22-year old Breyona Holt, known professionally as the blooming mind behind the Exquisite Eye brand, left behind a college education in pursuit of her own artistic ambitions.
While the daring backstory isn’t much of a novice tale, the visible growth and subsequent success that followed the Atlanta-based photographer’s brash decision is certainly worth a double take.
Since then, Holt’s work has caught some meaningful glances with her photography landing on the web pages and Instagram feeds of the likes of Vogue Italy, PAPER Magazine, and has led her to being tapped to photograph notable artists and influencers within Atlanta and beyond.
Recently catching up with Breyona, we sat down to discuss her creative beginnings, the journey thus far, and what’s to come.
The Source: When was the first time you picked up a camera?
Bree Holt: When I was in high school—in yearbook class. I was just trying to create everyday to put something in the yearbook, and then I realized ‘Oh, this is really fun.’ I never really put the camera down and I just started training my eye.
When did you realize that you wanted to focus on photography?
My freshman year of college. Towards the end of the year, I was driving four hours each way just to come back to Atlanta to create. I was going to school in Savannah. Then, I just wanted to test my faith and try it full time.
You get a feeling in your gut when you know that you’re supposed to do something. I was just like ‘Hey, I don’t want to do school anymore. I can always go back to school, but right now I want to focus on photography.’
The aesthetic that you’ve adopted for yourself—it’s very easy to pick out a picture of yours—how did you develop that?
My grandmother—her wedding book. I loved the tones and the feel that it had. So, one day I was looking through her wedding book and I was just super inspired and I felt that the photos were so timeless because of the color tones that were captured in that time period. It was like the 60s. So, I really wanted to incorporate that in my style.
I feel like finding yourself and being yourself are like the first steps to becoming an awesome you. So, I was like this is what I want to do. I’m going to teach myself how to execute it. I taught myself and its working out for me. I still have a long way to go. But, right now I’m doing pretty well.
Now, when you first saw your photograph published by Vogue, what was that like?
It felt dope because I left school for this. I don’t think I ever knew how big my pictures would ever get. I just knew that one day I wanted to be on the cover of something. It wasn’t the cover, but to be noticed by Vogue it was like, ‘Okay, I’m doing something right. I’m on the right path.’ It was a great feeling of being accepted by this brand that I’ve always admired.
How influential has Atlanta been in all of it for you?
It’s been the biggest influence. I create most of my content here. The people that I create with and everything that’s all around really helps with my taste. I think just being from Atlanta gives anyone that cool label that you need. It really does.
Now, moving on to Madhouse. How did you basically come up with that whole collective?
So many people look up to so many other people, but sometimes, for the wrong reasons. I thought that me and my friends—I felt that we were definitely positive people doing positive things. So, I was like, ‘We should make a collective.’ I want to inspire people to become a better them.
When I was younger and I was in high school, I feel that I looked up to people but I never really knew the art side of Atlanta really existed. The music exists, but the art scene is really underground.
So, I think Madhouse is creating that wave that doesn’t really exist, showing people we’re artists, we’re here, we exist, and we matter. That’s what Madhouse is.
When you look at that first photograph to your most recent work, what would you say has pushed forward that growth?
Just knowing that I had a goal of what I wanted to accomplish—being one of the best. So, becoming one of the best means a lot of practice. From my first photo to now, there’s been a lot of growth and that’s been from training my eye, training my style, everything.
So, what’s next?
I am doing a workshop soon, and in 2017 I’ll be dropping a little book with my photographs for people to buy.
Keep up with Breyona: