Zanele Muholi: Personae (photography gallery)

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

October 10, 2016This past weekend I attended South African photographer Zanele Muholi’s gallery opening: Personae at The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. This two part gallery, Faces and Phases and Somnyama Ngonyama is part of the Fotofocus Biennial Photography – The Undocument Series.To describe Zanele Muholi’s work as captivating is an understatement. Each and every subject on display in her Faces and Phases gallery draws you in with direct/intense eye contact. They made a powerful connection with me that made me feel as if I was somehow connected to them. This exhibit is a collection of portraits that both mourns and celebrates, that documents the resistance and losses in the South African LGBTI communities. The black and white portraits display on the white walls of The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center make a strong statement and I encourage all that can to make the trip to Cincinnati to experience the exhibit firsthand.Before Muholi took the floor to talk about her self-portrait series: Somnyama Ngonyama, meaning “Hail the Dark Lioness” in Zulu, there was a spoken word performance as well as live music and a dance interpretation of Zanele’s photographs. This personal gallery is fascinating in part due to Muholi intentionally darkening or lightening her complexion throughout images to touch on how people throughout the world tend to covet lighter skin. By embracing her own blackness Muholi displays pride in her appearance hence the title – “Hail the Dark Lioness.”
While attending the gallery I was also lucky enough to meet Atlanta based fine art photographer Shelia Pree Bright. Shelia and I have been following each other’s work on instagram for over a year now so it was definitely an added bonus to finally meet her and engage in an inspiring conversation about photography, activism, expression and the importance of shooting from the heart. You can view Shelia’s work on instagram (@shepreebright) as well as her website sheilapreebright.com.Needless to say I left The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center full of passion and inspiration. Eager and excited to not only capture images but to also capture people’s imagination and attention. Committed to help tell people’s story through images that gives their struggle a voice.

 

afropunkfest 2016, Brooklyn

Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn, New YorkAugust 27-28, 2016


My trip to afropunkfest Brooklyn 2016 began with me not knowing quite what to expect and ended with me planning my outfit, camera gear and logistics for afropunkfest 2017! For those of you that aren’t familiar with afropunk it’s a collection of fashion, music, art, culture and oh yeah… more fashion!


It’s funny how karma works. On this trip I sacrificed my airplane playlist, “The Epic by Kamasi Washington” to talk to an aspiring photographer that just happened to have the seat right next to me. We talked the whole flight. I gave him my contact information and encouraged him to reach out to me with any questions he may have. Well as fate would have it the FIRST person I saw when I got out of our Uber ride was none other than the legendary New York street photographer, Louis Mendes. This man is approaching 80 years old and stays on his hustle! He lectured me about not having my camera out with a portable printer to make money, invited me to go over to Harlem with him on Sunday morning to take in the scene all while greeting each passerby with an infectious smile and an occasional wink of the eye, “usually anybody that had a camera in their hands.”


FASHION

Once I actually got inside the gates I realized that I underestimated the fashion element of afropunk. There were fashion photographers everywhere and with plenty of worthy subjects to shoot! There were people rocking custom made dashikis, African print head wraps, dramatic hair styles, statement t-shirts, I could go on and on. There was an abundance of stylists, makeup artists, beauticians and bloggers on hand all taking notice of the fashion trends on display at afropunk. 


MUSIC

As far as the music at afropunk Cee-Lo Green and The Internet were my only MUST see acts. Cee-Lo was great and I would go see him again in a heartbeat! The Internet left a lot to be desired. They were just there, no energy at all. Other acts in attendance were Janelle Monae, Ice Cube, Saul Williams, Fishbone, Tyler the Creator, Thundercat and Flying Lotus and they provided a great soundtrack for the weekend.


ART

I’m inspired by art from all different genres and there were some very talented artists at afropunk. Art that makes you think, art that makes you laugh, art that makes you fight back the tears, art that makes you second guess everything you that you’ve ever known. There were artists doing body and face paint, spoken word artists, painters, jewelers, fashion designers, graffiti artists, dancers… the whole gamut!


CULTURE

I have been and will always be intrigued by other cultures. At afropunk you see a little bit of everything. You see people from different cultures, backgrounds, sexual preferences, religions all melting together and having a good time. To call the event tolerant would be a disservice. People were engaging with one another, giving out free hugs and genuinely making sure that everyone they came in contact with was having a good time.


And did I mention there were more than a few photographers in attendance? I had a good time talking shop with them. We talked gear, photography approach, the challenges of shooting afropunk and a few other nerdy things that only fellow photographers could appreciate. I also bumped into some of the photographers that I’ve interacted with on social media throughout the years. 


With all this said my favorite memory of afropunk is creating new ones with my daughter. We had a great time at afropunk and it was our first time seeing each other since she went off to college. As you go through your daily life be careful not to get lost in the grind. In fact make a point to find your passion, to find a way to scratch off something on your list of “things you’d like to do” and then add something new under it. Get out and create memories!


Hope to see you in Brooklyn for afropunkfest 2017!

Captivated by the Stroke of a Brush

Inspiration, we all need it and find it in many different forms. This year I have made a point to make time to seek out art from all different genres that inspire me. It’s been a wonderful experience for me and has been even more impactful than I ever imagined.

This particular painting is by Tim Okamura. And although I have only been able to view his work on Instagram and on his website it has still left a lasting impression on me. This painting embraces strength, passion, beauty and  feminism with an urban edge. I imagine it hanging on my wall every time I look at it.

It’s made me challenge myself to visualize and capture images that will have the same impact on my audience. To inspire women to be confident in their beauty, to stand strong and embrace their purpose in life.

Follow at:

website – timokamura.com

instagram – @timokamura

 

X

X caught my attention back in January when we both attended “Redeem The Funk” a function held by Jair Crooms of Redemption Dance Company at Therapy Cafe in Dayton, OH.  We nodded at each other that night but never exchanged a single word. A few weeks later fate brought us together again when I went to meet up with a videographer to sit in on a project he was launching.

I had NO idea that X would there or that he was a spoken word artist until that day. I was moved by his passion, word delivery and sense of style. I was inspired. I took two or three photos of him that day and reached out to him about getting together to do a shoot as part of my Art Inspires Art series.

During his shoot we talked about life, dreams, passion, the Dayton art scene and the pursuit of happiness. We developed a mutual respect for each other and have crossed paths numerous times since our initial meeting.

Follow X on:

instagram @proph3ssorx

twitter @proph3ssorx

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Fate is a Tripp…

This February I started a project photographing creative people from multiple genres. The first in this series is Dayton, OH native Tripp Fontaine. Tripp is a spoken word artist and member of The Underdog Academy. He is also a rapper that is quickly making a name for himself.

Every now and then I will cross paths with someone that captures my “creative” imagination. Tripp is one of those people… We crossed paths working on another project and I reached out to him about linking up. The day of his shoot I was going back and forth trying to pick out the perfect location for our shoot. We ended up at a place I had been wanting to shoot at for quite sometime but never used. As fate has it the location was a block away from Tripp’s childhood home.  Needless to say we vibed on his session and his pictures came out DOPE!

Follow Tripp on:

soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/trippfontane

twitter @TrippFontaine and @underdogacademy

instagram @TrippFontaine