He sits casually on a park bench in Boston Common with his legs crossed. He lightly taps his left foot clad in a red converse sneaker to the beat of the music that is playing in his ears. A camera is in his hands, and he puts the lens up to his eye to take a few test shots of the scenery and people passing by. He seems to be in his own world taking these test shots. He suddenly stands up to get a better view of something he has spotted to his left. Pointing the camera and adjusting the lens while slowly stepping backward to capture a robin perched on a branch, it is evident that he is not completely aware of the people in the commons because he bumps into a young couple. He is quick to catch his camera from falling and apologizes to the couple with a quick “I’m so sorry” and a smile. Upon greeting Julius Hancock, it is clear that he is friendly, likable, and a bit eccentric in the way most artists are.
Julius Hancock, referred to as “Jay” by his close friends and relatives, has had an artistic passion for as long as he can remember. At the age of five, Julius was adopted from the Philippines by the Hancock family. His earliest childhood memories are of his struggle to learn English and adapt to a new culture. He may not have been able to verbally communicate with his new family, but he soon discovered and used art as a mechanism to interact with those around him. His mother, Joan Hancock, noticed his artistic talents and was adamant about enrolling him in classes to cultivate his talent. In 2004, Julius’ mother unexpectedly passed away, but he did not allow this tragedy to stop him from creating. Instead, he wanted to honor her legacy. He said, “I continued to explore the arts because I knew she would be happy that I was doing it for myself and for her.”
Originally trained as a graphic designer and visual artist his journey to the camera has been long, but he remembers always loving the feeling of being behind the lens and capturing moments. “I remember being very small, maybe seven, and getting this toy camera for Christmas that actually took photos. I always had it with me and I would take pictures of everything from my toast at the breakfast table to my nightlight before I went to sleep,” he says. Julius throws his head back and laughs at his earliest moments behind the lens. As he grew older, carrying a camera around wasn’t “cool,” so he drifted away from the bulky image catcher towards the visual arts. “I always excelled at drawing, painting, really anything that had to do with art. I remember being able to express myself so much better than I could in words. Art was liberating,” Julius honestly states. As he got older and was given his first cell phone, he began taking pictures again. He enjoyed the discrete nature of a camera phone, especially as they became more popular. Eventually, the quality of the images captured on his phone were no longer good enough, and he knew he needed something that would produce higher quality photographs. “I made the decision to get a real camera on my seventeenth birthday because there was some force pulling to do more with photography.”
After a while, the shy artist became increasingly comfortable with the camera and the occasional stares that his bulky device often receives in crowded places. For Julius, the images he captures have become a reward for his hard work. Mrs. Nunez, Julius’ painting teacher at Bridgewater State University said, “I always knew Julius would be a wonderful photographer because he had an eye for detail. It’s no surprise that he has taken this route with his life.” She is not the only one who has belief in this young talent. Daryl, Julius’ friend and co-worker recounts the many times Julius, whom he calls “Jay,” and their other friends have gone out together. “I know that every moment will be photographed because Jay always has his camera either hanging around his neck or in his hands preparing to take a shot,” Daryl says. “He’s dedicated to his craft, so I know that Jay will only improve and make a name for himself.”
Surprisingly, this millennial is anti-Instagram. When asked about his Instagram usage, Jay said, “Instagram has become an overcrowded marketplace of ideas. You have people posting amazing images, but you also have people posting-well- not amazing images. It is so easy to overlook great artists because of Instagram’s algorithm. Personally, I have a WordPress blog and I promote my work on my personal Facebook page because I think I am able to have a larger reach that way.” Many people, including successful photographers like Sukrit Srisakulchawla of Boston who has 32,000 followers on the site, would probably disagree with Julius’ assertion that Instagram is too overcrowded. In fact, his distaste of the platform may be limiting his ability to actualize his full potential and gain an even larger following outside of the Boston community. In a 2015 article by Victoria Yore called “If You Are a Photographer and You Aren’t on Instagram, You’re Doing It Wrong,” she argues that Instagram is a necessary platform for every photographer because the basic premise of the app is to share photos. Julius is the epitome of a struggling artist: his freelance photography doesn’t pay the bills, so he works as a cook at a local Ninety-Nine Restaurant. He says, “I haven’t been able to really capitalize on my craft, but that takes time. One day, photography will be my only job, but right now I am focusing on doing what I love and not putting so much pressure on the financial aspects. I don’t plan on selling out or using platforms that I don’t believe will work for me. I plan on doing it my way so that at the end of the day I am happy with my work.” Is he missing out on potential clients and building a bigger brand? Possibly. He is a practical dreamer because he recognizes that there is a tremendous amount of competition, but he is hopeful that his unique approach to his craft will prove to be prosperous. Julius gets the most engagement with his work on his personal Facebook page, and the majority of his freelance work has been because of Facebook and word of mouth. His WordPress blog Hancock Photography and Digital Media is steadily gaining a strong following.
One look at Hancock Photography and Digital Media and it is evident that Julius uses a combination of candid and digitally designed photographs. His graphic design skills allow him to stand out from the crowd in a unique way. He says, “To me, the goal of photography is to capture a moment in time.” Although Julius aims to keep his work as realistic as possible, he is also extremely imaginative and often uses his creative whims to create unique snapshots of everyday life. When he wants to maintain the original beauty of an image, he merely enhances the lighting and colors to recreate what his camera cannot capture. Some of his images are created purely out of his imagination like the one featured on the right. He made a toothpick soldier and then took photos of the shadow that was cast on a white background. This proves that Julius is versatile in the images he can capture and create.
His work has captured the eye of the Manilla Zoo in the Philippines. Since Julius was adopted from the Philippines when he was five, the country is an important part of his identity and he takes occasional trips back to his homeland. On his most recent trip, his camera drew the attention of a worker at Manilla Zoo who introduced Julius to the owner. He had recently visited the Roger Williams Park Zoo and was able to demonstrate his ability to capture the personalities of the animals. He will go and shoot the animals and the park this summer. Julius and the owner hope that his photography of the animals will lead to an increase in tourism and revenue, which will benefit their animals. He is hopeful that this is the first of many more large-scale projects and the beginning of actualizing his full potential. “My life revolves around being able to dream openly, but still manage to get through every single day with a purpose.”