A marriage of talents
When Antwon and Marcia Maxwell first moved to South Korea in 2010, the husband and wife had no idea that their five-year stint abroad would reveal hidden talents and dramatically alter the path of their careers. The couple came to South Korea in search of something different – an adventure. Antwon had been working as an IT specialist for the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C., but when they learned that he could do the same job in South Korea, making the move was a “no brainer.”
Antwon, 31, was never particularly interested in photography, but he decided to invest in a nicer camera to document their adventures abroad.
“When we left the United States in 2010, I wanted to buy a better camera than just a regular point and shoot, so I bought a DSLR,” he said.
The purchase would prove to be a game changer. Not long after that, he volunteered to help a friend take photos for her fashion blog. The experience revealed a passion for fashion photography that he didn’t know he had. He poured over photography magazines, books and videos. These days, the self-taught photographer has his own YouTube channel where thousands of people tune in to watch his photography tutorials.
In 2012, he started Antwon Maxwell Photography. To build his portfolio, he started out by doing free photo shoots for “anyone who was willing to get in front of my camera.” Soon, the couple was traveling almost every weekend to do photo shoots, Marcia assisting with lights, shooting behind-the-scenes footage and helping with styling. Antwon now has clients all over South Korea.
When Canadian expat Stephen Wilcox was looking for a photographer to shoot photos for his modeling portfolio, he said the quality of Antwon’s work and his attention to detail made him stand out.
“It was like, ‘Wow. This is someone I want to work with,’” Wilcox said.
American expat Deanne Nguyen, who helped style Wilcox’s shoot, said the Maxwells make a great team.
“They’re just the sweetest and most professional people to work with,” she said. “He’s always honing his craft and Marcia is pushing him.”
Marcia, 29, has also blossomed creatively since the couple moved to South Korea. She currently works as a unit program coordinator for the U.S. Air Force, but her passion is fashion design. She learned how to sew at a young age. The craft has been passed down like a family heirloom. Her grandfather was a tailor in the U.S. Navy and her grandmother passed the skill down to her father.
“My dad actually taught me how to sew,” she said. “He got me a sewing machine.”
Since then, Marcia has been making clothes – a piece here and there whenever she felt the urge to create something. She has even made bathing suits for her friends. Until now, she never felt like she had the patience or confidence to turn her talent into a career. But seeing fellow artisans and start-up designers doing well in the fashion industry has inspired her to chase her dreams.
This year she launched her own brand of womenswear, B. Young Couture, and online boutique, byoungcouture.com. Modest and soft spoken herself, Marcia designs for the kind of woman she admires and aspires to be.
“She’s really confident … She can wear anything. She can go into a party and have all eyes on her and she’ll feel comfortable with that,” she said. “I really like for women to dress up and look and feel powerful and really sexy and feel like they really have a presence in my clothes.”
For Marcia, inspiration is waiting around every corner. Seomun Market, a traditional market in Daegu that specializes in textiles, is a place where her imagination runs wild. With more than 4,000 vendors, the market is a treasure trove of cheap and plentiful fabric.
“The fabric just takes me somewhere else,” she said. “I think that’s really where I get my inspiration.”
Antwon’s and Marcia’s talents seem to be a perfect match. Whenever he wants to try a new photography technique, Marcia volunteers to be his test subject. She enjoys helping him out while experimenting with different styles. In turn, he photographs her fashion designs. However, like any married couple, they occasionally bump heads over creative differences.
“She drives me crazy,” Antwon said, explaining that he and Marcia can spend hours debating the details of a single image.
But at the end of the day, their strength comes from pushing each other to be better.
“He pushes me to make more clothes,” Marcia said. “He pushes me to get the word out about my clothing. When I was trying to look for manufacturers, he was pushing me to talk to people even though I didn’t know Korean and they couldn’t speak English.”
After five years in South Korea, they are preparing to return to the United States. They plan to continue developing their skills, gaining experience and networking. Their goal is to eventually break into the fashion industry full time.
“In five years, I see myself retired from the government and actually doing photography full time,” Antwon said.
For 2015, his resolution was to get published in an off-the-shelf publication, and he has accomplished this goal just under the wire; Antwon’s photography and Marcia’s designs will be featured in this month’s issue of Kontrol Magazine.