By Andrea Cirillo
If someone were to ask, “Who has inspired you most?” many of us would answer with our favorite celebrity. But Grandma was the biggest inspiration for Terence Boykin, renowned international photographer and full-time charmer.
Boykin carries himself with finesse, and captivates his audience with every word he utters. This gentleman is so filled with intelligence and knowledge, conversing with him is like listening to the most interesting man in the world (and by the way, the Dos Equis Man has nothing on Boykin).
Boykin had previously graced the pages of Vicissitude Magazine in an interview with our very own Neem Basha, where we learned of Boykin’s impressive work in the Marine Corps as well as his extensive career in photography. This time around, we wanted to get to the core of the Philadelphia native — and learn all about the man behind the lens.
Tell us about your childhood. What were your parents like?
My mother was very independent as a child; she never wanted to be just part of the pack. She wanted to be the leader. Mom didn’t necessarily want to be the smartest of the group but part of a group that was intelligent enough to rise to the occasion. She used to say, “Don’t be the brightest star in your crew.” It made sense to me: if you’re always the smartest person in the room, who can you learn from? So Mom taught me never to follow the masses and to maintain my independence.
Now, my father was a veteran and a leader in the Navy yard. He eventually became a spokesperson for his group because he was such an articulate speaker with loads of charisma, and not to mention, he was a good looking guy too. People tended to gravitate towards him. He kind of looked like a Mario Lopez mixed with a John Stamos. It’s funny because I knew my father was Latin and later found out that he was also Native American. I found this out when Military Intelligence did a background check on my family! But my parents would always say, “Who cares what you are? You have to pay the bills; it doesn’t matter if you’re Indian, black or Spanish.”
Were your parents your greatest influences?
They were both very influential, but I would have to say my grandmother was my greatest influence. My mother would say, “I don’t know why you’re so nice. Your father’s not very nice, and I’m not very nice; you must get it from your grandmother.” Grandma was the one who really mentored me and taught me to speak articulately and carry myself well. She emphasized the importance of being well-spoken.
When did your interest in photography begin?
My interest started when I was a kid. My mom and my aunts were photographers and models when they were younger. From being around it so much as a child, it kind of stuck with me. After high school, I didn’t want to go directly to college, and I joined the Marine Corps for the adventure. In the Marines, they asked if I wanted to work in the photography department. In order to do that and be able to work in certain environments, I had to be cleared. They sent me to school for photography training and when I was ready, they gave me my first photography assignment — which was in Istanbul.
If you could photograph any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Well, one of them would have been the Dalai Lama but I already had the honor of photographing him. Also, I would say maybe Abe Lincoln and definitely Albert Einstein. Mainly Einstein because of his brain, you know? I’ve always admired the human thought process, logic and reason.
In the span of your career, did you ever face moments of self-doubt?
You know, being a Marine, in that sense, I would say no. However, earlier in my career when I first graduated from school for journalism and photography, nothing was really coming in and I didn’t have a regular 9-5 at the time. I would constantly ask myself, “What am I going to do?” So I doubted if I could ever really make a career out of this. But after some time, I took on an agent and that’s what really helped me get work and assignments.
People tell me I have a winning personality, so I think that helped me out. Things like looking people in the eyes when we speak or being an honest kind of all-American guy – that helped me. When things were slow, I had time to travel. Most of my ‘self-doubt’ moments were in the States, but not so much internationally.