Lighting These Weed-Scented Candles Keeps This Chicago Photographer Laser Focused
Where Paul Octavious works.
Published Mar 19, 2022 1:29 AM
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Visiting a person’s workspace is like taking a peek into their brain. Whether it’s at home or in a shared studio or office, Nice Work explores where creative people do all of their, well, creating.
Name: Paul Octavious
Occupation: Self-taught photographer and cofounder of Eye Eaters, an experiential marketing agency that started as a supper club. I love eating the best food, and I’ve recently collaborated with my friend, chef Jenner Tomaska, to be the first artist on display at his restaurant, Esmé, in Chicago.
Where I Work: A corner studio in Chicago that faces southwest—I get the best light all day.
Time I start: I get up around 7:30 a.m. and meander over to my studio around 8:30 or 9.
Time I clock out: Sometimes maybe 10 at night. It’s such a relaxing space, and I made my studio kind of like a home. It’s big enough that I could do a mini workout, and I have a full kitchen. I cook dinner there; I may have friends over and we watch movies; maybe I’ll do some more work; and then I go home.
How I get to work: My parents live down the street, and my dad really loves picking me up. So usually, he drives me for the 10-minute trip, and other times I take an Uber or Lyft.
Three words that describe my space: Bright (literally, from all the sunlight), green (I have a lot of interesting plants), and home—I just love it so much and it feels really comfortable to me.
Most important thing in my office/studio: My hard drives. They have all my photos.
What’s on the walls: There’s nothing on the walls, actually, but rather on the floor leaning against the walls. I collect contemporary Black art, portraits or paintings of Black-presenting people. I took part in a community art show back in 2006, and a painter who was involved still follows me on social media. I saw that they painted a portrait of me, and I asked if I could buy it. Now I have me in my collection, and it’s one of my favorites.
Current creative fuel: A lot of what I’m creating now is about sexuality and the male figure, and what gives me creative fuel is having my own space. This is my first studio, and having a place to photograph a nude allows me to create a comfortable environment for my subjects.
What I turn to when I’m stuck: A lot of the time, the Internet. There are so many online archives where you can dig and discover images or objects that you never knew existed, even on eBay or 1stDibs. I’m also a big thrifter. Finding objects at vintage shops or thrift stores is one of my favorite things to do.
How I stay organized: I’m such a creative; I just try to organize in my own way where everything looks presentable. My prop closet is mostly organized. I have a section for donated cameras, a section for my actual equipment, and a section for my props, which includes an 8-foot crinkle-cut french fry from a project I did with Burger King.
Favorite pen: The only one I use is my Apple Pencil.
Best notebook: I use a lot of Field Notes. I have those all over my studio.
Technology I can’t live without: I can’t live without my camera; it’s a Canon R5. And my computer, which is a 27-inch iMac.
Desk chair that I could (and do) spend hours in: I have an epic chair. I decided I was going to spend money on a desk chair and it’s a Herman Miller Embody—it’s like a commander seat. It has a white frame with gray padding. I never get white anything, but my desk is white because it went really well in the space, and I wanted a chair to go with it.
How I fight the 3 p.m. slump: I have to take a Focus gummy to really hunker down and get all my work done.
Ideal office snack: Veggie Straws or just coffee from Cometeer. It comes to your house frozen in little pods. You put hot water over it, and it’s the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had in your life.
Preferred soundtrack: Music without words, so my brain can focus—lots of lo-fi hip-hop that you can lose yourself in. I also pride myself on scents. Since I can’t smoke in my studio, I bought this marijuana-scented candle from Loewe and some incense from Whole Foods that isn’t too hippie-ish—they’re these $3 sticks that rival my Diptyque candles.