Fujifilm Students of Storytelling: Lukas Flippo’s Stories of Hope

In second grade, Lukas Flippo stood outside of the National Guard Armory and waved goodbye to his brother as he deployed to the Middle East. It was a memory that has stayed with him.

Flippo won the Fujifilm Students of Storytelling competition for his compelling portraits of war veteran heroes as they return to their lives back home and try to work on creating new ones.

Fujifilm created the contest to identify the next generation of U.S. storytellers, and to provide them with Fujifilm X Series or GFX System gear to bring their vision to life.

Rangefinder: What interests you as a storyteller? Which stories are you drawn to? 

Lukas Flippo: I am drawn to stories that help me learn more about myself—where I come from, or where I am going. I picked up a camera in early high school to impress a girl, and then it suddenly became my life. I traveled with each of our school’s sports teams to document their seasons and, in doing that, became an extrovert and a contributing member of my community. The camera quite literally changed my personality and chartered a new course in my life. I am interested in continuing to use it as a tool to learn about my beginnings and help others find their own stories. 

A survivor of the Biloxi Wade-Ins looks on during a remembrance event for the historic wade-ins. During the early 1960s in Biloxi, Mississippi, Black teenagers walked onto segregated beaches, and they were harassed by white residents and law enforcement. All Photos © Lukas Flippo

Rf: What stories do you want to share through your work? 

LF: I want to share stories of hope and determination. Primarily, I want my work to be a documentation for people going through the worst of times and the best of times. I want my photos to serve as a launching point for the subject to say “we did that” or “we made it through that.” 

Rf: Describe the evolution of your style and approach. H has it changed over time? Why has it changed? What (and who) has influenced your work, and how? 

LF: As time has passed, my work has become more emotionally driven. I strive now to be close and to be individualistic. I learned over time that the actions and reactions of one person can connect with those who see my work. I find myself most inspired by Mississippi photographers and writers, such as Florence Mars, Eudora Welty, Rory Doyle and David Rae Morris. I also find inspiration in other authors whose work focuses on the South or other rural areas, such as Truman Capote and Stephen Markley. 

An Amory High School senior baseball player tears up in the corner behind the dugout after striking out in the final at-bat of his career.

Rf: What are the key things you have learned or done that have helped you advance your career since you began shooting? 

LF: The most helpful lesson learned is to get closer. Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” My photography and my progress in the genre can be greatly attributed to that.

A young girl awaits the arrival of her loved one during the return of a National Guard Company after a nearly year-long deployment in the Middle East.

Rf: What is the most helpful piece of advice you’ve received and followed? Who gave it to you? 

LF: It comes from Casey Neistat, who said, “The biggest risk is to take no risk at all.” I am a first-generation college student at Yale University, and I never thought that would be remotely possible. I attended a small, rural high school in Mississippi that had never sent a student to an Ivy League school, much less one without a family of high academic standing. The moment of acceptance was joyous, but the stress that came after was grueling. Could I actually do it? Is it worth it? Why go? Why not go? The questions pounded me daily. I decided to take the risk. To hit a home run in life, you have to swing the bat. 

Rf: How has growing up in a small town in Mississippi contributed to your ability to, as noted in your bio, “see the unseen”?

LF: I do not come from a photographic background. I never shadowed a photographer, took a photography class or had artistic-minded peers. I entered photography and I photograph from the perspective of a normal person, not a photographer. The camera is a tool to share stories about the world and about myself. If I could do it with a pen and paper more effectively, I would be a writer. I do not romanticize the medium. Through high school, I photographed my friends as they attempted to find themselves, their personalities, and their stories. I didn’t begin that as a photographic project. I took those images because I was living that experience, and I wanted to create a record to show that in my little nook of the world, changes were happening to the people and the places we touched. 

Brenda Pickens holds a framed photo of her family while sitting in her late husband’s barber shop chair. Her husband, Howard Pickens, was the first Mississippian to die of Coronavirus complications.

Rf: Are you currently working on any long form projects highlighting under-represented groups and their stories? 

LF: Yes, I am currently working as a visual intern at the Sun Herald on the Mississippi Coast, documenting the struggles and successes of Mississippians daily. 

Rf: Your work is respectful of the subject and his or her story. How do you achieve that? 

LF: I listen. I could attempt to make this answer prettier, but it always come back to that. I listen. I listen as hard as I can. And I still feel like I fall short. 

Rf: How have your studies affected your approach to photography and storytelling?

LF: I study history, which has helped me learn the background and social landscape of my photographs and the stories I attempt to tell. 

A man looks out at the crowd during a Black Lives Matter march which ended at the Gulfport City Hall. Over 500 participated in the half-mile march through downtown Gulfport, Mississippi.

Rf: Can you tell us about your submission to Fujifilm’s Students of Storytelling program? How you came up with the project? 

LF: My submission for the Students of Storytelling program is highly personal. I grew up as the youngest sibling of three, and my two brothers enlisted in the military directly after high school. I watched as my family struggled through multiple deployments and periods of no communication while they served. And then I witnessed the toll the service had on both of my brothers as they attempted to acclimate to civilian life, and the stress those journeys put on my mother. 

Rf: What work have you produced with your new Fujifilm systems? 

LF: So far, I have produced portraits of veterans and their families on the Mississippi Coast. 

Rf: Where do you see your work going from here? 

LF: I see my work continuing to live in the photojournalism realm of photography. 

Rf: Which brand, media outlet or agency is your ideal client? And why?

LF: My ideal client would be either The New York Times, TIME or Vice, since I view my work as primarily documentary. 

Visit the official Fujifilm Students of Storytelling site for more information about the complete program. Follow @lukas_flippo to stay up to date with Lukas Flippo.

Read the original article : https://www.rangefinderonline.com/students-of-storytelling/lukas-flippo/