I'll Fly Away...

Eric: Yo, whats good. Tryna shoot?

Me: Bet that.

Conversations between Eric Michvel, man behind the lens, and I pretty much go that way. It's something organic about forming relationships with other creatives that I love. It's sort of like flying I guess... pure and natural. The instinctive type of vibe that artist share is so beautiful. However, in this social media crazed age its frustrating at times because everyone is trying to emulate the very thing the "hip" follower in their count is trying to do as well. I've been having this conversation with a few people as of late who all truly hate having to update a status to stay relevant. The love of photography, art, etc seems to becoming watered down in a sense. But in the words of Jhene, "we live for the love, die for the love..." The love of composing and creating is not a mere phase to the ones who truly do just that. Doing what completes you should be so fluid  that you don't even realize what you've done until its finished. 

photos by: Eric Michvel 

So grab one of your creative homies and stop scrolling on IG.

Continue to soar.... everything will turn out fine. 

Life is just complex simplicity....

The term complex simplicity has become my life mantra ever since I was introduced to the phrase by the R&B goddess, Teedra Moses back in '08. My muse and I were having a casual conversation about wanting to just be. free. (among boys and other things lol ) while sitting around the house. So we decided to get some test shots off in the moment and just lived! Let the lyrics guide your thoughts as you take in the images. Enjoy....  

Everybody's worried bout tomorrow
Will they see tomorrow
I'm just tryna get mine off today
Mama said tomorrow ain't promised
So I'm tryna live like it's my very last day

You can't spend your life
Being in fear of all that may be
You gotta press on, you gotta be free
You gotta breathe
Inhale, exhale, come on 

photography: me || muse: tiara marei

CompoZition 002: After the Rain

"It's my window, but I can't stand the rain".... The downpour plaguing the city of Houston has been constant for what seems like forever this year. However, this week was the most intense display of Mother Nature's cleansing in a while. My eyes popped open around 7:02am from a restless slumber due to the "wrath of God" the previous night to images streaming from EricMichvel's IG displaying the city underwater. I instantly hit him and headed up the road to get a piece of the action firsthand. 

Flashbacks from Tropical Storm Allison instantly overwhelmed me. In that moment, I was 11 years old again holding on to my mothers hand at the edge of the freeway to see it engulfed all around. After a brief set of deja vu I began to look through Eric's camera to see what all he had captured on the journey. DYNAMO is all I could think of. A powerful depiction of the rain's trauma only seemed like art to me despite the devastation literally in arms reach. 

After calling family and friends in the area to ensure everyone was safe and sound, the hunt for food began, of course. To much surprise, but truly none at all, The Breakfast Klub was our saving grace. Instantly the flood of major news channels began to pop into Eric's IG comments between the bites of chicken and waffles. The man was Jay Z for a second- Washington Post and CNN on the hip just like that. I seemed to not be the only one who appreciated his depiction of the story of the day.

That moment of congratulations and hi-fives made me think about.... what comes after the rain? Once you've been cleansed of your trials and life distresses what is left? Sometimes like in Eric's case the light at the end of the tunnel is bold and bright. Others may have a different tread. I guess this post is similar to the Dirty Laundry photo story done a few weeks ago, but it truly is about becoming a new you. Making those individual adjustments that will only set you up for success no matter what your circumstances. Trust me, these words are more for me than anyone because I'm in that stage of life as we speak. Houston took a hard hit, we even lost the opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals the next day (yes, we're hurt). But there's always a new season up ahead, so weather the storm and push forward....

To see more of work from EricMichvel:

IG: @ericmichvel || Website: ericmichvel.com || VSCO: ericmichvel.vsco.co

Heartland: The Agbogbloshie Story

There comes a time in life where during the search for inspiration you find the very thing you were least expecting that changes your outlook forever. This is what photographer Kevin McElvaney and I share. I stumbled upon his striking visual story of the people of Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana a year ago and was completely floored. The people of this region are currently undergoing immense effects of the processing, burning, and dumping of electronic waste from all over the world. Their land has become a primary location for all of the old iphone, TVs, ect that are no longer of any use to us. As a result, e-waste is emmitted into the land, atmosphere, and water which produce alarming health risks to the inhabitants. Kevin's ability to capture the rawness of the people in the midst of their deplorable situation was masterful. After research and mustering up my confidence to reach out (which took a year's time mind you lol) I was thrilled to learn that the mind behind this piece was willing to open up about his journey and how his story is fostering global support to make a difference for the people of this village. For more information on how to do your part as well, read on......

What inspired you to pick Agbogbloshie as your focal point despite all the other areas you could’ve chosen in Accra?

Agbogbloshie just fit perfectly into my projects I want to work on in future. As a young photographer I try and want to work on projects, which I also want to work on in future. Agbogbloshie and the e-waste problem is one of them. At first the scenery you see in Agbogbloshie caught my eye, so I began to work on specific ideas, stories and pictures. After I made my research I realised, that this is such an important topic and I had to photograph it: its an ethical, socio-economical and environmental disaster. So after knowing all this I contacted local and was planning my trip. I wanted to come back with more portraits and personal stories, instead of describing the vicious-cycles and the illegal dumping again. Thats why most pictures show the boys, girls and men in the center of the pictures and I came back with small stories about all of them.

What message would you like this story to speak on to the masses?

