Business As Usual

February 29, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

"War is a business"
 
This is the second time in two weeks somebody told me something that I had figured out in my own way but never put into so few simple words. In both instances it had to do with the unending reality of some human beings controlling other human beings. Last week I met with an old college friend who referred to affordable housing initiatives in NYC as "risk management” - the idea that without housing for the city’s thousands of poor there would be social unrest. This week, a chance encounter with a U.S. military veteran simplified the commodified nature of the most horrific human circumstance many of us can even imagine. But although affected by the business of war this young man did not ask for pity. He spoke frankly about his experiences but held his head high with a wide infectious smile. "Photography was my thing, I loved photography. I had a Minolta. But I went to war and everything changed, nothing is the same now."  "I used to love basketball and photography. I was 6ft, 4 - now I am 4ft, 6" he said with a smile. "But I don’t complain."
 
One would certainly think that someone who had risked his life, lost 6 friends and one of his legs (and suffered many other injuries) in battle in Afghanistan might feel different after being shifted through the U.S. military machine after his active service. But Jon told me that he Wounded Warriors Project was good to him and generally felt that his country had taken care of him. After hearing so many horror stories I was relieved to hear this - after all Jon had a whole life ahead of him.
 
Our encounter started as so many do in NYC, just a conversation with a stranger. Or more precisely a person who you have not previously had the chance to meet. On what was a slightly melancholy day for me, NYC did what it does time and again if you take a moment and really listen.
 
It inspired. 

 

 


Sourcing Creative Inspiration - The Schomburg Center

February 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I am very fortunate to live in a city where artistic expression is everywhere and make it a point to regularly visit the many museums, cultural centers and galleries NYC has to offer. However, there is one place I visit to gain grounding as a man of African descent- The Schomburg Cultural Center in Harlem, New York.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library is generally recognized as the world's leading research library devoted exclusively to documenting the history and cultural development of peoples of African descent worldwide. 

As often as I can, I visit the Schomburg and without fail the Center provides an environment that feeds my soul, fosters my creativity and re-calibrates my mind.

 


Got Me a Big Ass Camera - Now WTF Do I Do?

February 03, 2016  •  1 Comment
Copyright Skylar Liberty Rose
 
This wasn’t planned. I picked up a camera to help fill a void I had after graduate school. I had been accustomed to full-time work and part-time school for a number of years but after I graduated I was simply heading home after a dead-end day job. My goal with photography was to have a fulfilling hobby that would yield a good enough shot to frame and put on my wall. 
 
Photography literally swallowed me whole. Rather unknowingly, I went through what has become a traditional route for an artist who didn't attend art school. Over time I fully immersed myself in the medium by reading countless magazines and journals, attending photography talks and exhibitions, watching online videos, shooting everything I saw, meeting up with other aspiring photographers and spending so much time on Flickr at my day job that my firm blocked it from their servers. 
 
I quit that job. And since then I have been shooting to survive. 
 
Like most artists, I have questioned my very existence on many a dark day. And still do. But the love is what drives me. I learned quickly that as a full-time creative most of the time the love is all you will have. No support, no rewards and no money. 
 
A couple of years ago I realised that this is not something I do - rather something I am. And hearing some of the same sentiment echoed by other photographers this past summer allowed me to realise that I have reached a pivotal point in my journey. 
 
I went to Photoville 2015 in Brooklyn and attended documentary talks, viewed some exemplary work and met some truly special artists and activists. Being around my peers was a fulfilling experience that allowed me to pause and reflect - I have truly come of age as an artist. Having entered this game at a later stage than most (it was at the age of 28 that I first learned what Aperture is) there was a lot to get used to - a lot of patterns to break, a lot of security to lose and a lot of self-esteem to find. After all, it was only about a year ago I actually referred to myself as an artist for the first time. 
 
But while reflecting I kind of hit a wall - a moment when I feared that this may be the end game. Like this was what I had worked years to achieve and here it was right in front of me in the most anti-climactic realisation possible. Was this my 'arrival' as an artist? Now what the fuck do I do?
 
