So, What Are You Gonna Do With The Picture?

I take pictures. I do it for fun. But in a city where you’re always expected to wear an invisible badge for social acceptance to occur, it’s assumed that I’m a ‘photographer’.

I decided, after several underwhelming brushes with the weasels in charge of this writing industry, if there’s such a thing, that I was going to pursue photography on a full-time basis.

It hasn’t happened yet. I’m still working on it.

But it struck me as odd that, everytime someone saw me with a camera, and after already making up their mind that I’m a photographer — because everyone with a camera strap around their arm is, apparently — they would proceed to ask what I was going to use the images for. In almost every instance, I’d respond with a shrug, for I truly didn’t know.

I did, and do know, though, what this ‘taking pictures’ business does for me.

For one, it’s reclamation. For too long, black identities have been paraded to the world by people who’ve no idea of the black, lived experience. I still walk into bookshops and find recently-published literature Where authors position themselves as experts on various aspects of black experiences. It’s cool, but if it’s white names I’m encountering all the time behind such work, it ceases being cool. A resort to reclamation then becomes a personal and political endeavour; a necessary tool to regain a semblance of something that represents ME to the core.

I know that the world is skewed and doesn’t favour people who look like me, and that it doesn’t want to hear anything about black, intelligent people who are achieving their dreams irrespective of the tremendous odds they face.

So what better way to encapsulate my experience and show it to the world than doing it myself, through images?

People who ask the ‘so what is it for’ question aren’t interested in the long and considered version of the answer. We, humans, are a lazy lot. We have been conditioned to accept bite-sized responses, even to layered questions which require long-winded answers to unpack properly.

I make images so that the white gaze isn’t visited upon me. I’m not here for white people to perpetually violate my being with false representations of complex existences — existences of which I’m part and parcel. My rationale is: If I can do it, I bloody well will, and shall pursue it to the best of my abilities.

It took several shrugs and innumerable shutter clicks to put into words the ‘why’ of my picture-/video-taking exercises. It’s something which your self gets, intuitively, yet isn’t as easy to vocalise to the largesse.

I’ve been thinking of how I would like the work to live. Currently, there are zero spaces where I’ve encountered the type of work I produce. What’s on offer is bland, unimaginative, and lacking in soul. For one who seeks more from images than static, nameless beings staring back at them, I’m unmoved by ALL the shit I’m seeing while checking out photography shows at galleries.

This disconnect between what’s on offer in the art world, and what could become, is what drives me to keep doing what I do. Yet as the Terabytes pack up on my hard drive, I’m faced with the bleak realisation that what I do will probably never be seen by most.

No, 12 likes on an Instagram post isn’t my idea of an audience, and the one or two people asking when I’ll exhibit my images — though I’m more than touched that they deem my images worthy of such — aren’t enough to warrant doing one.

So, books.

I would like to publish books of my images. I’ve got stacks upon stacks upon stacks of shit I want to let out into the world. It’s going to happen at some point. In fact, it’s already started happening in some universe of a galaxy with which my consciousness is yet to connect. Everything shall unravel once that happens.

I’m learning that it’s important to push through with these big dreams that I have. I’m learning that to be black is to fight, so fight I shall, until what’s in my head is brought to life.

How do I begin? Well, excuse me while I continue to figure that part out…

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