Vincent James is a musician, composer, and visual landscape artist who formally began making art with rural and urban nature in 2014. Vincent is based in Oakland and features iconic landscapes, weather patterns, and seasonal lights in unique places throughout the Oakland and San Francisco Bay Area.
He maximizes the technical capability of his tools, mainly his camera and post-production software, in the service of his art. Vincent combines his technical know-how and artistic vision to capture unique moments and feelings to create ethereal, moody, enchanting, and often breathtaking images.
How did you get started as a photographer? Is it a full-time job or one of many interests?
I have been a musician and composer since I was 12. Until about ten years ago, I was primarily in the music business, writing, recording, and performing. However, I started feeling burnt out and needed something different but still creative to channel my energy.
I have always been interested in visual arts, be it graphics, design, illustrations, and of course, photography. But I never imagined myself doing it more than as a hobby or something secondary to making music.
I grew up in New York City, which was terrific yet void of inspiring nature or landscapes that moved me. I was blown away when I moved to Northern California 15 years ago. The first thing to draw me in was the coast and the fog. The Bay Area fog is the most crucial element that inspired me to want to start capturing still images and feelings.
For a while, I put music on hold and only did photography. But in the last couple of years, I have started doing both again.
How do you characterize your work?
I primarily consider my work as fine art, nature, and urban landscapes. I like using the term visual landscape artist instead of photographer because it encompasses the pre-visualization process and the post-processing and editing that occurs with digital photography.
Ultimately, every image is a gift to myself of a memory or a feeling. It is tremendously satisfying to capture an emotion or feeling of what it's like to see a place or a scene in a still image.
What do you think are your biggest successes?
Inspiring others to create photography or any other art form always makes me feel most successful.
When I started out, I would gauge success by winning awards, being published in newspapers and magazines, or having a robust social media presence. But now, what has long-standing value for me is knowing that someone was moved by my work, which either made them want to create their own art or motivated them to have my work on their wall.
Why do you love what you do? What inspires you?
There are a few illustrators and photographers who, early on, inspired me greatly. I love how one can experience a feeling or a memory via a single image. Certain photographers’ and artists' work speaks to me as an artist, and I find that conversation extremely pleasing.
I am happy when I achieve even a fraction of that through my work.
How do nature and natural details inspire your work?
I enjoy mood and drama in my images, so I chase clouds, fog, and blustery conditions whenever I hear them coming through town. I am inspired by this chaos and love to capture its beauty. We need to appreciate and pay more attention to so many things.
How have Oakland and the Bay Area influenced or inspired your art?
The fog, it's all about that fog. It gets me up at 4 am every day to check weather conditions. Look at webcams and figure out the best place to go. I daydream and visualize shots of the fog and photos I can capture in the Oakland and Bay Area landscapes.
You are an urban landscape artist. How does this make you a different kind of landscape photographer?
In using natural elements of fog, clouds, and ideal lighting conditions, I like to think that it allows me to bring a sense of tranquility and peacefulness to an urban landscape and let people see an otherwise busy, bustling, maybe, at times, wild place, as a serene, tranquil and beautiful place.
What do you think makes Oakland unique?
To me, Oakland is a small local town with lots of charm. Maybe it's because I'm originally from New York City, but I find it charming. The powerful and seductive combination of art, music, food, nature, community and the kindness and consideration of its residents, the prime location, and the fog make Oakland the ideal place for me.
In what ways has Oakland shaped your personal story?
During the pandemic, I took up roller skating of all things, which I never would've ever guessed in a million years that I would do.
Oakland's vibrant, warm, diverse roller skating community was a life-changing discovery. It reflects very well the spirit and loves the people here have for this place.
Oakland is diverse, and Oakland is proud. 'We Are Oaklandish' is a storytelling project created to highlight just that.
These stories shed light on the different experiences, memories, and opinions of the people in the city we all love. They are people who give our city its oddball spirit, its passion for justice, and its creative vigor. They lift us up with laughter, peace, nourishment, and authentic hard work.
They make us proud to call this town our home. They are Oaklandish.
Shop: Vincent James
Read more: We Are Oaklandish