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Fabien’s picture perfect

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Fabien’s picture perfect

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Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” The answer is everything.
No one knows that better than Sandra Birch who, after hearing the French name “Fabien Montique” [pronounced mon-ti-kew], decided it was the perfect name for her eldest son.
“I have no idea what it means,” she said smiling. “I just knew that it was French and I loved it, so I named him Fabien Montique Brathwaite.”
Fabien has grown to love the name, which he uses as his professional moniker as a highly sought after photographer in New York. But for Fabien Montique, he is more than that.
“The title that I like to have is “artist” because it spans so many different genres,” he said during his interview from Berlin, Germany. “I do photography, painting and creative direction, but ultimately artist would be the overall title.”
This artist has been keeping some pretty high-profile company since moving to New York to study when he was 18.
He’s worked with the celebrities such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Common, John Legend, Mos Def, Big Shaun, Kim Kardashian, Kid Cudi, along with some British musicians.
“I started taking pictures in 2008, so it’s now running into five years,” Fabien said. “I left Barbados when I was 18 in 1999 to study, but life happens and I ended up starting my own web company.”
That move proved to be the one that would propel him forward.
“I started the web company in 2001 and it comprised of about ten websites ranging in topics from fashion to technology. One thing that’s always been really big for me in terms of aesthetics is how things look visually,” Fabien said.
“One of my websties kind of turned into a magazine touching on fashion topics and that’s how I met Kanye. I designed his website for him in 2010. Then I became part of his creative team.”
Talk about life meeting opportunity. Fabien, who is based in New York, has spent the last two years in Europe working with a number of artists and magazines.
“I went home last year for two days to do a shoot and I haven’t been back home since,” he says.
In terms of his photography, Fabien has a penchant for shooting in black and white, and has researched the works and style of old artists and photographers.
“Black and white is the simplest form of an image,” he says. “I shoot mostly in black and white.”
For someone who came from a humble St Philip family comprising his mother, sister Shakiela and brother Todd, Fabien has spent the past few years travelling on private jets to some of the world’s trendiest destinations. His work has been featured on magazine covers such as Vogue and a host of European publications, along with the New York Times.
“Right now I’m in Berlin working on a painting series,” he said. “I’ve been shooting so much, painting for me is like my first love so I wanted to take some time to focus on painting. But at the same time, I still continue my other stuff to pay bills. When I’m painting now I can lose myself.”
Fabien just recently finished working with John Legend on his new album.
“This is all through Kanye as well, his creative agency Adonde,” Fabien added. “I did some work on John Legend’s new album. I did the single art for his two singles and the album cover all here in Berlin.”
But one would think that success and life working with some of the biggest names would have spoiled Fabien, but he remains very down to earth and humble.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunity, but what has been important to me is maintaining being grounded,” he said. “I grew up really poor, but I’ve always had a very supportive . . . . My mum, sister and brother have been always been there supporting me. Even when I go to all these places it’s so good to say [Barbados] is where I come from.”
Fabien said he initially wanted to be a doctor, but all that changed after his love for art developed and he wanted to be an artist.
“[When I see] where I am now, [I realize] I’m just so fortunate to be able to have the opportunities that I’ve had,” he said.
“It just shows you that if you’re focused and take your time and really appreciate when people are good to you and you can give back and not just take, then it really helps.”
In the near future Fabien would love to do an exhibit of his work here in Barbados. It would also give him an opportunity to be at home, spend time with his family and enjoy some of his mother’s cooking and baking.
While he has some projects on the horizon, Fabien is just enjoying the ride his life is taking him on.
“I feel a sense of elation and joy,” he said smiling. “But for me, I’m also, like, ‘What’s next?’”