Karston Tannis


The bitter winter months in New York City bring a triple threat of car-sized piles of solid ice, slush puddles deep as the ocean and biting cold temperatures that prove an insurmountable challenge to a specific sporting group — street BMX. Where most would only observe challenge, Karston Tannis perceived an opportunity. A time to bring together a disparity of individuals from various walks of life with a common bond — visual art. At the intersection of the arts and a desire to build community, we met Karston.

His goal was simple. Curate an exhibition of young, African American artists in New York and pull together a gallery show during Black History month — something to bring together his BMX buddies while they couldn’t ride along with other friends of friends. Not one to shy away from firsts, Karston reached out to us via our website for Salt Space. He had ambition and relationships. We had know how and loft space. Our visions were aligned, and it was the beginning of a fledgling relationship we still value over five years later. Thirteen young talented artists’ presented their work to an overflowing launch party with a line around the block in bitter February weather; no broken elevators made for a wildly successful event.

Getting to know Karston over the years has been one of our greatest privileges in New York City. It was in that first collaboration that we learned much about each other … quickly. Karston is a natural marketer and promotor. His upbeat and easy going attitude is not only infectious but it also quickly puts others at ease (an invaluable asset when you’re having crowd control challenges.) We quickly learned that he is always perfecting his craft and that he learns by doing. Karston is a self-taught photographer and the world that he documents is his classroom.

Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.

Chuck Close

After Hurricane Sandy slowly and steadily wore out the boroughs of New York, Jen and I were heading out to Staten Island with a relief crew to document the situation. With last minute notice, Karston joined our force. He headed out of Brooklyn via bike at sunrise to meet us and hop on the bus parked in Herald Square. Jen and I were a part of a team that hosted a block party in the Lower East Side with thousands in attendance, and again Karston dropped his Saturday plans to help us document the event.

Karston hustles. He networks. He is kind. He is humble. And he has become a phenomenal photographer and storyteller! When we first met Karston he was only at his genesis as a photographer. That was five years ago. Today he has worked his way into partnerships with world class brands such as W Hotels, the Gap, Aeropostale, and more. He has amassed a significant following on Instagram in short order — all because he developed a love for photography through his love for BMX. Karston has worked hard to hone his craft, connect with individuals authentically and capture stunning moments. He explains “The photography community in NYC has been my source of inspiration. I’ve looked up to so many talented shooters, and they always welcome questions and offer advice.” It’s this community that Karston gives credit for his continued development and burgeoning success as a photographer.

The photography community in NYC has been my source of inspiration. I’ve looked up to so many talented shooters, and they always welcome questions and offer advice.

Karston Tannis

We have know Karston for years, and our respect for him continues to grow. While his raw talent stands out, it is his hard work, determination and humility that garners respect. These qualities – more so than competition – are the key elements to building a collective future that drives community development and innovation. As we travel, we’ve had the opportunity to meet so many inspiring individuals that embrace these qualities and we’re on the lookout for more.

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Winter Explorations

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