One man’s mission to keep talent from leaving the VI

Emmanuel Phillips is bringing his talents back to the Virgin Islands. 

“I saw, like, a void of, you know, stuff I was seeing in the states I wasn’t seeing here,” Phillips said.

After a brief stint in the US after graduating high school, Phillips returned to his home of St. Thomas with an arsenal of photography skills. 

His mission now is to help local talent grow right here in the backyard without having to go away like he did. 

“We just don’t have the platform, you know. And I understand that from my own experiences. But that is exactly why I came back. A lot of people are like there is nothing here for you. You should just go back to the States. I understand what they’re trying to say. But I always replied in a way, ‘if everyone that is good at what they do leave the island then the island will never get any better.” 

 Phillips himself started with just a regular tourist camera. He said he worked at the Office Max saving up money for it. Then he started training himself. Little did he know, he already had a knack for it.  

“As I looked in our old photo albums you know I saw really amazing photos and I was like, you know who took these? And it was my dad.” 

Phillips Dad was a photographer when he was younger. Now he helps Emmanuel on every one of his shoots. 

Phillips has worked with everyone from famous photographers to Vogue. He payed attention not just to the photography, but to the way they style the shoot and do makeup. Now he does it all himself for his own shoots in the VI. 

“I think one of the first bigger client that I had work for was a gentleman by the name of Renny Vasquez he is a celebrity make-up artist and we worked on a lot of projects together. He actually is the one who pushed me more to continue doing video. I shot some video for a photographer who is from Paris that shot in New York for Elle Magazine, shot for another magazine called L’Offciel, and another magazine, Vogue.” 

That New York City training led him most recently to Paris for work. While he said it was tempting to stay, he knew he had a job to get back to in the USVI. 

“Going away being able to work with new individuals and celebrities that isn’t what should determine whether or not your community supports you. But I feel like that’s what happens and I do feel like that’s what I want to change. Anytime that I see someone that is talented I want to, I want to tell them what I didn’t know when I was starting and if took me a year or two years to learn something, I want to help you to not even have to do that. So you can be better than me in half the time and I feel like that’s the message that I want to pass along.” 

A goal that is already turning into a reality right here in his home town.