Tropico Photo is the story of an artistic partnership that is also a love story. Behind the colorful and cheerful name, there is a duo composed by Michelle Norris and Forrest Aguar. Met in college, in photography class, in Atlanta, the two began first to study, then to compete, and finally to collaborate. Since then their relationship has continued on the double track of sentimentality and professionalism. And this has been, as they say, one of the reasons for their success. Stayed in Georgia, they managed to make their way by sharing an eccentric, summery, and carefree style. In their shots, geometric perfection is often broken by something unexpected, which surprises with irony or a touch of surrealism.  Architecture for them is a backdrop, almost the background of a cartoon, never an end in itself, and always in dialogue with other elements.

1) Which are the challenges of working in a team while being a couple?

It’s easy for there to be a crossover between work and personal life. While our strength as a creative team strengthens our personal bond, sometimes the stress of work can seep into other parts of our relationship. It’s a balancing act that we are always working on.

2) How would you describe your style?

Surreal and vibrant. We love to create a feeling that’s positive and out of the ordinary.

3) How do you approach the projects? Both of you are present in any step of it?

While we each have certain areas that we specialize in, we are both involved every step of the way. I take on more of the styling and concept creation, and Forrest is more involved on the technical end with lighting and editing. On set together, or while traveling there is a constant dialogue between us about what’s working and how to get the most exciting shot. We get the best results when our skills come together.

4) Where does the name of your studio come from?

We started to develop our aesthetic while traveling together and were cultivating a tropical and colorful look. Between that and our sunny lighting style, we knew we needed a name that sounded the way it looked. Tropico just felt right.

5) How do you choose your locations?

Sometimes we build sets that we pre-visualize or go to specific destinations that will offer a lot of options for us. Other times, we just stumble upon locations or take notes as we see things on a walk or drive. Certain locations of ours may seem mundane at first glance, but we know what we can bring with the right added elements or quality of light.

6) I read that the beginnings were tough… what was the turning point?

Each of us started out working as assistants in Atlanta. It can be difficult to make the jump from assisting to shooting, but once we resolved that we wanted to work together and branded ourselves as Tropico Photo, we immediately felt a shift and started to see work coming in. It seemed like we landed on something special that worked for us as a team.

7) Do you prefer shooting indoors or outdoors? Why?

It really depends! Often we bring artificial lighting to an outdoor setting and so the way of working will be similar. It is refreshing when there are times where we are able to discover things as we go and be spontaneous with our shots.

9) What are the main challenges of your job?

Work/Life balance is difficult. Because our job is creative and we are often working from home, the boundaries of the office and traditional work hours don’t exist.

10) Which personal projects are you developing right now?

We like to stay inspired by taking on small projects often that have creative freedom. We have a personal shoot that we have been talking about for a long time, but is put on hold a bit by the current situation. Last year we worked with a great team to paint a cyc wall and make our “Big Sun” project in the studio. The one we have in mind for next time will be a fun location shoot.

11) Tell us 3 young photographers that we should follow.

Peyton Fulford, Savana Ogburn, and Anna-Alexia Basile.