Journal

AfroPunk 2018 #THEPEOPLERESIST

Scrolling through my Instagram feed last year, I was blown away by the portraits taken at Afropunk. I binged on the stories told within every square–the edgy clothing, the unapologetic self-expression, the overt statements. I just couldn’t get enough, so I made a promise to myself that I would go to Afropunk the following year.

It was the cherry on top when I learned that N.E.R.D would be headlining Saturday’s fest. I was so overjoyed when they released their album, “No_One Ever Really Dies,” last December. I call it the album of 2018 as it has been the soundtrack of my life this year. The lyrics encourage me to pursue my dreams, they lift my spirits (as all N.E.R.D songs tend to do) when I need it the most, and they remind me that I have potential, that all I need to do is believe in myself.

AfroPunk was my first ever music festival (can you believe it?), and I went solo!

Photo of the Afropunk Welcome Banner: Afropunk Festival of Consciousness
Afropunk Carnival of Consciousness

I won’t say I didn’t expect to meet people or socialize, but I made friends in line waiting to enter the venue (that was a lot sooner than I expected!). The two women I met were also attending the festival solo. (Later, inside of the venue, people would say that we looked like we were BFFs.) From the moment we first laughed together, I knew I’d found some good festival companions.

Days before the festival, I bought my ticket but realized pretty quickly that I would not be able to carry in my DSLR. I struggled with this. Do I try to sneak in my camera? Do I opt for a small prime lens and hope they don’t recognize the difference? Do I plead with (or bribe) the gate guard to let me in with it? In the end, I decided to leave my camera in my car. Needless to say, I would feel as if I was missing my best friend the entire time I was there.

I didn’t let that stop me though. I took photos with my iPhone 6 instead (which I quickly learned is not on par with the cameras on any of the later iPhones). My festival friends were asking me to take photos of them with their own cell phones (they had iPhone 7s), and I quickly emerged as the group photographer as they reveled in the angles and the composition I used to capture their likeness among the eclectic scenes around us. Yup, I’d found my element!

I’m not used to being photographed, but we were approached by several photographers who worked for Afropunk. My favorite photos were from a woman named Amina (@aminaamxn) from LA whose hobby is taking photos at music festivals. Not only did she inspire me with the photos she took of us, but she was doing it all with her iPhone! She made me feel like a model and inspired me to just shut up already (my words, not hers) about not having my Nikon with me haha.

Three black women pose for a photo in front of a blue wall at Afropunk.
Making new friends at Afropunk. Photo taken by Amina AmXn, @aminaamxn
A woman takes a profile photo of another woman against a black and yellow painted corrugated wall.
Amina takes a profile picture of Aisha with her iPhone.
A woman wears a crown of flowers.
Don’t let anybody worry your crown.
Two women pose for a photo against a colorfully painted corrugated wall. Both women wear flowers on their heads.
Flowers was a popular theme at Afropunk Atlanta 2018.
A woman with roses on her head poses for a photo.
Roses are red.
A photo of the back of a woman's head. Her hair is styled in two side buns of yarned locs with flowers adorning her hair.
Adorned.
A candid photograph of a photographer texting in front of a graffiti background.
Swagged out.

More people approached us for photos (again, not very uncommon at Afropunk), and I was photographed candidly which I think is the ultimate compliment. At Afropunk creativity abounds so it was fun to be on the other side of the camera and to be someone’s muse for once.

It was incredible to be a witness to everything Afropunk stands for, to see everyone come together carrying their very own vision of what our reality is and what our future should be, to hear so many voice and ideas and see so many manners of expression and manifestations of character.

A poster bathed in neon pink and blue light with the words "love" written on it.
LOVE.
A photo of the back of a man's hoodie with N.E.R.D's Summer 2018 concert tours.
N.E.R.D Summer 2018
A stark black and white photo of a man with wings on his back.
Winged. @kunjo_
An accidental photo of a painted corrugated wall, the sky, and part of my hair.
wavy.
The back of a man's shirt reads: "I can't wait for the day my brain explodes so I can give it to the world."
“I can’t wait for the day my brain explodes so I can give it to the world.”
A back of a man's shirt reads: "Music and other drugs."
“Music and other drugs”
Sate performs on stage.
Sate. @stateofsate

I enjoyed just being in the moment, getting to know two new people and being engrossed in Afropunk’s ideals of individuality and inclusion, sexuality and freedom, politics and social justice, equality and rebellion, creation and creativity, curiosity and intelligence.

