D&AD Meets is a regular series where we elevate the work of need-to-know creatives. Each season of features is curated by a creative who can reach beyond our established networks to help us find the new talent deserving of a spotlight, the ones to watch, and the ones to work with. Here, the current curator and interviewer Tarik Fontenelle meets 22-year-old director Gabriel Moses and talks about establishing a career within film, working for brands like Nike, and learning to trust his own judgement.
Tarik Fontenelle is the CRO of ON ROAD, the strategic research company he co-founded aged 26. Tarik set-up his first company at the age of 17, experiencing the impact of the recession firsthand as he helped companies navigate that tumultuous time. Fascinated by people and places, he went on to study anthropology and later set up ON ROAD to help brands in the on-coming age of disruption.
Tell us a little about yourself – where you're from, what's important to you, and what makes you different.
I'm a self-taught photographer and director from South London, I’ve been directing since I was 18 and I’ve been doing photography properly for the last year and a half. In terms of being different to other people, I guess just being myself – we’re all different really. In every environment, I step into every room as myself and don’t feel like I need to change for anyone and it's a privilege to learn from others rather than feeling like an imposter.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
It was always my mum, she’d always say pray for opportunities, don't pray for results. My feeling has always been, as long as I have the opportunity, then there’s nothing I can’t do with that, that’s all you need. I'm always prepared for opportunities, we didn't focus too much on the results. As things move fast in life, I'm always like, ‘What's next?’ because I'm always focused on learning and progressing.
Talk us through what you do – what are you responsible for? What are you making in your day-to-day?
So, typically I’m in my studio day-to-day and I’m always thinking – 24/7. I’m always coming up with new ideas and just looking for inspiration around me from my family, friends and my environment. Aside from that, it's really just a lot of meetings, planning and post production. So I'm always in and out of these meetings really.
At what point did you know what you wanted to do? Was it always the plan or was it something that happened by chance?
I wouldn't say it happened by chance but I wouldn't say it was planned either; it was just when I was at university, I came to a point where I started thinking, what exactly is it that I want to do. At the time, I was doing Business & Marketing at uni and that wasn't really a passion of mine. I started making films and when I realised that it was something I enjoy, I put my mind to it, I made sure I put in the time to make sure I would be good at it, and spent a lot of time on my craft to make sure that I do well.
How much have you had to teach yourself on your journey? You didn't go to school to study filmmaking so how did you develop your approach and your shooting style?
I’ve had to mainly teach myself. One thing I tend to do is not to look at a lot of other people's work. I like to get rid of impostor syndrome, I’m never really nervous about anything, I just take it as it comes and relax. I like the creativity that comes from doing things and experiencing and I really like this childish ignorance – feeling things out and going off instinct.
I feel like we all have our own particular tastes that we've developed from life in general and l let that guide me. I've stuck to that, the trusted mind instinct and that's one thing I've taught myself. I used to overthink things, but just make sure you do your research, do your homework and just learn to trust yourself. I did spend a lot of time on YouTube, studying a lot of West African photographers specifically and I studied the root of a lot of things, such as Black photography and things like that and I allowed that to guide me, because their work is timeless.
How do you find inspiration?
One thing I've always done is I use my phone a lot, so if I see anything that inspires me I tend to screenshot a lot of things, take photos of things, write stuff in my notes, like just random stuff.
Whether it's a song or a call or something someone said to me, I'm just always just jotting stuff down and recording it. When I’m going through concepts, I'll actually just spend like a day just thinking and then I make it more organised or put it into a treatment. That's how my inspiration works, so I let my community bring the inspiration. A lot of things come from my African roots or being from South London. These are things that don’t change, this is me and that’s the beautiful thing about where my inspiration comes from – it’s not from current trends or anything like that, it forms from my identity.
How do you want your work to affect how people think and see the world?
I like bringing a universal humanity to the stuff I do. I think human beings are beautiful and I like to bring a human side to everything no matter who I'm working with. I like to position people in a way that no one else has to allow people to feel close to them. One thing that I learned from people I look up to was that meeting them allowed me to understand that everything is possible. So once you're able to humanise someone, it allows you to understand them on a deeper level. A lot of the work is about humanising people, telling real stories and doing it in a beautiful way.
Talk to us about some of the favourite organisations, communities or individuals that you've collaborated with through your work life.
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite but I feel like everything has its own specific place and taught me something. For example, I started off doing a lot of stuff with Nike and as a 17-18 year-old. The significance is you're wearing Air Force’s every day, you’re spending all of your money on Nike and then suddenly working with them. Those companies have massive significance and there's a lot of big moments that were huge for me at the time. Just being from South London, working with big brands, it's significant because I used to invest a lot of my time and money into these things and I'm able to influence the way people see their products.
Being able to tell stories and inviting people I know onto the screen is also rewarding. As a photographer or director, you create art and it starts from your imagination, you're able to bring your ideas to life and share that with people and it can influence them in different ways. When people tell me how my work made them feel, the impact it's had on their life, it’s special.
Who are the creatives you want to shout out? Tell us about them and what they are doing creatively that's so inspiring to you personally right now.
My girlfriend for sure, she underrates herself and what she’s doing but yeah she inspires me – she’s at uni and I didn’t complete uni. It’s the little things like that inspire me, it's not about scale, or perceived scale, it's just the little things that make sense.
My mum also inspires me, she’s been doing charity work for 25 years and never had government funding or even PR. It's just out of the kindness of her heart. She shows me there's good people in the world and to have that someone in my home means a lot.
The last one, I have a friend called Dean who runs a magazine, a young brother, a whole magazine and it's in print now. Big up Gaucho World.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the creative industry?
Don’t overthink it, everything will happen over time, whether it takes 10 years or 10 minutes. Just do your thing, make sure you bring in something new to the table. A lot of people, they look up to someone or something and they're trying to create a version of that because they think that's how to get in. Whereas it's about what's new, you can catch people’s eye with something that's fresh and new and that's you as well. If you're trying to do something else, you can only keep it up for so long but if you are yourself and it becomes a part of you and you trust your instinct and your style – that doesn't change.
It's about longevity, not necessarily being like a quotation marks ‘cool’, it's about who's here in 20 years and when we're gone, thinking about who's looking at our work and referencing these things. You wanna leave a legacy but these are things that are important, everything else comes and goes, but always try to leave a mark on people.
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D&AD is committed to showcasing a diverse range of creatives in our D&AD Meets content. We acknowledge the obstacles to getting into the creative industries for some underrepresented groups and so behind the scenes we offer mentorship pairings with a creative from the professional D&AD community to help to develop the careers of some of the emerging creatives featured. If you want to lend your time to portfolio reviews or a networking meeting please contact us at email@example.com