This feeling was not unlike when I completed graduate school and realized getting (yet another) job was the end game. And that a job would be what I would do for the rest of my life - why I had been going to school for the bulk of my time on this planet. Perhaps photography entered my life at that time to help deal with that particular existence. However because that reality didn't sit right with me I made a change. I moved to London and eventually away from office work. But here I was years later all over again - wondering what comes next. 
 
Since this moment of quiet doom last Summer there has been a change - a further evolution required for this journey. As it turns out I have not arrived at an end game with photography, rather quite the opposite. 
 
I have gained a truer self-awareness coupled with an understanding of the existence of an artist. The adjustment of moving from full-time employment in the business world to running your own business in the creative field is enough to push one to the brink - or worse for me, back to the office world. Fortunately I was able to avoid both of those circumstances.
 
I experienced a critical change by truly acknowledging that I am one of countless artists all over the world who experience the highs and lows, self doubts, self assurances, sobering moments and days filled with darkness that cannot be described. There are literally hordes of us. Accepting myself as an artist and my embracing that existence has allowed me to reduce the amount of dark days and focus on doing the work. Not thinking about the end product but being more process oriented. Also I feel quite fortunate that I am able to scratch together an existence utilising my camera. Do I fear they I will wake up one day much older and question my decision today? Who doesn't. As an artist you generally accept the trade-off of lessened financial security. So in 20+ years when my friends who have chosen secure career paths are purchasing whatever they wish, going wherever they want  and living a financially happy life, where will I be? I suppose my body of work and any lives I managed to affect in a positive way will stand as my legacy and provide assurances that I did what was right for me.
 
There is no end game in art. I have a power in my hands every single day. The instrument I use to capture visual imagery is an extension of me. It is an awesome power that I do not hold lightly and it is up me for the remaining years on this planet how I want to use this power. Every experience in ones life prepares you for the future. Society's realities are crystal clear to me. And it is unfair of me not to use my gifts to hopefully improve the world even in the smallest way.
 
To quote the great Nina Simone, "I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself - that to me is my duty" 
 

Responsible Perception

October 28, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

 


I made this image at the Rise Up October Police violence protests in New York City last weekend. As I worked on a treatment for the final image I couldn’t help but notice how a small change in the processing of the photograph had potential to affect how it could  be received by the viewer. The officer's demeanour can be perceived in a number of different ways simply based on how I chose to present the image.
 
It reminded me of how responsible artists are for how information is conveyed and received. It made me think of how selective mass media can be in its reporting on events - and how their reporting can, and does, affect individual attitudes and behaviour. For many, this can be extremely frustrating as they are being intentionally manipulated and misled and it is harder and harder to access the truth.
 
Quite often George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 is referenced when discussing citizens under surveillance and fear of the omnipresent Big Brother. But the issue the novel addressed that resonated with me the most was the manipulation of information and the constant writing and rewriting of history.
 
I am passionate about equality for everyone but I have to be sure to check myself and not allow this passion to skew how I photograph and present my work. This is a responsibility I take very seriously.
 
 

The Day After

July 31, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

LCP_Blog_AuntyPam_Funeral

 

 

I was a bit conflicted over whether or not I should publish this photograph. I made this photograph several years ago during one of the most difficult times for my family. My younger cousin had just passed away from cancer. She was the second to succumb to cancer before the age of 30 among her 5 sisters. In the shot are one of her surviving sisters, mother and niece a day after the funeral. Further in the background are two uncles.

 

As often happens, I forget about photos taken years ago and discovered this while cleaning up an old folder on an old hard drive. I understand why I would not have published it back then as it is deeply personal and the pain was so very raw. 

 

Time has now passed which somewhat dulls the pain. But I also now believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to share his/her work with the world - for there may be a connection a stranger makes with the work that proves to be therapeutic in some sense.

 

When I viewed it I felt a rush of emotion - deeply connected to the family. However, as objective as I can be, I do believe that a story is held deep within the shot that the viewer can appreciate and maybe that connection can be made.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts or any comments.

 
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