The Black Lives Matter table.
Black Lives Matter.
Photo from behind of a man with wings on his back.
“You think we’re fly, but we levitate.”
Photo of a dark Afropunk stage.
AfroPunk.
Pharrell front and center on the stage.
Skateboard P!

To paraphrase the words of Pharrell at the beginning of the N.E.R.D. set: When so many doors are closed to us, it’s amazing to be in a space like Afropunk where the doors are always open to everybody.

See you next year, Afropunk!

How I Studied Abroad on Vacation

So when did you fall in love with travel?

It all happened for me about 9 years ago when I left home and everything I knew—my friends and family, and my hectic life as a college junior— to go abroad for the first time to study Spanish in Argentina. Six months later, I reluctantly returned back to the States feeling as though I was leaving my heart behind.

The romance of travel for me is experiencing a place the way a local does, having conversations and experiences a guidebook couldn’t show you. In Argentina, it was the discussions with cab drivers, practicing Spanish with our zipline instructor after our aerial ride over Mendoza, and the endless late-night conversations over coffee with my host family (yes, the Argentines have coffee before bed too!).

So naturally I wanted to reignite that old flame, to create a similar experience in Europe, particularly Portugal since that’s where I would most of my time.

So how did I study abroad on vacation?

I went to grocery stores and local markets

Aside from the fact that I needed something quick to eat for breakfast before I started my day exploring the city, I liked the idea of visiting the market in a new country. You can learn a lot about a culture from its grocery store and its food. Plus, you can save a little money by making your own meals. I didn’t buy much of course, just some blueberries and yogurt, but I did share a homemade meal with a fellow traveler who was inspired to make salted cod (a signature Portuguese dish). It was delicious and we completed the experience by having a local Portuguese port wine.

If you’re like me and you don’t like to cook, why not try EatWith or a similar experience? I met a fellow solo traveler who did an Airbnb experience where his host, a fantastic chef, cooked for him and a few other guests in his own home. We’re talking a five-course meal, good conversation, and lots of wine. Later the chef’s friend showed up with more wine and the evening lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to have this kind of experience, but this is the kind of cultural exchange I aim for when I travel and the ultimate opportunity to get to know a place as more than a tourist.

I conversed with locals

Several months before I traveled to Europe, I began studying European Portuguese. By the time I got to Lisbon, I was very eager to practice my Portuguese conversation skills. Talking with locals is how I learned where to watch the sunset over the Douro River (but only with a beer and a snack), where the best Açaí bowls are in Cascais—especially tasty after a good surf lesson, and that the Prime Minister of Portugal swims in the ocean for exercise with his guards.

I also learned that my Airbnb host likes Migos (he did me one better and introduced me to the wonderful music of Peggy Gou) and what Remote Year is.

Chatting with locals is perhaps the best way to get to know a place. Indulge your curiosity and listen as people open up about their history, culture, and the idiosyncrasies of their home. A good conversation will help you learn about your destination and its people, and you may even learn something about yourself!

I went to the movies

After taking a free walking tour of downtown Lisbon, walking around on my own for several hours and taking a trillion pictures, and having lunch, I was ready for a little rest but definitely not ready to go back to my Airbnb.

My goal had been to see a Portuguese anyway (you know, to practice my language skills) so I asked the lovely employees at Há Cafe No Alfarrabista there was a cinema near. I was in luck because there was a Lisbon International Film Festival, Motel X, at Cinema São Jorge. Horror films from all over the world were featured, and although I didn’t get to see a movie dubbed in Portuguese like I wanted, watching Mary Shelley in English with Portuguese subtitles actually did help me learn more Portuguese. Also, I didn’t eat popcorn in the theatre. Instead, I opted for pastel de natas. Muito gostoso!

It might seem counterintuitive to do on vacation what you would do at home, but if you’re in a new culture and country it will definitely be a different experience and an opportunity to peak into the lives and routines of those around you. If you desire to move to every place you’ve ever visited (like me!), this is a good way to try out what life would be like before you move. Even if that’s not your plan, you’ll curate some authentic encounters and most definitely a friend or two!

