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!

Don’t you just love it…

…when you have a vision and then you make it a reality?!

I got an idea last week to do a photo spread that looks like a “screenshot” of my Instagram feed. Wanting to showcase some of my best photos from a photography project I completed last year, I took to the interweb to search for how to make that happen.

Sometimes when I dream up awesome visions, I forget that it’s probably not all that hard to recreate or manifest. Thanks to the land of Youtube, I found exactly what I was looking for! What I wanted to do wasn’t hard at all; it’s simply a photo collage with perfect squares.

I spent Saturday practicing and learning how to make a collage by watching a few different videos. You know how they say, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”? Well, there is and I try to learn every single way! But seriously, I find that it helps me learn a skill if I learn it a few different ways. This is wisdom that I gained when trying to master all the math classes I’ve ever taken in life (ahem, college level algebra 3), and it really helps to reinforce the learning process. 🙂

Needless to say that with a little practice, I created a 3 x 3 masterpiece of last year’s Rock and Roll Marathon:

rrphotospread

It was exactly what I wanted and I’m proud to say that I have learned yet another Photoshop skill. I’m almost an expert (not!) 😉

I love when I can “make my dreams come true” in Photoshop. How do you challenge yourself in post-production?

 

 

 

 

Vision-

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, the word vision can be defined in many ways:

– something that you imagine : a picture that you see in your mind

-2a: the act or power of imagination

-4b :  a lovely or charming sight

Some girlfriends and I were celebrating one friend’s bachelorette weekend in Miami last year. We were blessed with awesome weather; the sun was beaming down without a threatening cloud, and we had miles and miles of North Miami beach all to ourselves.

We were elated because the beach was footsteps from our rented vacation house. Without much effort, we found a sandbar on which to sit to enjoy the water, the view, and each other’s company.

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The water was beautifully turquoise yet perfectly clear, very unlike any water I’ve seen on other Atlantic coast beaches. I was struck by the watercolors of the waves as they progressed toward and then receded away from us. My eyes lingered on the saturated blue of the sky, the intermittent tufts of pure white clouds, and the miles of pale yellow sand. I was particularly captivated by the golden seaweed that floated on the surface and tickled our toes. So much of it floated near the shore that as we waded out of the water and back onto the hot sand, I felt an overwhelming urge to capture its essence!  I knew exactly how I wanted the image to look: envisioning a handful of seaweed against the backdrop of watercolors, I asked a friend to hold two handfuls so I could snap a photo.

As I peered through the viewfinder to see the seaweed cascading from her hand, I knew this photograph would be something special.  It is one of the few times that I have been able to manifest a photograph  JUST as I had envisioned it.

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This photo signifies what I believe all artists and creatives recognize as sweet success: the evidence of imagination and affirmation of our belief in our creative ability.

To my surprise this photo became the most liked on my newly created Instagram account– it was trending for weeks after its post, and those who see my work now almost always recall it as a favorite photograph.

Creating this image heartened my belief in my creativity! And in retrospect, I know this is where I fell in love with my own vision and what I like to call my personal quest and desire to “manifest imagery.”

–Jae