I tried to put the person and individual in the center of each picture. I don´t like it, if a person in such a poverty scenery is just a symbol for the poorness and conditions. Too much info is missing in such a picture. Thats why all people in the photos look into your eyes and staged in the center of the pictures. I also wanted to know exactly the conditions and circumstances of each individual: where do they come from? why do they (have to) come here? what do they expect? future plans? and so on. I am able to tell you a story about everyone of them and thats also the main heart of an Exhibition I created about Agbogbloshie - which is available to everyone, everywhere by the way.

I hope people also see the proud, beauty and power in each picture, because even if these people live under bad conditions we shouldn´t display them in a bad and disadvantageous way.

What reaction did the people give to you once you began to shoot them? Were they open to your camera?

I think I worked a bit different then other photographers before. I went straight through them and asked questions first, get to know them and after a while I asked them to be part in the picture. No one was forced and no one was photographed without his notice, which is clear by eye-contact and the standing on a case/ monitor I think. There was just one guy, who denied my call. He had a wound near his eye, which was looking pretty bad and he didn´t like the idea that people look at him with that - so for me this argument was absolutely understandable. All the other ones seemed very interested to me and respected that I asked them first. Most of them just see a photographer from a few meters, who takes a random shot an leaves. I also gave everyone a Polaroid Picture, what they really liked.

You’ve had the opportunity to capture people from all over the world in such a raw way. Who are your best subjects?

The best pictures result from real stories I guess. Often photojournalist are not allowed to show a strong interaction and relation between them and the subject, but I like that. People should see, that I´m not invisible and in the middle of something. If people allow me to do that, thats special to me and it happens almost everywhere. None of these people are models, so they don´t act that much and show themselves after a few minutes. So the best subjects are those, who don´t pose and let me enter their world, thoughts and allow me to capture it.

Please let us know more about the Pure Earth Benefit Ball and the efforts to raise money for the people of Agbogbloshie.

The reasons why I´m joining the Pure Earth Benefit Ball are diverse. At first I (accidentally) met their local partners those days in Accra and know their work. Another one is, that the US is a big exporter of these unfunctionable electronic goods and its important to raise the awareness about this fact. I denied to raise money for Agbogbloshie for a long time and for example don´t collect money with my Exhibition, because in the long run we can´t solve a problem somewhere else, if we produce it in our own countries and export it = we should make sure that we recycle our e-waste and that just usable electronic goods get shipped to Africa, because just that is what they need!

So I´m just interested in a long-term solution on a political and international level. But this Pure Earth Benefit Ball could be a start and another signal to change things quickly. On top of that less risky solutions for a proper recycling in Agbogbloshie and other places are barely needed. If there are good solutions in Agbogbloshie we could also use them somewhere else and a main problem is that African Countries don´t have recycling and don´t know how to deal with it. But again: the long-term solution should be a different one. We have to do our homework and stop these exports in our harbours.

How can people or become involved in helping as well?

My best advice is to reduce your own consumption of electronic goods. We don´t need a new smartphone and laptop every year and its quite easy to understand, that if we don´t produce problems, we don´t have to solve them. Its crazy that we know about the risks and consequences, but in the end still produce them. So I guess this is one thing we can change in our everyday life-decisions to make a difference. Besides that we should learn to repair and reuse again, should buy quality (long-life) products, which are more sustainable and make sure, that we give these products at the end of their lifespan to authorised scrap courtyards. By doing this, we automatically show manufacturers and politicians, that its more important to act in such a way and can introduce a change.

Orange Culture presents "Alex"

When I think of Orange Culture I immediately reflect on youthful innovation. Youthful in its approach of relaying a message; in that it's distinct and clear while always remaining fresh and energetic. This brand has been able to capture the very essence of beauty because they highlight the magic in the details. 

Here we take a different #CompoZers approach and highlight an actual composition- the newest photo story from the brand titled, "Alex". Founder, Adebayo Oke-Lawal breaks down the visual and bring us into his realm. 

What inspired the title?

The idea that two people with entirely different characteristics could be totally tied together by a name . Both models for example - both their names are Alex. From two entirely different worlds and interests but in that moment when someone says the name Alex - they are one.

Give us more info on the theme of this story.

We wanted to explore the idea of youth . The freshness of individuality in youth. The choice to explore the softness of youth as a man and how beautiful it could be . We wanted to explore the art of soft masculinity in youth and how beautiful it could be. The idea of loving art , loving flowers , loving beautiful things as a young African man - all those things should be beautiful even as a man.

When you are deciding on the visual for a lookbook or campaign for Orange Culture, where do you start first?

I start with a moodboard really . I pull what I call inspiration journals - which you can sometimes see on my tumblr - images, music, words that paint a picture of what I am feeling and I present that to a photographer - if he feels the emotions I feel when I see those things - gbam! - the relationship to build that visual begins.

Do you have more fun creating visuals such as Alex or designing the clothes?

Nothing better than creating clothes . Visuals do excite me but the stories I tell through creating clothes cannot be replaced

Do you feel “Alex” is a composition? Why?

I do because I feel it composes of so many different pieces of Orange Culture / so many aspects of what inspires and builds orange culture as a brand - Alex is a composition of one of the pieces of the puzzle that is orange culture. Hopefully that makes sense. 

photography: The Bisbol Man

Follow the brand:

Website: orangecultureng.com  ||  IG: @orangcultureng