Creative Minds of Venice: Lee Tonks

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There is nothing Lee Tonks has not tried and succeeded at.   When he was fifteen and boxing as an amateur, Don King encouraged him to come to America when he was ready to go pro. Lee took the opportunity and brought his camera along with him.  After three years of boxing professionally and capturing moments along the way, he started a sign company.  His sign company began with one location on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice and grew to three different locations throughout Los Angeles.   Lee returned to his passion of photography and after 17 years of owning the company, he sold all three locations to an international company.  Shortly after selling his company, Lee started to focus on photography and went on to win numerous                                                                                 awards around the world.

Did you move to Venice when you first moved to LA?

When I first moved to California, I was living in Northridge.  I was not familiar with the area at all.  I soon realized that I wanted to be closer to the beach and where the action was, Venice was that place and is that place.

 How long have you been in the photography industry?

 Professionally, I have been in the industry for ten years.  Since the age of 15, I have had a camera with me at all times.  When I owned my sign company, we had a client who taught photography classes.  I decided to take all the classes she offered.

How would you describe your photography style?

On the edge, a little taboo, you either get it and love it or you don’t like it at all.

Your photos are anything but boring, how do you come up with the story behind them?  Do you style the shoots yourself?

I like to find people that do things that are taboo and out of the norm and try to understand what it is that attracts them to these things.  I usually try to style the shoot based on what they do, and I collaborate with them to some degree.

What is your biggest challenge when shooting?

It takes me out of my own comfort zone sometimes.  I have to kind of let go and just shoot what is in front of me regardless of what is happening.

What is your greatest achievement thus far?

I won the International Color Award that was judged by the Sotheby’s and Christies.  The photo will be published in a book that raises money for the American Red Cross.

This past year you were involved in a great charity can you tell us more about it?

Breath Giving Portraits is a once a year event around the holidays.  There are children who are unable to leave the hospital and live life and create happy memories.  A group of photographers got together and we went to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles to help create happy memories for the children and their families.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into photography?

Put your camera on manual and never take it off.

Lee continues to expand his portfolio in photography, while focusing on a career in real estate.  With a successful boxing career, sign company and award winning photographs, Lee brings his years of experience and fresh view on things into the world of Real Estate.

 

Favorite Local shop:  Robinson’s Beautilities (I go there for props for my photo shoots)

Favorite Local eatery:  Santino’s Santa Monica

Favorite Local hang out: Santino’s Santa Monica

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Fashionably new to the world of Real Estate 

-Rochelle

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Suzy Frank is an expert on Venice Real Estate as well as L.A.'s entire Westside.

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