I wanted to ask you first about a post, this is from November 22nd, 2020. And I remember screenshotting this and thinking that this just felt like you. It didn’t feel like you were being preachy or giving advice. It felt like something that was just a part of your personality. The post reads, “Your art is not about how many people like your work. Your art is about if your heart likes your work and if your soul likes your work. It’s about how honest you are with yourself. And YOU must never trade honesty for reliability.” Tell me about that caption.
So that caption came from a radio station that I listen to almost daily called Soulection. They encompass the mindset that I have as a creative as well. I think the general meaning is don’t jump on trends. Follow what your heart wants to produce. I think a lot of people nowadays find it hard to stand out or be unique or have their own voice. This just sums it up. You being yourself is what makes you unique. So follow that and the rest will follow.
As a photographer, you’ve traveled all over the world. Epic locations, working with global brands on really high profile projects. But I want to ask you about you and your camera during the walks and the protests during the summer of 2020. Tell me about these images.
London had a series of protests. I obviously went to multiple of them, not only to go and show my support but to also document it. The moment in particular with the bus drivers was a very special moment to me. It was in a very populated place in London and the buses were trying to get through but they couldn’t because of the tens of thousands of people. Protesters were saying, “beep your horns, show some support.” And in the end, they turned off the whole bus and got out and protested with us. It was such an eruptive moment, it was brilliant.
The trailer for Fortitude looks incredible, I can’t wait to see the full film. Can you share a little bit about the story and whose voices and faces do we meet in it?
It’s weird because we didn’t actually put together a story, we sort of held these interviews with the case and said speak about whatever you want. We had our director ask a wide range of questions. It was only when we received the answers from people that we found similarities in things they were saying and topics that they were talking about. That is what made up the narrative of the film. Incredibly powerful stuff.
Do you look at this moment in history as a pivotal time? Did you learn along the journey of the film that people are ready to learn and turn a corner?
I learned so many different things in this process, not only about other people, how they’ve handled their racist encounters, but also stuff about myself. Things that I didn’t realize that I had buried or how to process it before. It was something I wasn’t expecting at all. Ultimately it made me feel proud at the end of it. That’s why we called the documentary Fortitude - courage and pain or adversity. That is exactly what they’ve been through, it’s what we’ve all been through.
There’s some verbiage in your book, London Fog, that helps frame the early days of your creativity. “I was a musician when I was younger and played the trumpet. I would travel with different bands and orchestras and as I was traveling, that is when photography kind of took my eye.” What happened as you were playing trumpet and traveling and all of the sudden, it clicked in for you. Your ability to see the world in a different way.
It was weird because at the time, my main focus was music and we were doing relentless practicing, touring, playing shows. Photography almost felt as a way of processing that and expressing myself in a different way that wasn’t my job. It felt a bit of an escape, a bit of fun. There weren’t the same pressures that music had. It was fun, and it was free.
Some of these skills have taken years for you to master and you’ve been on the streets working, you’ve traveled across the world to get to the accomplished level that you’re at now. Yet you choose to create Guides for Instagram, you choose to share how you do things because you’re trying to help other people. Is that back to your family, is that part of who they helped you to become?
I think so. I’ve been raised that way. Just to help and be kind to people. Growing up, my parents being in a more academic setting and me wanting to go into the creative arts wasn’t an actual choice for them or something that they wanted me to do. They thought it was a bit risky, not as secure as going into medicine or finance. But because I was able to learn from so many people around me and be inspired by so many people. Being witness to people like that. I want to pass that along to people and show that they can do it too.