Category Archives: Photography

Photography and Narrative: An Interview with Kameelah Rasheed

Live Unchained had the pleasure to interview Kameelah Rasheed. She is a documentary-based photographer and co-founder of Mambu Badu, a photography collective that highlights female photographers of African descent. Kameelah discusses her photography and inspiration here. Her work tells the stories of people from South Africa to New York.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and background?

In a small Bay Area neighborhood named East Palo Alto, I was raised on a harmonious, yet eclectic mix of Islam, old Gil Scott-Heron records, and tofu as the other white meat. I was the black nerdy kid who read too much, hung out in the science lab selecting daphnia from the Carolina Biological company catalog for the next science fair, and wore cornrows with beds when perms were the norm. By the time I got to high school, I was 13 and the sole Muslim kid at an elite private Catholic school and one of maybe eight other black students on scholarships. I graduated from high school at 16 and attended Pomona College, a small elite liberal arts college in Claremont, CA. There I studied Public Policy and Africana Studies graduated as a Harry S Truman Scholar, Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellow, and Phi Beta Kappa. During my senior year, the U.S. State Department awarded me with a U.S. Fulbright Grant to study urban planning and housing in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Throughout my education, I loved to tell stories and focused solely on written narratives. It was not until I moved to South Africa that I explored the possibility of telling stories with photographs. When I lived in Cape Town, South Africa as an exchange student in 2005, I photographed the children I worked with at the orphanage. When I moved to Johannesburg in 2006, I began to photograph townships, nation-wide strikes, political events, community events, and city life. I was eager and insatiable. I was learning and lacked the confidence to take more risks. Despite being in a few gallery shows, I did not take on the title of “photographer” until a few months ago. Now, I consider myself a documentary-based photographer. Simply, I like to tell the stories of “regular” people through photographs. I also love poetry especially Harryette Mullen, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, and Yusef Komunyakaa. I imagine photographs as a visual poetry with it’s own set of grammar rules that should be broken at times. In my mind, the power of a poem is the achievement of depth through some clever manipulation of brevity. The same goes with photographs.

Can you tell us a little about your creative process?
Do you carry around your camera wherever you go,
or do you set out to shoot something in particular?

Last night, I walked pass a group a young Caribbean boys and girls talking to a young group of Hasidic boys in Crown Heights. The juxtaposition of skinny jeans, Caribbean accents, and brown skin with black suits, Yiddish phrases, and peyes was something worthy of several shots and an interview. These moments fascinate me. I was curious. Whenever my curiosity is peeked, I shoot. Unfortunately, it was too dark to shoot, but am looking forward to similar opportunities.

And yes, I carry my loves with me everywhere. I used to carry three cameras, but I now limit it to EZRA, my Nikon D90.

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A Journey Worth Taking: A Conversation with Adrienne Wilson

Live Unchained had the pleasure of chatting with Adrienne Wilson. Adrienne is a photographer, author, and traveler. Here she shares her experiences with travel, photography and thoughts on following her own path.

I love stories about coming to voice. If people looked at your life now, they might never realize that you were once very timid and, as you say, “clung to the wall tighter than any wallpaper pasted at parties.” Of course, we are constantly finding ourselves and learning to become more open, but was there a particular event that was a turning point for you?

Laughter and smiling is contagious. It’s as simple as that. I wouldn’t say I was hit by a freight train and decided to not be shy anymore. I got tired of seeing everyone else have a good time. Fun was within my reach too. If I can share a moment of laughter or a dance with a friend, family member or stranger, then my life is pretty fulfilled. Even though I’ve peeled myself away from the wall, I still have my moments. I’m the extrovert that still likes to keep it cool, quiet and private from time to time.

You say your travels were not only external, but internal. That really resonated with me. Can you tell us more about what it means for you to take a journey within? Are there any particular examples that you can think of?

