Behind the LensKing Chachiii

Interview with photographer King Chachiii

Chantal Gainous, better known as King Chachiii is an artist. She started shooting in 2015 as a way to express her love of live music. Currently, Chachiii splits her time between being the Media Coordinator for WRLD Entertainment, the Social Media Strategist for CompassMAC, and freelancing opportunities. A Tallahassee native, she is a photographer, journalist, publicist, and promoter/media coordinator for shows throughout Florida, including GoldLink’s At What Cost Tour, Ski Mask the Slump God’s Ski Meets World Tour, Bas’ Milky Way Tour to name a few.

Her name means “singer”, and before she found her place behind the lens she was a jazz pianist, playing to the age of 18. Her nickname Chachi was given to her by a friend because of its meaning of “cool girl.” “I try to live up to it,” she says, and she definitely is! I had the pleasure of getting to know King Chachiii earlier this year when she came down to shoot the iii Points festival.  Read my interview with her below.

“If you’re expressing the world through a medium or showing a different perspective and interpretation of life, I consider you an artist!”

“Assume Form” (2019) featuring Jae House

How do you want people to feel when they see your photographs?

I want people to feel like they haven’t seen anything like that before! I want people to see the combination of conceptual/portraiture in my concert photography so that it’s unique and not just a snap of the event, but a great representation of that artist.  I also want people to see the simplicity of strength in the subjects that I work with. I also want people to enjoy color!

How did you get started?

I was originally a writer. As I wrapped up college I realized our world was becoming visual, and I wanted to be more well-rounded with my journalism so I picked up a camera. I was already into the local hip hop scene and so I started documenting what was going on in the North Florida area and beyond. Grassroots hip hop and what not.

“Color Me Badu.”(2019) Shot at iii Points

What are some of your most memorable moments?

This past weekend at iii Points is definitely top memorable. I was able to shoot a living legend, Erykah Badu, who has influenced so much of my musical taste and just how I interpret art and expression. I know she influenced my mother a lot too! Another one is probably shooting my first conceptual. It was at a tennis court at like 7 PM with only the court lights to work with and I really felt like I understood what having an eye for light and photography meant at that moment and I knew that I could do more than concert and event photography, and do it well.

Unititled (2019)

“I would love to shoot Kendrick Lamar.”

If you could photograph anyone in the world who would it be?

I would love to shoot Kendrick Lamar. Rihanna, if it was for a conceptual magazine spread or major brand campaign, would be incredible, and Michelle Obama, because duh – its Michelle.

What are some challenges that you have experienced?

Working with what I have. Photography can get really expensive really fast and I haven’t been able to make as many financial investments as I’ve wanted to. Also, working with clients and meeting their needs and not feeling like you’re getting walked all over or taken advantage of. With concert photography specifically, sometimes I get a mean case of FOMO (feeling of missing out) when there are concert or festival opportunities that I can’t make because of my full-time job obligations. I work really hard to balance a 9-5 life with my freelance life. Hopefully one day I’ll really be able to take that leap.

“YoungKWAM” (2018) Featuring Kwame.

Fun fact *this photoshoot was created with just a lamp and a black sheet behind #makingdo

I hope that you get to take that leap soon one day too! What are some of your greatest accomplishments?

I think my greatest accomplishments are when I work locally. I love when I feel that I’ve sparked an idea for someone from some attempt I made, whether it be in photography or curation. I love when people come and say that I inspired them or while I was working with them I saw that breakthrough. I’m going to continue to work really hard to help artists get to the next level and believe in themselves. Other great accomplishments for me are being part of the core team that built two festivals (Trap Circus and Best Life) in the last two years in Florida. Being able to see that process and what all goes into really build a festival makes me have a new appreciation for live music. There are so many details to make that experience life-changing for a fan.

How would you describe the Florida scene and what do you see as the future of “the scene”?

I think the Florida scene is growing and incredibly diverse. There are a lot of wonderful POC (people of color) women who are leading the scene from behind the scenes! They’re building the groundwork that provides a lot of opportunities for artists to get recognized, organize, and be able to meet people who they can find fellowship with and work with. Florida is really diverse because of all the different cultures that come together from Central Florida all the way down to South Miami. Those culture influences step out in sounds from rappers as well as the vibrant color preferences of visual artists. What I see for the future of the scene, is a lot more harmony and collaboration to make us our own hub in a way that I feel you see in Atlanta, Houston or other major cities, but us more as the state as a whole.

To learn more about King Chachiii visit her website, or follow her on social media using the links below. | IG: @KingChachiii | Twitter: @KingChachiii

Featured image photo credit: South Florida native Lance Roberts