 

An Unconventional Christmas Dinner

My family is traditional when it comes to holiday dinners. We usually do a combination of turkey, ham, and Cornish hen along with dressing, greens of some variety (collards, turnips, mustard), macaroni and cheese (except for one year when it was somehow forgotten! Like, what??), candied yams, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato pie.

Who doesn’t love this kind of dinner? It’s always a treat and something I look forward to all year, but with Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together, I’ve always craved something a little different once Christmas rolls around.

So imagine my excitement when it was decided that this year instead of the traditional dinner, we would have a fish fry and a seafood boil! 😋

Most of the cooking took place out on the patio, and even though it was 47 degrees outside, I grabbed my camera, my gloves, and my coat and headed outside to photograph the progress of what promised to be a delicious dinner!

We started with the corn, crawfish, sausage, potatoes (which are submerged in the pot), and shrimp (added last).

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Corn, sausage, potatoes (submerged), and crawfish are ready to eat.
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The seafood boil is ready!
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Overhead view of the cooking seafood boil.

Meanwhile, we boiled the crab legs in a separate pot!

And lastly, we fried the catfish fillets, catfish nuggets, tilapia, and shrimp.

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Smoke rises from the pan as we prepare to add more fish to the fry.
A rectangular pan that contains seasoned uncooked tilapia and catfish.
Seasoned catfish, tilapia, and catfish fillets ready to be fried.
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I held my iPhone tight as I took this overhead photo of bubbling fish grease!

 

Lifting a tilapia fillet from the fish fry.
Taking the fish from the hot crease.
A catfish fillet is removed from the pan.
Fried catfish fresh from the pan.

The entire family agreed that this is one of the best holiday meals we’ve ever had! Dinner was cooked just right, was warm enough for the unseasonably chilly Christmas Day, and was bountiful enough for everyone to go back for seconds and even thirds!

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Traditional plates were much too conservative for this kind of dinner!

Dinner was too big for traditional plates, so we all ate out of pans like these (no shame here!) with little dishes on the side for garlic butter. I’m telling you, it was delicious!

This seemed to be such a big hit, I’m sure we’ll do it again for another family holiday!
I can’t wait to see how we continue to get creative with our dinners together!

What’s was your favorite holiday dinner over the holidays?

Daily Prompt: Relocate

 

 

How to relocate:

  1. Make the decision– This is the hardest part. If you’re doing it for a job, the decision is more logical and objective, but if it’s for love the decision is probably more subjective and the decision will come from the heart. Fuzzies or grizzlies. Your choice.
  2. Do the pre-work– This will include the very fun part of packing all of your stuff/selling all of your stuff/donating all/most of your stuff and deciding how to get it to your new destination. This will probably be the most physical of your labors during the whole ordeal.
  3. Relocate– Go on. The decision has been made now and there’s probably no turning back (well maybe, but it’ll cost ya). Move forward through the doubt and go into the unknown. Weather the discomfort or the excitement. Second-guess your choice or romanticize your decision. I did both. This will probably be the most mental of your labors.
  4. Arrive– yup! The choice has been made! You’re here now! Now what?
  5. Do the post-work– Are you moved in? Are you adjusting? Are you experiencing some discomfort? growth? nostalgia? Are you feeling the sacrifice, the trade-off? How does it feel? How did you think you’d feel back when you were in phase #4 romanticizing and/or second-guessing your decision? What a nice contrast from past to present. Then and now. This is human nature. This is relocation. No one told you that “relocation” is actually a rollercoaster in the theme park that is life. Yay. (This will probably be the most emotional of your labors).
  6. Consequence–[/ˈkänsikwəns/] v. meaning to go through the inevitable motions of a recently made decision. It is a noun that encompasses every single feeling you did or didn’t anticipate. It is an adjective because it describes your life now, however transitional. As in its traditional meaning, it is unforgiving but consequence is also a giver of opportunity. Now it is the catalyst for whatever change or decision you want to make next. A blank slate or a different slate, at least.

Congratulations! You’ve completed the steps in relocation, and now you have the chance to start anew!

Mobile photo of a black and white aerial map and two shoes.
Partial view of an aerial map of Atlanta, GA in 1949 courtesy of #weloveatl

 

via Daily Prompt: Relocate

Glowing Moments

Not everything shines.

