Sunday, April 12, 2015


One Sunday afternoon, a model I was shooting arrived with a older white woman he introduced as his agent. I won't reveal the name of the agency , but it was an affiliate of the NTA Talent  umbrella. She didn't stay long, but she did stay long enough to get comfortable and shed some light on some things.

While she was at my place, I decided to give a fresh eye a sneak peek of the concept I was working on for my website I was building . I showed her two images that were going to flash back and forth on thte splash page introducing my website... one was of actor/model Donovan Christie Jr., who is a light-skinned Black/ Puerto Rican man, and the other was America's Next Top Model finalist Eugena Washington, who is a fairly dark-skinned Black American woman. The images where beautiful portraits of them holding a slip of paper in their mouth with my name on it.  I showed her the images and she offered her feedback. Any advice that was gonna be helpful toward making my website better I was more than willing to receive with open arms. 

above: Eugena Washington
below: Donovan Christie Jr.

She told me the images were beautiful, but if I wanted my website to be effective I should replace the black girl with a white one. She said that this had nothing to do with the quality of the image or how beautiful the black girl was, because she was "no questions" gorgeous. She said that I shouldn't open my website with images of two models of color, specifically a woman of color. She said since the majority of fashion clients are gonna be white people, replacing the black girl with a white one would help make them feel connected and relate to my ideas of beauty. 

I wasn't shocked by what she said but I was disappointed. It disappointed me that in this so-called post-racism climate that people like her found it difficult to identify with an idea of beauty that didn't look like them. They only connect and respond to other people who are white. We still live in a society where white ideas of beauty are the template for what is considered normal definitions of beauty. Everything else is considered "exotic" and unrelateable. 

When I first came to NY other fashion people had told me I had too many models of color in my portfolio and that I should "diversify" my portfolio to incorporate majority white models so fashion clients don't feel alienated and disconnected from my work. I wasn't surprised by hearing someone say these things, but it was the very first time someone white said it directly to my face.

I didn't pay any attention to those kinds of criticisms about my work not being diverse enough. I was taught that an artist's work is a representation of either who he are she is or who they aspire to be. I am a Black American born and raised in Memphis, Tn. I am proud of all aspects of who I am and where I come from. Part of who I am is the ability to find fashion and  beauty in anyone and  use the  resources available to me to communicate my visions. Through my photography I try to capture the beauty of whomever is in front of my lens and celebrate the best of who that person is. My family, friends, and the environment I grew up in shaped and developed my ideas of who I am and my ideas of what is beautiful.

My body of work is very diverse in race, age, genders, and all types of skintones... but you do see more people of color represented in my presentation. I happen to be person of color so why would anyone expect to see majority of white people in my body of work? The world we live in is a botanical garden of beauty and my body of work reflects that. 

Friday, January 2, 2015


models: Isha Blaaker @ Soul Artist Mgmt
Alex Nyame` @ Red Models NYC

Working in the  fashion industry has afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the  most beautiful people in the  world. People look at my images and think "wow, they look amazing." They do look amazing  but its a combination good lighting, composition, genetics, diet and exercise and a great team of stylist, hair and makeup professionals. Unfortunately most of the time i'm not equipped with a  team of stylist, makeup and  hair pros, so I have to compensate with the  art of retouching in photoshop.  

Living in Memphis, I hardly ever had access to  high fashion hairstyling, makeup, and stylist with access to designer fashions. What I did was taught myself as much as possible and  make the  most of what i had available to me. I watched fashion programming on cable tv, studied artist who inspired me, and  read books.

When i first started  photography i was  a  sophomore in college and I was  using  a 35mm Pentax K1000. I used Kodak TMax100 and 400 film. I was shooting classmates and friends. At that time my professors  were  anti-digital and made it difficult for any student who used a digital camera. One of my professors  would  automatically drop your grade one letter if to used a digital camera. I didn't get into digital photography until years after college. Soon after i was introduced to photoshop and retouching. I taught myself by reading books.

these were the 2 books I turned to for anything I wanted to know about using photoshop

I viewed retouching like  and secondary art form and treated photoshop like a digital darkroom. Most of the ledgendary photographers, like my favorites Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, used contrast levels and dodging and burning methods when printing their images. I took those methods I studied in college and transfered them to the computer.

photograph by Richard Avedon 
The areas which Avedon has circled required either different levels of contrast in the new print, or retouching by dodging and burning.

Makeup was not only a  way to "enhance" or "transform" a model's beauty but it also was a way to retouch them live. Retouching in photoshop became an alternative to having a makeup artist (since i don't have one) I leaned toward makeup art books to help me develop my own retouching technique. I read makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin's The Art of Makeup and  Sam Fine's Fine Beauty books.

When I was in high school I use to airbrush on jeans and  t-shirts  to make money on the side. I took that knowlege and  merged it with the  information in the makeup books  and  applied it to photoshop.
model: Julier Bugge @ IMG paris
styling/hair & makeup : Tarrice Love

models: Isha Blaaker @ Soul Artist Mgmt
Alex Nyame` @ Red Models NYC

Aside from using photoshop for extreme high fashion makeup looks, I mainly use photoshop for basic, natural-looking clean-up. Most people look at my work and think it comes straight out of the camera looking that way. It took me a long time to master the "i woke up like this-look" with my retouching technique. One of the biggest compliments I've recived was from my fellow photographer Itaysha Jordan. She said the thing she like the most about my work was that the retouching made you believe that the models look like that.....It's refreshing to see a more natural looking style when everyone else is  following the  trend of making the models look fake and plastic.

model: Onnys Aho @ Elite Paris
styling: Tarrice Love

Because my studio space is limited , I've had to rely on composition, lighting and editing skills to help with the illusion of large space.

model: Jason Danza
styling: Tarrice Love

I've watched tutorials about retouching hoping to learn ways to improve my techniques. I have  also watched other photographers retouch hoping to learn a few tricks to make my work better. Each time I apply new methods, I feel like its just making the process take longer. I already spend more time in front of photoshop editing  images  than I want to. My attention to details is time consuming, tedious, and  labor intensive. My style of retouching isn't a bunch of filters and quick actions.  I am a perfectionist and i work my ass off developing a retouching style that look consistently effortless..... and I'm still learning.

I dont think people take into consideration that I am a "one-man-show." I am the photographer, creative director, stylist, makeup, and hair person and retoucher all rolled up in one. Its difficult and time consuming. If i had a regular team on set, the time I spend retouching would be reduced by 75%. Some photographers send their work out to be retouched/ edited by professional retouchers. Retouching is a very expensive art form. Right now I can't afford to pay someone to do my retouching for me. I am not very trusting of  others and I am control freak. Its really difficult to give my work to someone else  and trust that they will maintain the  quality that is associated with my name. (My work load is currently forcing me to work on my trust issues and let others handle it).