Precision is “the ability of a measurement to be consistently reproduced.”
When these two individuals shook hands for the first time, the precision meter in the room soared past its limit. It was a sight to see. Even the particles in the room stopped and took notice. Two juggernauts in their respective industries, one in front of the camera and the other behind it, were in Manhattan to execute a photoshoot. On a day that probably hosted hundreds of photoshoots, where entertainment and fashion dominate the avenues and streets, Jabari Gray and Keith Cephus brought what they’re known for: precision.
Jabari’s delivery on screen and in front of live audiences have earned him a reputation of being on point. Keith’s ability to deliver consistent quality with the camera click grants him favor in the eyes of prospective clients. The day was destined to be special.
Jabari Gray, a former feature on QFTD and ascending actor, arrived fresh off an audition. The word on the set about him recently wrapping up multiple episodes of Showtime’s hit show, Billions, spread ear-to-ear. Everyone knew he was hot, his acting career as active as the ping pong balls inside the lotto machine. After his wardrobe was laid out, lighting structures were situated, bulbs were set, and tunes turned on. Jabari’s choice: Caribbean sounds via a music playlist.
Keith Cephus, one of the first QFTD features and award-winning photographer was keeping the mood light, dropping compliments as icebreakers and jokes as smilemakers. He took test shots of various members of the crew and checked his equipment for maximum functionality. Remember that word, precise? Yes, Keith had to ensure this day would extract the impeccable shots Jabari was hoping for and the crew expected.
Mari White, Emmy Award-winning host, curled her hair, prepping for her romantic scene opposite Jabari. Ben and Natasha, videographers of Yamean Productions, secured video cameras on stands for their special, behind-the-scenes project. Tommy, Keith’s brother and intern, worked the room, taking shots for more BTS footage. As noon approached, Bella, our stylist from West Virginia, conveyed concepts for visual appeal to Jabari and Mari. Then, finally, weeks of planning came to life.
Jabari radiated confidence and lit up the set as much as the lights. Clearly not his first shoot, he knew precise movements to set up subsequent poses. Transition and relaxation were on Jabari’s side, feeding the camera what it needed.
Poised for the lens, Jabari’s movement remained fluid. He posed, the camera clicked, and images were reeled in, not a tug of resistance from the line of distance between the big fish and the captain on deck. When needed, Keith directed the operation like the Spielberg of photography, orchestrating his team in seamless fashion. His positive energy pumped a thousand beats per minute. His enthusiasm, infectious, elevated spirits like hot air balloons on a gorgeous day.
I thought, if only the fun could break free from the confines of the studio… about an hour into the shoot, before we knew it, Keith had us on Facebook Livestream. Broadcasting to all 5,000 of his followers, we gave them exclusive footage of this one time event.
When the studio rental time expired, we had to move on. The sun hung above the NY skyscrapers still, so Keith led the crew into the busy streets. Spontaneous shots were taken on steps, near construction, in traffic, under billboards.
Observers gawked at the temerity of our shoot. Never did it matter because the moments yearned for each epic shot. Soon, the goal shifted to securing pics on the rooftop of the hotel. We hopped in my ride, fighting through traffic and around ant lines of pedestrians to beat dusk.
As we were headed back to the hotel, we stopped at a light near Madison Square Garden when I heard Keith say to Jabari, “Do you want to take some shots right here in the middle of the street?”
“Jabari said, “Yeah man.”
“Are you about that life?”
“Let's do it.”
Then, right there in the middle of the street, with heavy traffic and countless onlookers,
Keith was snapping shots of Jabari.
Throughout the day and into the night, creativity took over and passion led the way. Synergy in the studio and audacity in the street shoot left an indelible mark on everyone. Simply said: they put on a show.
What’s next for these two DRIVEN professionals? Check back in a few months. Something even bigger and better is on the horizon.