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!

Ponce City Market

For Thanksgiving weekend I took a much need mini vacation to my home away from home, away from home–Atlanta! 😉

I made plans to meet with some friends at Ponce City Market and arrived early to walk around and explore before they arrived.

I couldn’t believe I’d never been before!  The market and atmosphere reminded me of other city markets I’ve visited like Reading Terminal in Philly (they have good ice cream!) and The Ferry Building in San Francisco (they have ah-mazing empanadas at El Porteno).

People were everywhere shopping, dining, and dancing, and the crowd could easily sweep you this way or that if you weren’t familiar with your surroundings. As I sat waiting for my friends to arrive I heard what I assumed to be a mother telling her adult daughter, “Now this is my kind of place. I’m so happy you brought me here!”

Indeed there’s something about city markets that make you feel the spirit of a city. They’re like a cross section of a metropolis that showcase so many amazing cultural elements. From the languages to the smells to the tastes and the people, it’s a fun energy to witness!

Once my friends arrived, we ate and had drinks at Brezza Cucina + Pizzeria, a chic Italian pizza place with very photographic cocktails. 😋

Almost too pretty to drink, eh?

Then we walked upstairs to access the Beltline, which is a wonderful greenway that circles the city of Atlanta. Skaters, bikers, walkers, joggers and strollers alike use this wonderful area, and it was nice to see so many people moving about on a crisp fall day after Thanksgiving.

I’ve been seeing the Beltline on the Instagrams for some time now 😉, so it’s only right that I bothered my friends to model for a few photographs. Luckily, they’re not difficult to convince!

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We actually didn’t get far on the Beltline before we stopped to peruse Paris on Ponce, a vintage store/venue with art, furniture, and oh yes, champagne with cotton candy. Atlanta never disappoints  🙂

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Until my visit to Ponce City Market,  I had no idea that people actually went to visit The Grinch much like they visit Santa Claus during the holidays. We didn’t get a chance to see him, but we did see a Who performing Silk Tissue Acrobatics.

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I think I will make it a habit to visit city and farmer’s markets wherever I travel. Needless to say, they make awesome photo walks and are great places to people watch and experience a city’s culture. 
What do you like about city markets?

An Atlanta Bridal Shower

Well, my to-do list is getting longer and longer! As I challenge myself to prioritize the most important things first, I find that the problem is that everything is important to me right now! Often I find myself wishing that I could do two things at once or be two places at one time (if I could have any super power this would be it!). Since that is impossible, I’ve tasked myself with  completing projects one at a time (kind of 😉 ).

I’ve been meaning to post the pictures from my friend’s bridal shower to the website. These photos are some of the first of their kind with me experimenting as an event photographer. Looking back over a year later, I find that I’m impressed by their quality. As my own worst critic, I feel some of the photos could have been better: Why didn’t I do more overhead shots of the food and drinks? What kept me from being more experimental with the portraits? Why on earth didn’t I take advantage of the natural light?Sigh. You live and you learn!

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Written Well Wishes to the Bride-to- Be

 

Sometimes no matter how critical I am of myself (read: my photography), it’s a significant step in my progress to view photos in retrospect as it helps me to focus on the techniques I need to explore and practice. Past photos are an inspiration because if those photos were mediocre at least, there’s still room for improvement, right?
All of that to say that I’m rather proud of these photos, and I think my friend/ client is happy with them too! I love the ambiance that they’re captured in and the intimacy of the scene in general.

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Small jars of salt and sugar scrubs–the perfect bridal shower favors!

 

Every event has its own unique feel and photographic personality, and ultimately I’m intrigued by the challenge each event poses. I’m hoping to practice the skills necessary to prepare for and capture the essence of every occasion as an event photographer.

What have you learned (or wish you knew more about) when it comes to your craft or hobby?

 

 

Can I Graduate?

 

Ahhh yes! Graduation! It is the best feeling to complete 4 (sometimes more, sometimes less!)  years of study and finally walk across the stage to receive your diploma! I don’t know which graduation felt more accomplished for me, high school or college? They were both special for different reasons…

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Imagine the well of emotions I felt when I attended the graduation of my first cousin at the beginning of the summer. This ceremony was special because I remember precisely when she was born– I was in the hospital room when it happened! (On the other side of the curtain of course, but I heard her first cry all the same!)  Eighteen years later after watching her grow into a young adult,  I was absolutely honored to be the family’s photographer “covering” her graduation.

Always a lover of the details, I snapped a few photos of the graduate’s sister who was holding the balloons and flowers as we entered the high school football stadium.

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My uncle (a golf coach at my cousin’s high school) was able to get me “press clearance” on the field before the commencement! This was  a welcome surprise since I was expecting to do all my best photos after the ceremony.

As the procession began, I decided to take a few practice shots of students walking by in preparation for my cousin as she walked by my uncle and me. These “practice” shots were some of my favorite of the ceremony! I was able to capture the raw excitement (and nervousness!) on the graduates’ faces as they walked excitedly to the beginning of the rest of their lives. What an awesome feeling!

The feeling of accomplishment was palpable and threw me back ten years to my own high school graduation. It reinvigorated me, reminding me of the feeling of having the rest of your life before you to craft as you wish. I realized that I don’t have to be 18 and graduating from high school or 22 and graduating from college to have this feeling. Ceremonial events like these are only the beginning of a lifetime of achievements, constructive failures, and varying successes.

To me, these photos have a dual significance: the commemoration of a special moment in the life of someone I love, and a reminder that sometimes pomp and circumstance can be simple and inspiring. Everyday the future is before us, and every day we can start anew.

So even without the cap and gown, the crowds and cheers, without the ceremony and celebration, can I, too, graduate?

Yes!

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The title of this blog post was borrowed from the lyrics of the Third Eye Blind song, “Graduate” from the self-titled album, Third Eye Blind (1997).