Posted on 12 Jul By Visionarism
Social media is a great source of inspiration for anyone into fashion, footwear, and photography, and platforms such as Instagram are giving everyone a stage to show off their vision and skills. There are many creative individuals out there, but not all of them stand out of the crowd. We’ve been following the growth of Ben Tolentino from London (@estsince85) and his unique “sneaker arts” style, and decided to sit down with him to talk about his inspirations and get to know the man behind the lens a little better…
Tell us about yourself…
My name is Ben, some people may know me as @estsince85 on Instagram, and I was born in the mid 80’s and raised in London. Growing up I was always into videogames and toys and would usually invest a lot of my time playing the NES, Super Nintendo and Mega Drive.
I also enjoyed sketching a lot too after seeing my older brother draw images of Manga characters, which were really popular during the 90’s so I loved art at a young age.
In the mid 90’s around 1994 leading up to Christmas, I fell in love with my first pair of sneakers which were the Nike Air Way Ups. For a few good years after that, I was only into basketball sneakers which would last me years with their silhouette always standing out. Not many kids knew what they were and would sometimes question me about them and where to get them, whereas today everything is just too commonplace.
We have been huge fans of your photography skills and art; can you tell us how it all started?
I initially wanted to become a video editor, but with art as a side hobby in the past, I feel I’ve always had this creative mindset and would always want to put that “vision” into practice and into an art form or media. As my collection of trainers grew I started to take “on feet” snaps of my own to share on Instagram and the Sneaker community.
I’ve always been a fan of photography but never really took it to a serious level until recently. I don’t consider myself a professional as I’m still constantly learning as I go by and it’s only been less than a year that I’ve been consistently taking snaps.
Apart from teaching myself photography, I also taught myself how to use programs such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop which is what I use to touch up my images and create these edits. Throughout the first half of 2015 I had no idea how to use Lightroom at all nor were my skills in Photoshop at the level where they are now. I’m still constantly striving to improve myself on Photoshop as there’s still much more I need to learn.
Where do you get inspirations from?
A lot of my inspirations are generally down to combining my personal interests together, which are made up of sneakers, toys, videogames, visual art and photography. When I create these edits, it’s a combination of all these things put together into one visual image.
Aside from that, I take inspiration from loads of different art and photography feeds on Instagram and use that to create my own style.
We understand that footwear plays a major part in your inspiration, what is your all time sneaker grail?
The one pair I would love to own would be a pair of Nike Mag. The Back to the Future Trilogy was one of my all-time favourite movies as a child, especially Part 2 and still is till this day. If I was to ever retire from the Sneaker game, this would be the pair.
How did the idea of associating toys and sneakers come?
After searching for a long time, I was finally able to get hold of a pair of Air Jordan Doernbecher 4s in the summer of 2015. With this in hand, I immediately wanted to take a shot with a Superman figure to create this effect as if I were a giant.
When I shared this with sneaker community forums, it received an unexpected good response. With a lot of positive and motivational comments, I decided to do a few more to make it a series.
Shortly after, I was contacted by an editor from a well-known online magazine and had my first featured article. This motivated me to carry on with the concept and I would then focus on characters that were highly recognisable, which I feel I made my own as no one was doing it the same way.
With the continuous innovation in your work, do you already know what you are going to do next?
There are times when I wake up in the morning and have this idea in my head, and I’d go out to shoot what’s on my mind. There are also occasions during a shoot where I just freestyle and work with what I have after. London weather can make things really difficult during a shoot so it really delays what I’m doing. Bright sunlight outdoors can make the image look overexposed, the wind would always make the figurines drop (very frustrating) and the rain is just a no go.
For this reason I decided to implement other ideas into my shoots other than figurines, generally because it got too repetitive and also wanted to create something else you don’t see in sneaker photography.
What do you think of social media such as Instagram, and how has it impacted you?
The power of social media is amazing as it has allowed people sharing the same passion and interests to connect with each other. Instagram for me started off as a personal account where I would just post images of my daily life which was later transformed into a sneaker, art, and photography feed.
Now, it has become more work and business, and I have already worked with retailers such as JD Sports and Footasylum. Additionally, I am currently sponsored by 3 companies; all approached me within a space of 6 months. Celebrities such as @officialgiggs and @chrisbrownofficial have also shared some of my pieces.
Without social media, the sneaker community, and featuring pages, I feel that none of this could have been possible, so I’m very thankful for everything that has come my way.
Talking about social media, who are the people that influence you the most on Instagram?
There’s so many to choose from, but when it comes down to “toy photography”, @nintendomag and @sgtbananas are definitely the best I have come across. Pages such as @moodygrams and @illgrammers have also inspired me to take photos that aren’t sneaker related, which made me want to upgrade my equipment too.
If you could work with one brand, which one would it be?
This is a difficult choice as I’m not particularly “brand loyal” at the moment, and generally wear any sneakers that I like. If I had to pick a brand, it would have to be Nike as they were the first brand of sneakers that I can remember as a child and growing up. I would love to see some of my work being advertised on billboard and posters that people could see when waiting for a train on their way to work for example.
Any upcoming project or collaboration you would like to share with us?
Currently there’s nothing schedule but I’m hoping to do some more work with Chris Brown’s clothing line Black Pyramid, as I want to focus on shooting clothing, and not just sneakers.
Thank you Ben, we look forward to seeing what you bring to the community next.