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There is Beauty in Truth: The Photography of Delphine Fawundu-Buford

Delphine Fawundu-Buford

Photographer Delphine Fawundu-Buford pictured above

Delphine Fawundu-Buford’s photography shows a part of humanity that is not one dimensional.  Her photography is intriguing because of its capacity to show beauty in truth. Delphine captured the strength of people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the innocence of children and the many faces of women. Her work encourages you not to simply look, but also ponder the stories of the people in the photographs.

Delphine’s work has been featured in books, magazines, CD covers and greeting cards. She has traveled to many parts of the world including South Africa, Sierra Leone, Spain, Egypt, and Cuba to photograph.

Live Unchained is pleased to have had the opportunity to ask Delphine questions about her work and thoughts on photography. More of her photography can be viewed at: http://www.delphinefawundu.com/


On your website you highlight a collection of photos called “Real Women.” Can you tell us about that project? What inspired you to explore the idea of real women through photography? How did you choose what and whom to photograph for the project? Is there a specific message that you hope your viewers will gain from this collection?

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Photographs from "Real Women" by Delphine Fawundu-Buford

Real Women explores the idea of “beauty” in our society.  Who is beautiful? What makes a woman beautiful and by who’s standards? The project celebrates a myriad of women who reflect beauty in their own way.

I chose women from all walks of life. Some, I knew, others I met in passing.  The cool thing is that for some of the women, I had no idea what they looked like prior to shooting them. Continue reading

Life is a Journey: Lola Akinmade Discusses Travel, Photography and Following Her Passions

Lola

Lola Akinmade’s photography is simply stunning. She reveals beauty in  ways that only a camera can capture. Just as impressive as her photos are all the places she’s visited to take them. Lola has traveled across Latin America, Asia, over 30 countries in Europe and regularly visits her country of birth, Nigeria. In addition to travel photography, Lola is a travel writer and has submitted to several travel magazines. She has received numerous awards for both her travel writing and photography.

In this interview Lola discusses how she became interested in travel and got her start as a professional travel writer. She also offers advice to those who share the travel bug. Most importantly, Lola demonstrates that when traveling to far away places, a sense of personal and spiritual grounding is important. We are so happy to have spoken with her. Here is what she shared…

Many people think of traveling as an opportunity to learn about and renew yourself–people gain a lot by traveling. You’ve traveled to industrialized nations as well as developing countries. Do you think that what a traveler stands to gain or contribute varies in different settings? If so, how?

Travel is such a profound experience that touches each of us very differently. Travel renews the soul. It rejuvenates it by reminding you that you’re connected to something much larger than yourself. Continue reading

The Most Valuable Thing You Can Pack On The Journey: Guest Blogger Lola Akinmade

Nigerian-born Lola Akinmade’s photography and travel writing are characterized by vibrancy and hope. Her work has appeared in Vogue, National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel, Travel Channel’s World Hum, Forbes Traveler, Sherman’s Travel, Fodors.com, Guardian UK’s Been There, Smithsonian.com, CITY Magazine, Pology, GoNOMAD, The Away Network, Transitions Abroad, The Matador Network, amongst others. (source: http://www.lolaakinmade.com)

Lola has contributed to many online travel resources such as Matador Travel, Common Language Project, Black Travels and magazines. She was also a winner in the M.I.L.K. photography competition and has work featured in the forthcoming book Friendship, Family, Love & Laughter. You can learn more about her and see more of her photography at her personal website: www.lolaakinmade.com.

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The Most Valuable Thing You Can Pack On The Journey

You may fill your backpack, but have you remembered to bring an open mind?

Photo by Lola Akinmade

I wasn’t sure I heard her right the first time.

“I said leave my store! I have many windows you can look in from!” she yelled, probably mistaking me for an impoverished immigrant she didn’t want in her shop.

Visibly stunned, I vowed never to return to culturally diverse Luxembourg. As I marched off, the words “Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!” stopped me.

Another middle-aged woman was chasing me uphill with a bag of groceries. She finally reached me, panting to collect her breath. This perfect stranger had also been a customer in the store.

“Je suis désolée! I’m so sorry!” She apologized on behalf of the shopkeeper.

I could have stereotyped the shopkeeper as a rude Frenchwoman, but I chose not to do so – based on the actions of another French woman. Instead, the rude woman remained only a rude woman.

