Girls on Film: Sam Tilkins


Photo by Sam Tilkins

Art by Gabe LaVine


Local photographer, Sam Tilkins, is someone I have been excited to share with all of you; I have been talking about her photography to my friends since the day I met her. Sam has a lively presence with an outgoing personality, which is displayed in her incredible photographs of beautiful models with vibrant colors, neon fantasies, and electric dreams.


Sam’s beginnings as a photographer started back in high school where she and her friends “would do dorky and cheesy photo shoots, which happen to mirror the work I do now.” Sam explained, “I was also in the darkroom a lot and that’s where I learned and fell in love with manipulating photos.” After graduation, she put photography on the back burner and went to Buffalo State College for graphic design. After a few years into the program, students must select a studio elective; photography was listed and so Sam was brought back into the darkroom. By the end of her college career, Sam was taking photos of everything including family, friends, nature, and local shows. Another hiatus was taken and Sam looked for graphic design jobs in the area; however, when she started up her own baseball apparel company, she had to pick the camera back up to promote her company. Sam and her camera have been inseparable ever since.


When you take a step back and look at Sam’s photography, there’s a central theme to her work. Sam described it as “sex but not how it’s normally portrayed. It’s how the models interact with the environment, the textures in the photos, the light and the color as well. I want to portray raw confidence and a little taboo with my photography.” Sam gets approached by a lot of models, most of them meeting for the first time, and goes out on photo shoots that she plans out. “I love to direct my photo shoots from start to finish. Most of the time, I will call up my friends and say hey, I’ve got this weird idea, and we’ll run around all day getting the perfect shot.” Sam paused, “I think that’s the other thing that I love about the photo shoots; the experience and adventure of getting the right photo and meeting new people. One time a girl, on a whim, came down from Rochester and I had no idea where to shoot. We started going into bar bathrooms like the Old Pink and Frizzy’s and took photos there; they turned out amazing.” Photography has turned Sam into a bit of an extrovert and has helped her become more confident in herself. “I used to be such an introvert growing up, but if you want the best pictures and you want people to feel comfortable with you, you have to be yourself and a little goofy.”


Some photographer’s Sam looks up to include Damon Baker, Haris Nukem, and Andy Deluca. “Andy’s story is so cool; he’s from Buffalo, where we were all shooting the same bands, and now he’s up for all of those awards and going on tour with the most famous pop band. He’s living the dream we all want to live in.” We talked about more Buffalo photographers and the wonderful community that they’ve built: “Everybody here are friends and everyone supports each other. That’s why I like this community; very rarely will someone come in and try to tear everyone else down.”


You can find Sam running around Buffalo taking photos of friends and models, or at a local show photographing local acts such as Feverbox, SMUG, Talking In My Sleep, Quis LaFlare, Lil Gabby, and Billie Escco. You can check out her work on Instagram.