Creativity and Blackness are not separate. We shouldn’t separate the two because our entire culture is built on art. Our music is creativity, our dialects stemmed from creativity and necessity, our clothing and food are also children of creativity. Being Black is living and breathing artistry. This is a major project and this is something that I'm excited about; something I haven't been for a long time. This project is an exploration of what it means to be creative in a space where making a living from your art is uncommon. It's a breakdown and an analysis of the work of young creatives around me; exploring their struggles, their process and achievements. I want to show how much creative talent exists within our spaces so that other creatives who feel forced and boxed in to give up on their art have active examples of inspiration to draw from.
The 3rd Person I approached about this project is Isabelle. She’s an Antiguan like me studying in Manchester England and I see similarities between the two of us. She’s a visual artist, a Photographer like myself who also happens to be studying Law. Her need to express things through visual imagery is the sign of a powerful story teller because sometimes words rob people of conceptualizing their own interpretations.
Q: Isabelle, what is it about visual art that draws you to that form of creativity?
A: Sometimes words cannot truly express a feeling or moment. Visual art can elicit a plethora of feelings in numerous people, the fact that you can be transported to a moment in time to which you can never return is something special.
Q: When did you decide to take up photography and painting?
: My dad encouraged me to take up photography at an early age after taking an impromptu photography course abroad. When I was around 8 or 9 he started handing me the camera during family parties and events when he wanted a chance to be in the pictures. I took it up seriously when I was 15 because I realised the importance of capturing moments and people; when you take pictures that person will never ever be that way again and those moments are worth capturing.
Painting has always been there I think, I was not that great at it when I was younger, but I liked how it made me feel. I appreciate it because its versatile and expressive – no words are necessary and sometimes you just know.
Q: When you’re looking for a concept for photography what is your process like?
A: My process is an extension of my life. I am constantly re-evaluating myself and considering who I am, where I am and where I would like to go. A lot of questions or issues spring from that and I try and conceptualise how I would best demonstrate that through links to culture and art, but also through symbols and colours. Once there is a rough idea I try and moodboard to create a visual aid. Sometimes its easy, other times its not. If things get hard I leave them alone, I don’t believe in forcing a concept, if it was meant to be it will come along. But before I quit I go through my Instagram and Pinterest, sometimes things like colours and patterns come through and can be the push I need to move forward.
Q: You also like to be a subject in images... Do you think that adds a balanced perspective to your outlook as a photographer?
A: I definitely think so, sometimes we as photographers can be very particular about our concept and its execution. Its important that we consider the subject and figure out how best to bring our concept to life without compromising its integrity and getting the best out of the subject.
Q: Do you prefer photographing people, concepts or landscapes and why?
A: I love photographing people and concepts. I like capturing people, I try my best to keep things as natural as possible and encourage the subject to be themselves. There’s something beautiful in a human in their chosen habitat – an honesty that isn’t always visible in todays world. It is refreshing. I love concepts because its an exploration of my imagination, similar to my painting, the options are endless, and you are only truly limited by your execution. It is really freeing.
Q: You study Law, if you could choose between studying Law and being a successful photographer what would you do?
A: I think I would pick being a successful photographer but only in an artistic capacity. I find I dislike working for others when it comes to art. I put a lot of myself into the process, so if someone were to have the power to dictate what I do I would be hard pressed to enjoy it. I enjoy the freedom I have, as long as the creative reigns are in my position I think being a successful photographer would suit me wonderfully.
Q: Do you think that young people are steered away from creativity as viable career options?
A: Unfortunately, yes, I do, particularly young people from BME backgrounds. We are often encouraged to keep our creativity as a hobby and then “make something” of ourselves. It is definitely not the right approach but I can see where it comes from.There are already so many pressures on young people from society, I think in order to promote well balanced and meaningful lives we should be encouraged to do what we love.
Q: What advice would you give to someone else who is in a similar situation like you caught between a Love for art and the need for a “substantial” degree.
A: I would say do both. Life is short, and I firmly believe in regretting nothing. If you can do both, do it.It all comes down to you though. I wouldn’t trade my studying a “substantial” degree for the world. It has shown me how much I love creating because I made time for it no matter how busy I got. If anything, my love for art has increased because of the obstacles I’ve had to overcome to create.
Q: What do you think your work as a photographer says about you as a person?
A: I’m not necessarily sure what others think my work says about me as a person, however I hope that it shows that I appreciate people for who they are and focus on capturing their essence. I hope my work shows sincerity and beauty that comes with being captured in the moment.
Q: What projects are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?
A: I am currently planning a few projects: a self portrait series exploring my moods every week for a month, a project called friends in friendly spaces – where I visit with people I admire in my life and photograph them in their environments and a roots exploration project which will be happening in Antigua this summer, where I photograph my family and my trip home alongside a journal which documents returning to the bosom of my family after a long time.
I also hope to explore fluid painting and pottery as well as being a subject for photography some more.
Q: As a young artist, who are some of your role models in the field?
A: I am seriously inspired by:
• Yayoi Kusama
• Callen Schaub
• Annie Leibovitz
• Andy Warhol
• Elizabeth Wirija
• Nadine Ijewere
• Misha Meghna
Among so many others.
Q: How important do you think it is That artists have a strong support base?
A: It is so key especially in a climate where the arts are suppressed. Having a strong support base is essential because it can be a key factor for many where pursuing their dream is concerned. Most people are vulnerable with their art because of how much they invest in it. Sometimes people supporting you is the extra push you need, a further validation if you will.
Q: Do you think your parents would be supportive of you if you decided to ditch law to pursue photography and art?
A: I think they would be supportive, but I would have to prove that such a career move was viable. They don’t understand why I cannot do everything because they encourage me to never limit myself. They would encourage me to pursue everything but ultimately, they would be supportive regardless of what I do as long as I am able to support myself and be happy.
Q: What would you like people to know about the importance of black creatives?
A: We are valuable, not just because of our content but because of representation. It all goes back to being the change you want to see in the world. We are important because we are the people that are normalising artistic pursuits in the BME community and in society on a whole. There needs to be black creatives, in fact there needs to be black everything, we need to be represented in all spheres and spaces. Our work towards being accepted opens the door for other generations to pursue art without need for any back up plan.
View Isabelle's Work on Instagram