Practicing Tolerance

“Just keep an open mind,” is a phrase that’s easier said than done.

Just keep an open mind,” is a phrase that’s easier said than done. Even the most intrepid of travelers morph into creatures of habit, reverting back to their comfort zone when faced with challenges.

Keeping an open mind does not mandate that you ditch your core values and spiritual beliefs. On the contrary, it implores you to acknowledge that others have their own beliefs as well.

An open mind allows us to ask questions of other cultures and of ourselves, evaluating the possibilities that there might be answers different from ones we’ve always held.

Clifton Fadiman, a writer and critic, eloquently explains that “…when you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

Though years of immersion can draw you closer into the true belly of a culture, on many levels, you’ll always remain a foreigner.

Facing Rejection

Locals may reject your notions of what you think is important. While many Western cultures view time as money, a large portion of the world views time as something to be savored.

When dealing with “island” time or other cultural norms, constantly remember that you are the stranger. Locals are not required to adapt their lifestyles to accept you. If they do, you should consider their flexibility a privilege.

On the opposite end, being accepted too quickly might mean that locals are treating you differently as a foreigner, giving you false insight into their true culture.

The key to keeping an open mind is to evaluate if they’re giving you preferential treatment because of your physical attributes or what you represent, rather than you as an individual. Use keen observation to view how locals interact with each other to get a truer sense of their daily lives.

Assessing each situation independently

The key to organically experiencing a different culture is to assess each situation independently. One tends to fall back on widely known stereotypes and overvalue one’s culture when suddenly faced with unpleasant encounters.

Photo by Lola Akinmade

Maybe that Luxembourg shopkeeper was having a bad day or just had deep-seated prejudices. I’ll never know, but I’ll always remember the stranger who apologized. I’ve since been back to the Benelux area multiple times.

Stereotypes are born when we take the actions of an individual and apply them to an entire culture, race, or generation. It is important to understand that a culture, though vastly different from yours, is innately logical to locals.

For example: Swedes freeze sliced bread to preserve the freshness. For centuries, the Aztecs and Chinese have dealt with stress and anxiety through simple meditation and breathing techniques to more “controversial” methods like acupuncture.

Some cultures view sleep as that unnecessary period deterring us from getting work done, while others welcome sleep with open arms.

Observing how others handle similar issues can both teach and enrich us.

Dealing with more controversial practices

Solutions from within different cultures should not be automatically deemed nonviable because we don’t completely understand them.

For altitude sickness in higher altitude locations such as Cuzco, Peru, you could spend time popping pills to combat altitude sickness – or you could do as the locals do: chew coca leaves or drink coca tea.

The indigenous cultures of the Andes and Altiplano have lived in the region for decades and know how to suppress symptoms naturally and very quickly. Taking coca leaves outside of South America is prohibited because, in very large quantities, coca is the underlying raw material used to manufacture cocaine.

Eating poppy-seed bagels does not equate to using opium, neither does eating grapes equate to drinking alcoholic wine. We usually evaluate alternate solutions when solving problems.

Solutions from within different cultures should not be automatically deemed nonviable because we don’t completely understand them.

There isn’t a clear line to cross when absorbing other cultures into your lifestyle. You draw the line where you want to cross based on your own personal convictions and beliefs.

Challenging yourself to try new things

You don’t have to bungee-jump off a bridge over Waikato River in New Zealand to prove open-mindedness if you know you’ll go into cardiac arrest.

Nor should you eat fried tarantulas in Cambodia if the sight alone invokes violent retching.

However, travel demands you step outside your comfort bubble. Challenging yourself to sample facets of a culture is the underlying purpose of travel. Whether it’s trying local cuisines or undertaking a new activity, the only way you can truly enrich your life through travel is to participate.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home,” said the popular American Author, James Michener.

As you open up your mind, you will notice your heart expanding in parallel. You’ll find yourself more forgiving and your own prejudices slowly chipping away over time.

Originally Printed in bravenewtraveler.com