Duration: Three years.
Location: Los Angeles, California. I’m originally from New York City, grew up in the Battery Park City neighborhood of Manhattan, moved to South Carolina for high school, lived in New Orleans for four years after that and now I live in Los Angeles. I’ve been here for six months!
Career path: South Carolina is where I was first introduced to photography and learned the basics. I was randomly placed in a digital imaging class and fell in love. However, South Carolina was also where my depression started to intensify. I developed depersonalization and felt like my body was not something that was mine, but more so something I was renting. Through depression, ordinary things that brought me comfort, like my bedroom, often become uncomfortable, muddy and gray. But when I shot my first roll on a film camera my history teacher gave me, it was sunset, and suddenly, my gray, muddy bedroom that I spent too much time in became this soft mix of orange, red, pink and yellow. That was my ah-ha moment. Photography let me breathe. It enabled me to regain some sense of control and remain present. I haven’t stopped loving photography since. Now, photography is a true necessity. It’s not just a hobby; it’s a therapeutic practice for me.
Artistic influences: I’m greatly inspired by all of the places I’ve lived. In New York, my family took me to gallery shows and gave me my first lessons in modern art. My father taught me that being an artist is a respectful practice, and he gave me my foundation. My dad is a big fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, so I grew up being surrounded by their artwork. Being introduced to their work at such a young age was a big deal to me even though I didn’t know it at the time. I remember going through Central Park and seeing The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude—so many moments of my childhood still inspire me.
New Orleans is where I began taking photos that ended up in my portfolio. My mom and her side of the family are from New Orleans, and it’s where I got the most help with my mental health. There, I started to really see myself again and focused more on developing a truer sense of self. I owe so much to New Orleans and I go back every year for a couple of months. It’s so vivid; the houses are bright and inviting, but they are also old and falling apart. The city is recovering from a trauma that has happened, so it’s resilient and lively but also heavy and slow. I really admire the energy—the duality of it all. I try to find New Orleans wherever I go. Now I’m in Los Angeles, so we’ll see where this takes me!
I’m also inspired by my experiences, fears, desires, mental health, my younger siblings, sculptors, street photography and painters—more specifically, the entire surrealism and fauvism movements. Max Ernst, Lubaina Himid, Jacob Lawrence, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Howardena Pindell and Alex Webb—I’m a big fan of Max Ernst’s The Triumph of Surrealism. In paintings, there’s no limit to what you can do with the body, and it pushes me to do the same in my photos. Two works of art I’m immensely inspired by at the moment—and can stare at all day long—are Inka Essenhigh’s Dance Party and Maria Martins’s The Impossible, III.
Aspirations: I’m trying to remain present, so right now, I’m just taking it day by day. There will always be more to see, make and find within myself. I want to live and feel as much as possible whenever possible. I want to remain a student, curious and open to new experiences.
Philosophy: Be kind. Get to know yourself enough that no one can ever tell you who you are. There’s an immense amount of power in your imagination. You might be nervous to start a project or do a certain shoot, but feel the fear and do it anyway!
Anything else? I value curiosity and honesty—portraying truly vulnerable aspects of someone’s life, your experience, the world and everything else, and not holding back because it’s ugly, awkward or uncomfortable. Art helps us encounter all the things we might be too afraid to talk about or ask about, whether that be with other people or with ourselves. It helps us become more self-aware. It’s really freeing.
I’ve experienced extraordinary feelings in ordinary places. I feel that shooting out in the real world—a cracked sidewalk, old storefront or a garage door—all adds familiar layers and texture to the imagery. It keeps me grounded. It helps me constantly look at the world or my neighborhood for moments of color during those gray days. I’m always wandering, walking around or riding my bike. Stumbling upon locations that I love is my favorite pastime! I also look at paintings and find new imagery to fall in love with online. I write in my journal as well. I usually start with those three things: wondering, finding inspiration via Tumblr and reflecting in my journal. I ask people via Instagram if they’d like to create with me. If someone is open to it, we meet up and shoot! It’s usually just me, my camera, the subject and the sun!