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Inspirational read: I read an average of 40 books a year. The one that’s been on my mind lately is The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, by Michael W. Twitty. It’s part historical document and part personal narrative, and it traces, through Twitty’s family history, the impact of chattel slavery on how we eat, specifically as southerners and as Black folk. 

Organizational tool: The Passion Planner helps me tremendously. If I don’t write things down by hand, it’s easy for me to forget. It forces me to plan out my week by day and then by hour.

Emerging talents: Jabari Jacobs, whose sense of color and playfulness is matched by his strong technical execution and singular vision. Kayla Reefer, who, as a director of photography and photographer, brings a sense of intimacy and connection to the portraits she makes. Also, Heather Sten, who shoots people on film with such weight and honesty; each of her images is just luscious.

Splurge-worthy investment: Last year, I purchased a Prusa i3 MK2S 3-D printer, which I’m currently using to modify and create camera parts, specifically fitted cine-style lens gearing for still photo lenses. In the future, I plan on printing portions of complex props.

Forecasting: Photogrammetry is going to be the next “hot” creative ask. It’s the logical intersection of photography and 3-D renders.

Play and repeat: Although it’s five years old, the short film “Box,” by design and engineering studio Bot & Dolly, inspires and wows me now just as it did back then. More recent work that’s tickled my brain: Bonobo’s “No Reason” music video, directed by Oscar Hudson; Sherwin-William’s “Epiphany” commercial, by commercial production company Psyop; and Lil Jon and DJ Snake’s “Turn Down for What” music video, by directing duo Daniels.

Treasure trove: The site thingiverse.com has a multitude of open-source 3-D models available for 3-D printing. Need a lens cap? Need a GoPro mount? Need an octopus-shaped memory-card holder? You will find it there.

Smart purchase: I just bought an iPhone X—it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had the most current iPhone. Given that it’s my main camera at this point, it’s about time.

Unexpected resource: Medical and science conferences. There is a wealth of new cutting-edge tech and research available. The problem is that the science community isn’t good at publicizing its work in an easy-to-understand way, so a lot of it gets lost without journalists to act as translators. I was at AIDS 2014 in Melbourne, Australia, and reading a random statistic in a UNAIDS report led me to what’s now my most important body of work, Signs of Your Identity.

Travel essential: I spend about ten months of the year on the road in a variety of hotels, motels, Airbnbs and friends’ couches, so I always have a small self-care kit in my suitcase with bath salts, Earl Grey tea and lavender essential oil.

Latest fascination: I’m actively obsessed with Karen Miranda-Rivadeneira’s recent photo series In the Mouth of the mountain jaguar everybody is
a dancing hummingbird

Words of wisdom: Never go cheap on lunch for your team! Feeding people well has so many positive follow-up effects.

Quirky destinations: I like to visit very quirky and esoteric museums, like the La Brea Tar Pits, a group of tar pits in Los Angeles; the Tom of Finland House, a home in Los Angeles dedicated to homoerotic artist Tom of Finland; and Velveteria, a museum of velvet paintings. The site Atlas Obscura (atlasobscura.com) is a good place to start finding oddities.

Analog to-do list: I still have an old diary that I write everything in and then cross out when I’m done. Being able to flip through the pages helps me keep on top of things and have a better sense of the whole picture.

Fresh trend: Glitter beards.

Images courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and The Gay Beards.

Mind-blowing photographs: I saw Alejandro Cartagena’s Carpoolers a few years ago, and it stuck with me. It is a series of images shot from an overpass, looking down into the backs of open trucks ferrying workers down a highway in Mexico. I love the creative treatment Cartagena has given to a subject that is often covered—but never like this.

Ways to unwind: One is Netflix! The second is leaving Mumbai, India, on the weekends to go to our place in rural Maharashtra, India. Watching my kids playing in the river as the sun sets literally lifts all the week’s stress out of my body.

Dream collaborator: Peggy Sirota. When I started out in photography, I did some celebrity portraiture, and I always found inspiration in her ability to present people who are constantly photographed in a new and unusual way. I would love to work for her. Thirteen years ago, I wrote to her asking her if she needed assistants, but I never heard back!

Images courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena and Kopeikin Gallery.


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