“thinking about how my work can exist in real life. Not just in the context of having exhibitions, but what happens with my work once its in the hands of others. Realizing the photo isnt just about me, and the story continues on after the photo is taken.”
Q: Can you describe your process of capturing a photograph? Where does your process start and where does it end? How does this process vary from project to project?
A: It depends on what kind of work I am making. When it comes to reportage photography it usually just comes from the experience. Being out with my group of friends, sitting at my grandmother’s house, or taking the R line. Just capturing the moments that are happening around me, the moments that make me feel something and react. For the other stuff it usually comes from trying to take things completely unrelated to photography and translating it into an image. Whether it be a story, a song-line, a color, an obsession, a memory, a place I want to exist in, a feeling, an experiment, whatever. As for where a project ends, I don’t think I know that yet. There are lots of pictures that Ive taken years ago and felt that they didn’t mean much or hit any nerve for me so I just forgot about them. But recently these photos came back up and look completely different and exciting to me. So I guess there’s never really an end.
Q: To what dangerous/hilarious lengths have you gone for a photograph?
A: Well, I’ve jumped through a lot of hoops to make a photo happen, but begging my grandmother to let me shoot on location in her living room that she has covered in plastic, china glasses in cases, and doesn’t allow anyone to hang in unless it’s a holiday took a lot of persuading and didn’t exactly end in no problem, you’re welcome. Also staging an 8-hour party just to shoot was pretty hard work.
Q: You recently had your very first exhibition titled “Every Nigga is A Star”, Can you explain what this exhibition means to you? And how the experience of the exhibition has impacted you and/or your creative direction?
A: The Every Nigga is a Star exhibition was a milestone moment for me. As a photographer I feel that their are certain marks that I want to meet and having an exhibition where I could see my photos outside of a computer screen, negatives on the lightbox, or small prints was major. I grapple with the conundrum in 2019 of feeling the pressure to share all of my work online. While it is the most accessible and democratic way of sharing my work it feels like I am just taking these moments and experiences that I create with my subjects and throwing them away for a quick unremarkable scroll online, so having an exhibition was major. Getting to see all my friends who were shot, react to their pieces on walls was heartfelt. Getting to see people who I’ve met over the years coming to see my work was important. And even more so, getting to see strangers who I have never met, taking the time out of their day to come and see my work and feel something when they saw it was unbelievable. Hearing people’s reactions and identifying with things I identify with when creating the work, but also identifying and giving meaning to things I didn’t plan is something I didn’t expect. The show pushed me to follow through completely with an idea. Being that the concept was very specific I had to push myself to work on the same idea for months and allow it to develop outside of my original plans. The exhibition also sparked the idea of thinking about how my work can exist in real life. Not just in the context of having exhibitions, but what happens with my work once its in the hands of others. Realizing the photo isnt just about me, and the story continues on after the photo is taken.
Q: What is the best advice that you have been given?
A: None really, I’m sure someone has told me something insightful that has stuck with me unconsciously, but my memory is pretty shit so I just go in blind everytime.
Q: If you could choose a theme song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Right now it’s 4ever by Steve Lacy
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your art?
A: I don’t know if I have any specific goals to accomplish with my art. I want to just keeping making whatever feels best for me. Lately I’ve been in a place where the most fulfilling part of image making is the actual experience. The location scouting, the styling, the meeting with people and getting them on board, the whole production of it. To the point where I’m not even pressed to release the images, because I am completely satisfied with what we got to experience together on set. So I guess I hope to continue being able to create spaces for me, the subjects, and my team to work and tell our stories. Stories that I’ve grown up seeing at family dinners, stories that I dream of being in, and whatever else I feel at the moment. I guess I hope to keep making art that feels familiar to my experiences, and finding people who know those experiences and have something to contribute.
Q: What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?
A: You need a team. I know you want to do it by yourself, but the more people you have by your side, the more freedom you have to create.
Q: Can you see your finished product before you start it?
A: I’ll start by saying yes. A lot of the time I have drawn out exactly how I want the image to come out. The pose, the background, lighting color et al. But there’s always a magic happen that happens once I am actually at the shoot, and the subject is styled, on location, standing in the directed pose, and I look down into the viewfinder and real life is happening and the image I drew up just turns out to be so much more alive and fluid then I imagined. I usually just have to throw out all preconceived plans and move with the moment. So the final image that I usually planned out is just a mock-up to show my subject, what I am hoping to communicate, and in turn they take it and put it into their own language.
Q: What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?
A: I don’t think one thing specifically has influenced me to be a photographer, more just a culmination of interests. In high school I would buy disposable cameras and just document everything around me because I felt like everyone needed to see it. I am obsessed with cinema so photography has been my way into capturing moments and being able to direct. I have a terrible memory so taking photos has been a convenient way to capture things visually and have the memory forever. I’m also a pretty shy person and the camera feels like my tool into situations and relationships I wouldn’t exactly feel comfortable approaching without. I don’t know photography just makes sense for me.
Q: If you could sit down with any artist (past or present) and eat dinner, who would that person be? Please explain your answer
A: Oh that’s a hard one, honestly I’d need like a roundtable dinner at Apsaraâs but If I had to choose just 1 person it would probably be Deana Lawson, She is definitely past present and future for me. The conversation would definitely just be my crying the whole time while she talks about the process of capturing each of her images. She’s definitely someone who speaks the same language I hear and see in my brain.