snap Studios, by providing on-site portrait service. He’ll participate as a vendor at community outings like the upcoming “This Is Me” fashion show and fundraiser from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Mott Community College, scheduled for Dec. 16.
While Brown is grateful for his unexpected professional journey and the exposure photography in Flint has offered him, he’s excited to continue developing in his craft and build his business brand.
“I’m just going to work on keeping my eyes open,” he says, “and seeing when more opportunities arise.”
For more information visit Eye Snap Studios’ YouTube Channel, Instagram and Facebook pages or the Facebook page, Alvin J. Brown.
Lead Photo: Alvin Brown plans to expand his one-man photography businesses, Eye Snap Studios years after being discovered. He’s shown here with The Word’s “Girl Talk with Kaelin” host Kaelin Hurst. Photo by Danen Williams