It was the ending of 2016 and a tough one at that. But the beauty was I had struggled with so much that in light of it all I was able to identify myself and mission as an artist. I already had my “what” (which I discovered in University) but found my “why”.
I packed my bags to spend a month in Nigeria, entering into the New Years with my family. Although I’d been shooting digitally since 2011 (first videos then photography), I had just became infatuated with analog film and knew that Nigeria would be a beautiful place to shoot my first roll. It felt so amazing being immersed in my culture. This wasn’t my first homecoming rodeo but I hadn’t been 10 years prior. I didn’t necessarily take as many pictures as I expected to take because it was important for me to go as human first and photographer second. It was a much needed trip. Being able to take time away from the crazy political climate the US was under. But I knew that when I got back to DC that I had work to do.
I was welcomed back with the news of our newly elected president Trump’s travel ban on Muslims. I was so disgusted. This could be me, this could be someone I love. But I didn’t want to speak for them, I hadn’t shared their experiences although I greatly empathized with them. I know how it feels to be marginalized and treated differently because of how I look or my culture. I decided to share Muslim voices through my art and make them feel welcomed by giving them my platform. That was the least I could do. I went on to cast 3 young girls on Instagram and the rest was history.
I was featured on numerous publications and gained a new following of people who supported my work. It gave me a sense of confidence that I was greatly lacking and I made sure to shoot often and share my work from that point on.
I had this new push and this new sense of direction. I enjoyed experimenting with Kodak 400 TX film especially. A now fave of mine.
I practiced using my environment to tell a story being that my environment heavily influences me in general.
I shared work at local art show, “Aunty’s Tea Party” with a community of badass women in art. I’m so used to sharing work online that sharing in person feels so special. I truly want more of my work to exist offline this year.
I shot my first music festival. I’m not much of a concert photographer so ummm it was okay… A LOT of running around and I didn’t have the best of media passes to capture artists how I would have liked to.
I started to work on themes that resonated with my experiences as a Black woman. “Black women are super women” is an idea that stuck with me while creating images with Akua. It’s a theme I want to grow into a conceptual series.
I don’t consider myself a role model but I always want to be someone who can push young girls in a greater direction of power. So I began my work with women in sports. The images that I’ve taken has impacted my own life in a way that if I’m feeling down I can look at these girls, so confident, brave and owning their power, and instantly feel motivated. Especially young girls of color.
I definitely got tired of shooting in the day so I decided to experiment more with night photography. This was a reminder for me to continue experimenting and actually be creative or else I die.
I was a featured artist in a local magazine, “Napizum”. It felt good to be recognized amongst my peers for the hardwork I’d put in.
I’m ending the year out now focusing on getting my studio quality better so lets just say I’ve officially enrolled back into YouTube university to study lighting more thoroughly. After all photography is all about lighting and your play on it.
2017 for me as an emerging artist, was about the personal work/development that was crucial for setting the stage for what I’m seriously passionate about and what I represent. My advice to anyone starting out in any creative field is to not care what people think so much. Don’t commercialize yourself before you even have a chance to understand your own voice and vision. Be inspired but don’t copy if you truly want to shine. And pressures make diamonds, mmk. You have your own gift and purpose aside from what anyone is already doing anyway. All in all, I hope this post encourages you to reflect back on your year of growth and give yourself a pat on the back. Happy New years everyone! Check back soon!
” Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman