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This journal is a creative outlet of all the things Kali Brown loves, from fashion, diy's, art, museum galleries to even food.  I am not a professional blogger and the things I share are my sole opinion. Enjoy my creative voyage!

Filtering by Tag: Photography

Brooklyn Garden Party

Kali Abdullah

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I can't believe how fast summer came and went, it's already September.  I've been slacking on my blog posts (sorry), but I definitely had to share this party I threw a few weeks ago.  So my birthday was mid-August and I wanted to have an intimate gathering with my close friends.  After perusing Pinterest for endless hours for cute ideas I decided on planning my own Garden Party.  Of course, there were a few hiccups to consider, I don't own a home with a yard or have rooftop access (just a studio apartment in Brooklyn) and most importantly I didn't have a big budget to throw such a fabulous event.  But that didn't really stop me and fortunately, I was able to find a way to pull it off.  

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Venue. My homegirl who has a beautiful home and backyard oasis in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn was gracious enough to allow me to use her backyard for my gathering.  Keeping my guest list to around 20 people, my next big feat was how I would decorate it to accommodate everyone.  

Photo by Kali Brown

Photo by Kali Brown

My original concept was to have a seated family style dinner amongst friends. However, my friend had a huge 10 ft x 12 ft pergola that took up most of her backyard, so in order to get that seated dinner feel I had to make a temporary table that could fit all 20 of my friends on the pergola.  I'm pretty handy with building things on the spot so I went to my local hardware store and purchased two 8 ft x 4 ft pieces of plywood and some cinder blocks to make a low seated T-shaped table.  I cut them down a bit and then added 2x4 studs to the sides of the plywood to keep the table from warping.  I then stained the table a dark walnut because I thought it would make the table settings pop more.  I also purchased a few canvas drop cloths to place on the floor of the pergola and a bunch of $2 pillows and a few small rugs from IKEA for everyone to sit on.  I'm telling you guys the hardware store is my best friend.  The diy table, flooring, and pillows in total were just shy of a $100. 

Ambiance. For the table setting, I got these really cool sturdy plastic plates that give the look of white china.  I paid about $16 for a pack of 50 dinner/salad plates from Costco and purchased the plastic cutlery that looked like silverware from Target for $5.  Cups and napkins were purchased from the local dollar store.  You're getting the pattern here, right?  There are ways to look fancy without paying a lot of money.  The centerpieces where faux hydrangeas from Michael's, I put them in white painted clay pots. I didn't really come out of pocket for those because I already had them in my home. My friend Cory who also has  a background in decorating and interior design brought the glass whirlies and candles to add nice accent lighting for when the sun went down, he hung them from the top of the pergola.

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Photo courtesy of  Cory Spotswood

Photo courtesy of Cory Spotswood

Photo courtesy of   Taneda Ashaolu

Photo courtesy of Taneda Ashaolu

Photo courtesy of  Cory Spotswood

Photo courtesy of Cory Spotswood

Now my favorite added touch was the place cards that I made and printed myself.  Once everyone was seated and it was time to give the sentimental thank you for coming speech, I instead told everyone to turn over their place cards. On the back of each card was a personal hand-written note to each individual telling them what they meant to me and how much I appreciated their friendship. (WINNING).

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Photo courtesy of  Wendy Correa

Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

I asked that all my guest wear white or cream light colors. My dress also white was adorned with flowers.  I made it myself with 2 yards of $5 white fabric and some artificial flowers from Michael's, but I'll do a whole separate blog about that.  

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Menu. I didn't really feel like cooking so I had several friends who can throw down in the kitchen prepare a few things for me and honestly the amount of money I would have spent on groceries where better spent paying my friends for the ingredients needed for their delectable dishes. 

Photo courtesy of  Joi Addison

Photo courtesy of Joi Addison

Photo courtesy of  Wendy Correa

Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

The menu consisted of grilled lemon pepper chicken (with a little sunshine and magic) and the best mac & cheese I have ever had in my life. I also had turkey meatballs, salmon cakes, curried potato salad and a traditional salad. The food was so good I didn't even have a chance to photograph it before it was all gone. For dessert, my friend Nekia of Feed Me Seymore made homemade banana pudding (my favorite) and mini sweet potato cheesecake. We also had the tastiest spiked ginger lemonade cocktail, with lots and lots of vodka.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

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My background is in photography, production and event management so I really wanted to add those elements to the party. I had a seamless backdrop set up in the corner where I personally took portraits of all my friends.  This was fun because everyone loves a photo booth. I also had a few props that I'd made from past Halloween costumes for them to add in their portraits.

As the sun went down the candles were lit, the drinks still flowing and the conversations continued.  The party was a great success and one for the books to remember.  Overall it was an amazing DIY garden party with family, friends and loved one. 

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Find Us On The Map

Kali Abdullah

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Last week I went to the opening of Find Us On The Map! a photo exhibition presented by Lagos Photo and Rush Arts Gallery.

The exhibit explores recurring themes in contemporary visual culture in Africa and encourages the audience to Find Us on the Map in accordance with the title of the exhibition.  Though there is now a widespread awareness that Africa is not a country, are we better informed about the vast geographical entity? We may be able to name a few countries within Africa but can we find them on a map? 

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Some of the featured exhibits include Ima Mfon's Nigerian Identity series that tackles the false stereotype of homogenized blackness.  In this series of photographic portraits all the subjects are presented in a uniform manner, photographed on a white seamless background, looking directly into the lens, and enhanced so that their skin tones are virtually identical.  This idea stems from Mfon's experiences living in America where "black" has always been used as a generic descriptive label.  By using a plain background he eliminated any cultural or ethnic context, whether it be urban or an African wilderness and he makes the skin tones in these images rich, deep and beautiful to celebrate beautiful skin that's often oppressed and marginalized.

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Jenevieve Aken's series Great Expectations is inspired by Dickens iconic novel of the same title. "Society today, especially in Africa, places a huge emphasis on marriage as an institution and this leads to pressures and stress on a lot of women some of whom are successful but yet feel unfulfilled until married. Happiness, love, friendship are all after thoughts. Marriage first." Jenevieve immersed herself and reinterpreted this story in contemporary Africa-Nigeria society through self-portraiture.

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

My favorite collection was by Andile Buka from South Africa who's portrait series Sartist Sport takes a more comical approach to identity.  It was created as a result of wanting to challenge previous edifice ideas of what it means to be black or African in modern society.  The project started as the untold story about urban black sports culture and black identity. It highlights South African athletes, people who went through difficult circumstances, the remnants of colonialism and apartheid when sports were seen as a novelty for black people, a "white man's" activity. The series was to challenge previously conceived ideas of South African black culture that have social and cultural impacts using clothes that were seen only being worn by white people.

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Other exhibiting artists include Joana Choumali (Cote d'Ivoire), Colin Delfosse (Belgium), Logo Olumuyiwa (Nigeria), and Nobukho Nqaba (South Africa).

Photography was initially used in Africa to engage audiences with a place that at the time was a complete fantasy. African art, objects, dress, people, and lifestyles were photographed as a means to inform us of the otherness of Africa.  These fantasies of Africa, based on very real objects, artwork, and peoples in the past, were the foundation introduction to a continent of 54 independent countries and more than 3,000 ethnic groups. Today, the concept of fantasy is reclaimed and repurposed to narrate stories and engage viewers in innovative ways.

Curated by art historian and artist Chika Okeke-Agula, she said "Folks can't seem to come to terms with the fact that African artists have now taken and secured their seat at the dinner table invited or not.  With works of art from Africa receiving long deserved acclaim from museums, curators, and collectors, finding these places on the map becomes a prerequisite for us to be allowed to sit at the table with them.  As we begin to develop our understanding of art created on the continent beyond the antiquated, overarching, and superficial title of 'African art', we seek additional information that gives us clues about society religion, and love in African countries."

The show is on exhibit from March 17 - April 8th at Rush Arts Gallery, 526 West 26th Street, Suite 311 NYC

 

Black History Art: Gordon Parks

Kali Abdullah

Invisible Man, 1952. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Invisible Man, 1952. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Growing up I spent my summers in North Carolina with my grandparents.   My grandfather was the original budding photographer in our family, he had a variety of different cameras and the whole art fascinated me.  I was around seven when he gave me my first camera and that is the officially moment that I fell in love with photography and decided it would be a part of my career.  Though my family fully supported my creative process, society and grade schools made the decision to be an artist or a photographer as a profession a form of failure because the arts was not considered “a real job” or a successful source of income.  Then I learned about a self-taught artist who turned a fascination into a life long career. Gordon Parks is the reason I decided to embrace my love of the arts and pursue photography in college.

Gordon Parks (born November 30, 1912) is what I would consider a renaissance man.  He was a musician, writer, and film director, but was most celebrated for being a photographer documenting many of the most important aspects of American culture ranging from issues of civil rights and poverty in the African-American community to glamour and fashion.

Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama , 1956. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Born in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks left home at the age of 15 after the death of his mother. He lived with relatives for a short time before setting off on his own, taking whatever odd jobs he could find. At the age of 25, while working as a waiter in a railroad dining car, he began seeing the portfolios of portraits in magazines and decided to become a photographer.  He purchased his first camera at a pawnshop and started a portrait business in Chicago.

Gordon Parks became the first African-American photographer for Life and Vogue magazines. He also pursued movie directing and screenwriting and was the first African-American to produce and direct major motion pictures. He developed films relating the experience of slaves and struggling black Americans, such as The Learning Tree and created the "blaxploitation” genre which produced Shaft.

American Gothic, Washington DC. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

American Gothic, Washington DC. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

He is best remembered for his iconic photos of poor low-income Americans during the 1940s taken during his fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA).  Parks created some of his most enduring photographs during this fellowship, including one of his best-known photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C.  Parks striking photograph shows a black woman, Ella Watson, who worked on the cleaning crew of the FSA building, standing stiffly in front of an American flag hanging on the wall, a broom in one hand and a mop in the background. Parks had been inspired to create the image after encountering racism repeatedly in restaurants and shops in the segregated capital city.
 
When the FSA job ended he became a freelance photographer for Vogue. Parks worked for Vogue for a number of years, developing a distinctive style that emphasized the look of models and garments in motion, rather than in static poses.

Long Haired Fur. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Long Haired Fur. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Eartha Kitt 1952.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Eartha Kitt 1952.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Relocating to Harlem, Parks continued to document city images and characters while working in the fashion industry. His 1948 photographic essay on a Harlem gang leader won him widespread acclaim and a position as the first African American staff photographer and writer for LIFE magazine, at the time the nation's most prominent and highest-circulation photographic publication in the world. Parks held this position for 20 years, producing photographs on subjects including fashion, sports, and entertainment as well as poverty and racial segregation. He took memorable portraits of African-American celebrities, politicians, and leaders, including Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Adam Clayton Powell, and Muhammad Ali.  In the 1970s, Parks served as the editorial director during the first three years of Essence Magazine’s circulation.

Harlem Gang Leader. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Harlem Gang Leader. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Muhammad Ali.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Muhammad Ali.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

(l to r)  Ethel Shariff in Chicago , 1963;  Evening Prayer, Muslim Father and Son , New York, 1946. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

(l to r) Ethel Shariff in Chicago, 1963; Evening Prayer, Muslim Father and Son, New York, 1946. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Many of Parks photos capture the essence of activism and humanitarianism in the mid-twentieth century America and have become iconic images, defining their era for later generations. They also rallied support for the emerging Civil Rights Movement, for which Parks himself was a tireless advocate as well as a documentarian.

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

I had the opportunity to meet Gordon Parks my junior year of college when he came to speak at my school Pratt.  It was a full circle moment in my life.  He was an active photographer until his death on March 7, 2006, at the age of 93. Parks spent his life expanding his style, a style that would make him one of the most celebrated photographers of his age. He broke the color line in professional photography while creating remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of racism.  He will always be a legend and one of my all time favorite artist.

