I try to travel for my birthdays each year. This year I went to Mallorca and it was incredible! It really cemented what this year is going to be for me: a very, very good one.
I was lucky enough last month to be invited to shoot for a graduation of a school that has a music and film program. I was given full access throughout the prep and actual ceremony and I am pretty pleased with the results.
So, I met Betty and Keith, the founders of Madagascarves, through New York friends of mine. It all started with a facebook messages, then emails after emails, two shoots and a lot of fun. These scarves are handwoven, 100% raw silk from women in a couple of villages from Madagascar (hence the name.) I will update this post as I am editing the images!
I reached out to a make up friend of mine, LaVern Marquez (Lavern.de), to collaborate on some shoots together. We followed the color trends and created a color palate based off of those trends. We asked a friend of ours, Adrian Blount, to be a model for us. The results are vibrant and I am really proud of the final product.
I ran into Haiku while simply wandering around on the street, trying to kill time before I had to head back to Berlin. She needed help shooting photographs of herself, since she was traveling all alone. So, we joined forces and it turned out to be a very creative, fun-filled two hours in Lisbon. I love the fact that I left that place on a very good note!
I just rebuild my DSLR and have done a couple of photo shoots with it. Here are the results. I will continue to post more as I begin to explore my style, subjects, and compositions.
I have been exploring new venues and ways to express myself through different, non conventional cameras. These are the results:
A month or two ago, I just had a free day with a car and decided, on a whim, to do some photography. I had my polaroid with me and picked up a cartridge of color polaroids, so I started to drive around, trying to find an interesting neighborhood I haven't yet explored. I ended up in Potrero Hill and, in the beginning, I photographed the beautiful parts of that neighborhood: the colorful houses, plants, green parks. I remembered passing through a housing project on the opposite side of the neighborhood while being on a bus towards work. I drove over there and photographed the run down conditions of that area as well, taking note of the juxtaposition of the genterfied Potrero Hill against Potrero Hill housing project.
On a whim, for an exhibition in San Francisco, I turned them into diptychs and the results are surprisingly, visually powerful:
Exuberance is Beauty has been shown three times, from Berlin to San Francisco to London to Budapest. The first two installations are very similar, but there are slight differences, but London took a very minimal approach, which I like. Budapest arranged the photos of other photographers, including mine, into interesting, contrasting clumps. Each one expresses the same concept, the heart and theme of the project, but gives a whole different experience with the photographs:
So, by accident, I made this found photography series. I was just over at a friend's house, where she had a couple of issues of Playboy from the 70s and other magazines for us to do some crafty projects with. Those issues were right in front of me at this large dining room table where we sat and I got curious. I never, actually, read or saw a Playboy in my life, so the thought of flipping through a very old one, piqued my interest. What I noticed was the quality of the photos: the softness and subtle color palette in which these ladies were presented, the styling of the women, and the wooden environments where their nude bodies were shot.
I took note.
I started to notice a difference in how the women of color, on different pages, where presented against their white counterparts. The light of these photos were harsher: more natural, less romantic. The softness that had I seen from the other pages of white models had dissipated from the shots of these black women. The more I looked at these Playboys, the more I noticed the racial and sexual microaggressions within the photos. Some were, well, pretty blatant and some were minuscule. But all in all, they were there and I was seeing them with my own eyes: first, as a black woman and, second, as an individual.
I grabbed scissors and began to cut the photos out: one of a racist/homophobic cartoon and three photos of black models (that was pretty much all there were in terms of representation of people of color). At that moment, something came over me. My friend's roommate had gold lame paint for us to use and I began to paint a gold circle over the faces of the women and of the black men within the racist cartoon. I painted it thick, like a seal, over these individuals' faces. This action didn't really have a rhyme or reason, but it was a reaction, an expression, that came through loud and clear.
The depths of this reaction didn't hit me, until I was on the train home after visiting my friend's house, writing and listening to music for another photography project. I simply turned a blank page and began writing text that just strongly struck my mind: "your history, the mockery of your presence, is just a lasting joke with a devastating punchline..." "your identity is precious, not commonplace, not cheapen..." "...but it is your whole, you, that needs the preservation."
These words just flowed and I began to match them with the visuals that I created. But I went a little further, did some small research, and realized something: The anonymity of scopophilia can be deeply tied to the anonymity of objectification, racism, and sexism. The scopophilic aspect of these photographs strips away their identities, providing an anonymity that can be use for projection, fetishism, and degradation. When identities are stripped or whittled away, either through race or gender, it makes a way for dehumanization.
So with this knowledge, I took this form of anonymity and reversed it: by preserving the only sense of identity, their faces, under a layer of thick gold. The symbolism of this, along with the text, is that these are individuals, or representations of certain individuals, are to be valued, just like gold. And when these individualities are curated through an intimate type of voyeurism, it cheapens them when, in actuality, they are priceless.
I have three projects ideas that I have going on in my head that involves found photography. I would have never thought to do such a thing, if I didn't go to Picture Berlin. I attribute these ideas to my time spent there and to the wonderful, challenging, talented artists and curators that I met. Before I went, I had a hard time with my creativity, I would get so bored, and would only get a trickle of an idea (aka just one) and just nurse it. While I was in Berlin, I was hit with seven or so ideas and it was refreshing. Now, I am exploring and experimenting and even though I am not outwardly showing it sometimes, I am pleased. New doors of creativity are happening and that is more than enough.
Well, I mentioned before that my twin lens reflex is working again and with much celebration, I ran out and bought some film to do a little experimentation. I drove out to the ruins of the Sutro Baths, which sits flushed against the Pacific Ocean, with its overgrown, unkempt glory. Here is the results of that day, which made me happy: the sun, the flowers, the air, the sparkling water, the chance to create more work.
I have had some great adventures, seeing SF through new eyes, while my friend Aisha has been here. She is visiting from NYC and it was her first time ever on the West Coast. It has been a joy watching her consume this city with vibrancy, wonderment, and joy. These are some of the images that I have made while running around the city with her:
So I have been doing a lot of abstracts for the past year or so. Maybe it is the simple fact that I am kind of afraid to approach people for photos, even when I know them. Inanimate objects don't move, you don't have to direct them, and they produce these stunning patterns that just seem so easy for the taking.
Also, I need to get back to the core of my photography which is analog. I miss the editing process and the ability to really relish in the creation and patience of producing a satisfied photograph. That's my heart. That's what pushes me. After a very, very long time of not touching or even looking at my Seagull (twin lens reflex), I picked it up tonight and checked the apertures: It works!
So with this knowledge, I will start again with film photography. Now, I must find a place that can develop my film on the cheap side and people to shoot.
This is NY when I was given a surprise visit back last week.
I saw an exhibition of Gordon Parks' work around 2012 at the Studio Museum of Harlem. It was centered around an impoverished Harlem family and the hardships that they faced. It was striking, moving, and completely made me want to take more pictures and push my creativity as a photographer. I mean, the man is a legend in his own right: a true renaissance when it comes to expressing deep compassion. His work is something that I aspire to be: visually arresting, yet yields a soft emotional core.