By Erica Wright
Antonio “Tony” Minifield, photographer, has always been creative, especially when it came to visual arts.
“My first hustle was painting and doing silk portraits of people,” he said. “I wanted to do something where I could draw and be creative.”
He also had a love for architecture, which he pursued and would lead to his current line of work. In high school, he was part of an architectural, construction, and engineering program that mentors students and inspires them to pursue careers in design and construction.
“Photography and architecture combined, and then my love for photography really just out-powered my love for architecture,” he said.
Minifield, 27, a professional full-time photographer for the past two years, owns YNOT iMages, which specializes in photography for weddings and engagements; maternity, graduation, and family portraits; as well as food photography and other work.
“We average about 30 weddings a year,” he said. “In 2019, we’re pretty much booked, so we’re looking at 2020 for more weddings.”
Fifty percent of his work is done in Alabama; forty percent in Atlanta and other locations in Georgia; and 10 percent in other parts of the country “and this year we have two international weddings,” Minifield said.
Business is so strong that he even has help from his wife, Haley.
“My wife ended up joining the team, and she’s now like my full-time assistant,” Minifield said. “She’s a school teacher, but she’s my main second shooter when we do weddings.”
Minifield grew up in Birmingham and lived in the Inglenook neighborhood with his parents and siblings before moving to Center Point. He attended W.J. Christian K-8 School, Huffman Middle School, and Ramsay High School.
“I was kind of a nerd, I would say, because I was always striving to be in the honor societies,” he said. “I was the only guy to be inducted into the honor society in seventh grade, and I maintained that in eighth grade. That carried over when I went to Ramsay, … [where] I played baseball: I started in my sophomore year [and played] up until my senior year. I [also] was in the … ACE Mentor Program.”
The ACE Mentor Program—an architectural, construction, and engineering program that inspires students to pursue careers in design and construction—inspired Minifield to go into architecture after he graduated from high school in 2009. He went on to pursue a degree in architecture at Tuskegee University.
“I got in choir. I actually had a choir scholarship. I also was involved in the Student Government Association [SGA] … and pursued and won the position of president,” he said.
Though he was an architecture major, Minifield’s photography business took off at Tuskegee.
“My line brother is a graphic designer and photographer, and he inspired me to get into photography,” said Minifield, who is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. “Architecture at Tuskegee really taught you how to hustle because everybody had their own skill sets to really make money. I started photography as a hobby.”
Minifield recalled his first photo shoot: “I did it in a Target parking lot [in the Birmingham area] when I got my first camera. I was just playing around with it. I just took some shots of my home girl because she was trying to get into modeling.”
He and his friend shared the photos on their social media pages, and their friends began asking Minifield about his photography. After that shoot, which was just about having fun, he said, “People were like, ‘How much do you charge?’
“My parents invested in me. They bought my first camera, a [Canon Rebel T3i], for my birthday in 2010. From there . . . the business just took off.”
Minifield began taking pictures for his friends and family, saving money to invest in additional equipment like extra lenses and a tripod, while learning the ins and outs of photography.
The name of Minifield’s business, comes from a play on words of his nickname, ‘Tony,’ but it also has a deeper meaning than just his name being spelled backward.
“I started YNOT as a branding for myself in 2010,” he said. “It came from trying to figure out a Twitter name: ynot_b_tony. So, it started there. When I ran for SGA president in 2011, my slogan was ‘YNOT,’ which stood for Young Noble Outstanding Tuskegee. That was not only an acronym; I created a deeper meaning for it—YNOT, meaning using your God-given potential to the best of your ability and not letting anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.”
At Tuskegee, Minifield started the nonprofit YNOT Foundation in 2013 for high school students planning to attend college. His foundation, which officially became a nonprofit in 2016, has given away almost $5,000 in scholarships.
Minifield graduated from Tuskegee in 2014 and took a job with an architecture firm in Tuscaloosa, while taking photos on the side. He worked there for three years before going full-time with his photography business. He didn’t get his architecture license because of his love and passion for photography.
Recently, Minifield has worked with model and actress Eva Marcille, for a shoot with B Collective magazine, and actor and humanitarian Don Cheadle, during the 2018 Magic City Classic.
“I was hired by Woke Vote, so my team and I were able to do some video work for Woke Vote with Don Cheadle because he’s a spokesman for the [organization]. We followed him [for a whole day during] Classic weekend,” Minifield said.
For the cover of B Collective magazine featuring America’s Next Top Model winner and Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Marcille, “We did a behind-the-scenes video,” Minifield said.
“Just being behind the scenes and watching one of my favorite photographers in the wedding industry, [StanLo Photography], work and do his thing was an amazing experience.”
Since going full time with photography, Minifield has seen growth both in his business and in himself.
“I studied other people’s work, I studied my work, and I studied ways to develop. I got new equipment and studied different techniques. I’ve seen growth in my style of editing,” he said. “My main growth came from when I got married on [Feb. 24, 2018]. That passion to capture love really grew because I found love, so it made it easier to capture that moment [for others].”
Minifield uses his gift also in his ministry. He is a member of the Church of the Highlands West Birmingham campus, which holds services at A.H. Parker High School.
“I first started serving at the Tuscaloosa campus, [working] on cameras there,” he said. “I really loved it, then I got the opportunity to become the production coach at the West Birmingham campus. Pastor Mayo [Sowell] has definitely been a blessing and a growth in my faith. Just knowing where he’s coming from, [his] challenging me to grow [personally] and grow spiritually has been a really great thing.”
Minifield credits his faith in God for his success and allowing him to be a blessing to others: “I give it all to God. That comes from being faithful to the kingdom, being faithful to God, being faithful to my wife. That’s really where my success comes from. Photography is a passion of mine, [and] being able to do it alongside my wife is even greater. That’s where I owe my success.”
Minifield and his work can be found online at www.ynotimages.com, on Instagram @ynot_images, and on Facebook at YNOT iMages.
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.