When Kalvin Banton, who goes by the professional name Bred Hampton, traveled to Chicago for NBA All Star weekend in February, he already had a vision of how he was going to photograph Jayson Tatum.
The 29-year old photographer from Dorchester and the Celtics’ forward had developed a solid working relationship throughout the season, and Hampton knew that for Tatum’s All-Star debut, he needed to showcase special moments for him, both on and off the court. Ideas circulated through Hampton’s mind, and as he usually does before shooting a subject, he saw portraits, stylistic shots, and ways of capturing Tatum before he even began clicking the camera’s shutter button.
In this case, he envisioned photographing Tatum as as soon as he landed in Chicago, walking off of a private jet. He wanted to capture him getting a fresh haircut, picking out his outfits, and of course, suiting up to play on Team LeBron — James’s hand-selected All-Star roster. Tatum and Hampton went over all of these ideas together, sometimes chatting via text — and Tatum trusted Hampton’s ability to get it done.
Tatum and Hampton connected through a mutual friend. When Tatum made a meet-and-greet appearance at Abercrombie & Fitch’s Faneuil Hall location last August, Hampton was there to photograph the Celtics forward — up close and personal. While sitting outside of the Best Buy parking lot at South Bay in Dorchester this July, Hampton recalled how he went from purchasing his first camera, a Canon T6i, at that very store — to photographing some of the biggest names in the city.
“Tatum took a chance on me,” Hampton said. “I was able to show how I am around other celebrities, his family, his mom, his son. It’s very important to make a good first impression, people can get a glimpse of who you are and how you work.”
An emerging career
As a hip-hop fan with a desire to one day capture an entire tour, Hampton started off photographing the Boston music scene. Thanks to friends such as DJ E Dubble from JAM’N 94.5, Hampton was able to get access to local artists and snag credentials for concerts and events, where he photographed rappers such as Cam’Ron, Playboi Carti, Blueface, Trippie Redd, and Lil Baby.
While on a trip to New York City last summer, Hampton took up sports photography when he stopped by Dyckman Park for SLAM Magazine’s Annual Summer Classic — a high school basketball showcase open to the public that featured many elite prospects, such as Boston-native Terrence Clarke.
Hampton would reconnect with Clarke back in Boston shortly after for a photoshoot at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury. Afterwards, he texted the video over to Clarke’s close friend, “Juice,” and got back a reaction from Clarke that validated that his work was special.
“[Clarke] was like, ‘Dog, this is crazy!’ It was like an authentic reaction.”
What came next was a whirlwind of opportunities, including landing a job to shoot the Harvard men’s basketball team during the 2019-20 season. Adding his love of hip-hop with a newfound passion for videography, Hampton shot and edited postgame highlight reels and photos. Comments flooded Harvard’s social media account, while the players were constantly texting and DM-ing him on Instagram to ask for the images so that they could post it on their own accounts.
“The editor going off this season sheesh,” one user commented.
It’s Hampton’s artistic style, which he describes as “clean,” as well as his ability to connect with his subjects both in person and through the lens, that has helped elevate his career so quickly. Through a mutual friend, he got the opportunity to document Jaylen Brown’s 23rd birthday last October and capture personal personal moments between Brown and his close family and friends.
Months later, Hampton would travel around the city to photograph Tatum and Brown at community events and Celtics home games — his first being the Celtics’ matchup against the Sixers last season in December.
When the Celtics took on the Lakers, he got footage of LeBron James walking out of the tunnel, doing his pregame chalk ritual, and both teams competing on the court. He also photographed Brown, Tatum and Clarke — who was there in attendance — and captured their personal style and “fits,” or outfits, that they had worn to the game in the tunnel.
By then, Hampton was no longer just a face in the crowd. He was someone that players looked for to capture their good sides.
The All-Star Game
Having cultivated a professional relationship both Brown and Tatum, as well as the people within their inner circles, Hampton continued to capture up-close-and-personal shots of them around the city. He was there when Brown was honored at the State House in January, and when the chatter around the All-Star selections buzzed, Hampton casually threw it in Tatum’s ear about joining him in Chicago.
As he puts it, it wasn’t because he was “clout chasing” or simply wanted to tag along with an NBA player. He knew that he could authentically capture Tatum’s special moments, and that they could work together.
The Celtics forward initially gave him a “we’ll see,” perhaps not wanting to give a definite answer before the selections were announced. Once it became official that Tatum selected for his first All-Star appearance, Hampton garnered the approval of both him and his mother, Brandy Cole-Barnes, who coordinated the details of their trip directly with him.
He understood that this was a big moment for both of them, player and photographer heading to their first All-Star games. Still, he felt confident and prepared.
“Some of my early work with musicians prepared me to be around celebrities and being able to hold my composure,” he said. “But, I always look at them as humans first…You have to keep your composure and stay sharp, always.”
In Chicago, Hampton stayed in the same hotel as Tatum (and on the same floor as Russell Westbrook), and with Tatum’s trust, he was able to capture his entire trip: from getting a haircut and picking out his “All-Star drip” with his stylist to when he filmed a commercial for Metro by T Mobile.
“He said, ‘Yeah these crazy’ with fire emojis,'” Hampton recalled Tatum texting. “We just kept running just like that.”
Although Tatum is typically on the quieter-side, he looked comfortable on camera when Hampton was behind the lens. In a video Hampton shared on Instagram, Tatum can be seen laughing, showing off his custom-made”O” ring, and sharing his excitement for the All-Star Game.
Although COVID-19 abruptly halted his sport photography work, he’s used this time to photograph his own community, including powerful images he took while at a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally held at the Boston Common in June. For Hampton, being able to relate to his subjects, as well as his pride as a person of color and a Black photographer, shines through his work.
In fact, his pseudonym “Bred Hampton” was inspired by his love of Black history and culture: Bred refers to his favorite sneaker, Jordan Bred 4s, and he chose Hampton after Black Panther Party activist Fred Hampton.
“There’s a familiarity because I’m shooting people that look like me, and come where I come from. I just know what looks good and what they need — and it does feel good that a high [profile] person in their field [like Tatum] recognizes my work.”
While many photographers venture out to Los Angeles, Atlanta or New York City for work — Hampton wants to continue to solidify himself as one of Boston’s own and best.
“One thing about me is I’ve always believed in myself,” he added. “I feel like, and this is not cocky, but I know what I bring to the table and I’m always on my game….When I have the camera, I’m not playing no games. If we’re talking basketball, I’m really Kawhi [Leonard] — forty [points] with no smile. I just come and kill it.”