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Advice For My Boys: An Inspiring Photo Project by Justin Holder


Justin Holder has been one of my friends on Facebook now for awhile. He is one of those people who is just an all around awesome dude and one heck of a family man. I have had the pleasure of following him on Facebook and witnessing his passion for photography and family. His boys and his wife clearly mean the world to him.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Justin started a project where he was photographing a stranger a day for 100 days. At first glance you may think that it is nothing new. However, it is not your “normal” photographing strangers project. Justin takes it a step further. With every picture posted of a stranger, there is always a story. Justin gets to know these strangers personally through conversation. Some of the stories have been sad and some happy. It is awesome to see everyday people opening up to a total “stranger.”

I think what really attracted me to become such a huge fan of Justin’s project was his motivation and inspiration behind it. He wanted to do something meaningful for his two sons. A project that was more than just leaving  “piles of random images.” Rather he wanted them to have something they would be able to keep and hold onto forever. And so, Advice For My Boys, Justin’s project, was born.

Meet Jeff


Jeff.  Toughest time of your life?   “I spent 3 years at Murray State and didn’t do so well and wasn’t able to pay for it, so I had to leave without my bachelor’s degree.  But I’m trying to get back there.”  What did that do to you psychologically?   “It really brought me down for a while.  There was a point where I thought I’d never get on track again.  But, I have really great friends that support me and have my back.”

Life advice for my sons?   “Just don’t give up.  You’re gonna see dark times.  You’re gonna see black.  But if you push through it, the sky’s the limit.”

After explaining that this is something I’m doing for my boys, he went on to tell me that his mother died when he was young and left him a letter and her ring.  Wish Jeff the best on his journey to get back to school.  

Meet Jeremiah


Jeremiah. Advice for my boys?   “Stay in school. Can’t beat education.” Happiest time of your life?   “When I joined the service. It opened me up to the world.”Biggest disappointment?   “Getting hooked on drugs…took me 10 years to get off it.” What gave you the strength to quit?   “I did it for my family.” Bet they’re proud of you?  “Yes…they are.” I wish Jeremiah the best

Justin, are there any specific criterium you look for when choosing a stranger? 

I just look for someone that catches my eye, either by their looks or by the energy they put out.  And, I’ve really tried to have a big variety of people, whether rich, poor, black white, old young…a real mixture of people.  What you learn, over and over, is that every one of these people have stories, as cliche as that sounds it’s just so true.  Amazingly, not ONE person that I’ve approached has declined or even been the least bit weird about it.

Meet Paul

Paul. Happiest time of your life?   “When my children were born.” How many do you do have?  “5”   I’m sure it was tough at times having 5! “Sometimes, but it was worth it.”  Best part?   “Watching the lady my daughter grew up to be and the men my boys turned into.”

Toughest time?   “When my daughter passed away in August.” How did you even begin to deal with that?   “Anger. Anger’s your first emotion. Then you feel your hurt. Then your depression hits. And then your anger hits again. Then you just deal with your anger everyday. The memories help subside the anger.”  As a side note, Paul is in Nashville trying out for The Voice. Wish him the best and I’m sure his daughter, Jessica, is cheering him on.

What do you usual say to the person when you approach them? 

I use the same pitch with everyone:  “Hey there, would you mind if I take your photograph? See, I’m working on a book for my boys and everyday I try to meet a stranger, take their photo and ask them a little about life.”  When they hear it’s for my boys, I can always see it in folks eyes- they immediately relax, smile and want to help.

Meet Marcus

Marcus.  Happiest time of your life?   “Eating cake.  Playing with my friends.”   If I’m having a bad day, how can I turn that around?   “Well, we could just play and stuff and we can be best friends.”  What does it take to be a good person?  “Well, do something nice.  Like open the door for them or help them up if they can’t get up.”  Now that you’re 6, what will you do different this year?  “Play more.”  Go get ‘em, Marcus! 


What gear do you use?

 Always where I am torn.  I have a Canon 5D Mark II with the 50mm 1.2L that I love to use, as it just gives such incredible falloff.  However, it’s more of a production to take with me and gets more attention and is more intimidating to folks.  So, generally, I am using either my Fuji X-E1 with the 35mm 1.4 on it or the Fuji X100s.  I am a huge, huge Fuji fan and just love their stuff.

Meet Justin and His Family


I  don’t know what my boys will become or achieve.  However, I want them to always know I have their back, I’m here and I believe in them.  I hope these stories inspire them and also teach them that it’s ok to fail, learn and move forward. My Boys; You’ll never know how proud you’ve made me.  I’m the luckiest. 

I think we can all learn something from this project that we overlook a lot. In the words of Justin, everyone has a story.

To see more images and to follow Advice For My Boys, please visit: www.adviceformyboys.com

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