Paul Octavious on Creative Experimentation for the New Balance 990

Every once and a while, amidst the inundation of “photographers” and “designers,” a creative comes along who adds an entirely refreshing take to their respective field. For Chicago-based Paul Octavious, the initial decision to enter the world of design and photography has been perfected over the years through his willingness to experiment creatively in every endeavor he takes on. This strongpoint was noticed by New Balance who recently tapped Octavious to capture its Norridgewock manufacturing facilities where the New Balance 990 is made. Aligning its ethos of excellence and quality, the decision to enlist Octavious stemmed from the parallels between the duo’s shared dedication towards excellence in their footwear and Octavious’s creative work. Speaking on the progression of his work as well as his tools of the trade, Paul Octavious sat down with HYPEBEAST to discuss the details of what keeps him inspired and creative.

Can you tell us a bit about your story and how you initially “got into” photography and design work?
In college I majored in graphic design. At the time stock photography sites like and others were at their infancy stage and for a poor college student the big stock companies like Corbis and Getty were just plain expensive. Corbis would send the department catalogs of all their images and we sadly would scan them and use them in class projects just as placeholders. I was sick of this and decided I wanted to differ from my peers so I bought my first digital SLR in 2005.

What has the process been like for you in honing your craft and perfecting your skill over the years?
Experimentation has been my key to getting better. Being self-taught in photography and not knowing the “rules” or proper ways of lighting and taking an image has helped the most.

How do you continue to push yourself and challenge yourself to become even better with your trade?
I like to revisit subjects I’ve photographed in the past and sometimes see if I can see it in a different light than I originally saw it. For me, my “Same Hill, Different Day” series has helped me most in this case.

What are the key tools and cameras that you rely on for your work?
My current work horses are 5DMKII and my 24-70 f/2.8 lens.

Many of your works such as the Puffin Clouds, Grandpa’s Records, Stacked, and the BOOK COLLECTION are simplistic in their approach – but they are executed in such a way that adds originality and a level of excellence to seemingly everyday things. How do these ideas initially develop and what things provide inspiration for you?
I’m a collector of objects. I like interesting objects in my home and I like to be around things that inspire me to create. Thrift shops feed a lot of my creativity actually. Sometimes I can find an object and a year later find another object that sparks a new series with the combination of both objects.

What was it about the New Balance 990 project that interested you?
I have always loved seeing how things are made. I think what started my love was as a kid seeing the “How Crayons Are Made” video on Sesame Street.

So to be asked to go in a factory and document how a shoe is made was an amazing opportunity. I don’t think most people really take the time to think of how items they buy are made. They may interact with these things on a daily basis, with little consideration as to how things are made. To see the 990 assembly team concentrate and care for every stitch and press they make is an amazing thing to watch. My favorite step in the station was seeing the classic New Balance “N” being put on the shoe!

We always appreciate when individuals are able to carve out their own unique niche in fields like photography and design that, all things considered, are pretty saturated at the moment. How did you approach the New Balance 990 project and how did you look to augment the project’s quality and story through your own aesthetic and style?
I went with my gut. Clients hire you for your eye and your take on different subjects. Going into foreign territory like the New Balance factory where amazing things are happening around every corner is complete sensory overload. I find that I just really have to trust instinct when it comes to shooting. You never know what’s going to work or not going to work sometimes, but if you don’t try it’ll never work.

Photography: Caleb Fox

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