Our phones, our watches, our accessories, our computer screens, the traffic lights, the tv screen…they all shine. With how distracted we are by the various devices that rule our lives make our lives easier, we may gloss over some fleeting moments of beauty, ignoring their merit on the spectrum.

The unconventional beauty is in the glow.

It’s the moon; it’s the unfamiliar face you see; it’s the thing you just learned about yourself that makes you happy! Some things, ideas, and people have an allure all their own. Maybe it caught your attention on second thought, beneath the surface, or idiosyncratically– and that’s ok. Some things strike you like that.

Stay open to those glowing moments.

Early morning sunlight glows on the ground of a parking deck.
You can find glow in the most unsuspecting places.

 

 

Fun with Hannah’s Professional Photos

So it’s been awhile!

Major life changes have been in effect for me…new job, new city—everything is a transition these days. The saying goes that for everything there is a season. So as we enter autumn and the leaves change, so I too must adjust to the new things going on in my life!

Having said that, I just want to make a special shout out to a friend of mine that is and has been so very patient with me. She’s also been very supportive of my endeavors and understanding of the transitions I’ve been making while eagerly (and very patiently) awaiting the subject of this blog post.

Hannah just completed her Master’s degree at Savannah College of Art and Design in Luxury and Fashion Management while simultaneously launching and regularly updating her website and news media hub, NewsMacarons.com.

I’ve been honored to witness her journey and see the progression of her projects, so when she asked me to take some professional photos of her earlier this summer, I jumped at the opportunity!

I knew from the beginning that the photos would be destined for her website, LinkedIn, and various social media pages, so we opted to use our friend Thomas’ library and home office as the backdrop where fashion and art books are on display to complement Hannah’s background in design, fancy for fashion, and love for books. Hannah’s naturally photogenic (even though she might argue that she’s not, don’t believe her!), so the photos were a breeze to take. My favorites are the few candid photos captured in those rest and in-between moments.

 

I experimented with black and white edits and some other color editing that I stumbled across almost by accident. I hurried to create a Lightroom preset for what I call “the glossy edits” which have a somewhat saturated look and a polished finish.

 

Towards the end of our photo session, I suggested that we take some photos outside since it was already overcast and perfect lighting for portraits. The soft light offered us some gorgeous photos with the signature Spanish moss and trees in the background (something Hannah wanted to feature in her photos since she was leaving Savannah to move back to Michigan).

 

Lastly, the tail-end (pun intended) of our session included a few photos with her and her dogs, Pip and Panda— a rambunctious pair that seemed too excited to sit still for a traditional, poised family photo. 😉 🐼🐶

Hannah, Pip, &amp

As much as I enjoyed the actual photoshoot with Hannah, I find that I’m beginning to enjoy the post-processing more and more! It helps that I upgraded to a faster machine and now keep my photos on an external hard drive, but experimenting with different techniques (both on purpose and by accident) is fun!

The good thing about editing is that there’s always more to learn, so we’ll see where the future takes me in the way of discovering new post-processing techniques.

In the meantime, I’m not going to lie— I’m relishing in these beautiful photos!

& Then There Was Flash

In photography, natural light is king, in-camera flash is public enemy number one, and off-camera flash is your bffl (best friend fo’ life). These are facts.

The benefits of having an off-camera flash are evident the first time you master taking a photo with one; It’s like striking gold! Manifesting a clear picture with little noise and exposure in all the right places is literally perfection! 👌

After finding some good resources on Pinterest one night (and taking a few experimental photos of my living room), I decided to look for a workshop or a class where I could properly learn and develop the fill flash technique.

At a workshop in Marietta, GA, I used off-camera flash along with some other photo gear I’ve never used before (but will probably one day buy) to make some creative and interesting portraits!

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“These photos were taken with flash?” you ask. You bet! The light is amazing, right? 🙂

It’s just the right amount of flash power– not too much and not too little. It takes some practice to master this technique (I still don’t have it down completely), but I can already tell that it’s one of those things that, as you get more familiar with it, becomes second nature.

I got a little creative toward the end of the class and took some photos using more dramatic and directional light.

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Maybe you can tell already, but I like my photos to be a little underexposed (hence why I adore the look of the photos above). A little drama keeps the frame interesting! 😉

You can check out Atlanta School of Photography’s website here. They have awesome workshops and ongoing classes in all areas and genres of photography!