Black History Art: Malick Sidibé

Kali Abdullah

 

Malick Sidibé (born in 1936) is a Malian photographer noted for his black-and-white images chronicling the exuberant lives and pop culture, often of youth during the 1960s and 70s in Bamako.  His work documents a transitional moment as Mali gained its independence and transformed from a French colony steeped in tradition to a more modern independent country looking toward the West. He captured candid images in the streets, nightclubs, and sporting events and ran a formal portrait studio.

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Malick Sidibé is a generation behind Seydou Keïta and I’d like to think that he was influenced by Keïta’s photography.  Similar to Keïta, Sidibé was a studio photographer known for his black-and-white portraits, but what set him apart is the sense of youthful pride and fun captured in the photographs. He enjoyed using the studio as a way to pretend and create new lives for his subjects. Also people enjoyed coming to his studio because unlike the others he had electricity, which was a luxury at the time. When talking about his studio portraits he states in an interview:

“As a rule, when I was working in the studio, I did a lot of the positioning. As I have a background in drawing, I was able to set up certain positions in my portraits. I didn’t want my subjects to look like mummies. I would give them positions that brought something alive in them. When you look at my photos, you are seeing a photo that seems to move before your eyes. Those are the sort of poses I gave them. Not poses that were inert or lifeless. No. People who have life need to be positioned that way. It was quite different at my studio. It was like a place of make-believe. People would pretend to be riding motorbikes, racing against each other. It was not like that at the other studios. That’s why my studio was so popular, already by 1964, 1965. The studio was a lot more laid back.”

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I was first introduced to Malick Sidibé in 1997 when Janet Jackson put out the “Got ‘til It’s Gone” song featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell.  The music video, directed by Mark Romanek used African photography as a motif, creating what he called a "pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography."   The video wanders a massive house party and includes scenes inspired by the work of photographer Malick Sidibé. After falling in love with the video and being an aspiring photographer at the time I dove deep into finding out what Sidibé was all about. I love how Sidibé captured the essence of that time period and the sixties and seventies fashion.  It gave me a whole new perception of African culture, which before then I thought was very traditional and tribal.

Joni Mitchell, Janet Jackson & Mark Romanek discuss the Music Video "Got 'Till It's Gone" Includes music video by Janet Jackson w/Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell - "Got 'Til It's Gone" (Def Radio Mix). (C) Virgin Records. Directed by Mark Romanek. From the album "The Velvet Rope"

I also learned that Malick Sidibé was like the original club photographer in Bamako (days before social media).  In an interview with lensculture.com he states:

“At night, from midnight to 4 am or 6 am, I went from one party to another. I could go to four different parties. If there were only two, it was like having a rest. But if there were four, you couldn't miss any. If you were given four invitations, you had to go. You couldn't miss them.  I'd leave one place, I'd take 36 shots here, 36 shots there, and then 36 somewhere else, until the morning. Sometimes I would come back to parties where there had been a lot of people.  Afterwards I had to develop the photos and print them out. Sometimes, right up to 6 in the morning, I would be at the enlarger. For the 6 x 6 films there was a contact printer, but the 24 x 36 had to be enlarged.  You could work in the morning, but, by Tuesday, the photos had to be ready for display. The proofs were pinned up outside my studio. Lots of people would come and point themselves out. ‘Look at me there! I danced with so-and-so! Can you see me there?’  Even if they didn't buy the photo, they would show it to their friends. That was enough for them. They had danced with a certain girl, and that was enough. I wasn't happy, though. I wanted them to buy these photos!”

The true hustle of a photographer hahah.

Sidibé’s work has been exhibited extensively.  His photos are in numerous public and private collections all over the world and he’s received several honors and awards.  He has become a true inspiration in portrait photography for me especially in men's fashion and style.

In a 2010 interview with John Henley in The Guardian Sidibé explained, “To be a good photographer you need to have a talent to observe, and to know what you want. You have to choose the shapes and the movements that please you, that look beautiful. Equally, you need to be friendly, sympathetic. It's very important to be able to put people at their ease. It's a world, someone's face. When I capture it, I see the future of the world. I believe with my heart and soul in the power of the image, but you also have to be sociable. I'm lucky. It's in my nature."

Malick Sidibé presently resides in Mali.

Black History Art: Seydou Keïta

Kali Abdullah

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Seydou Keïta (born  in 1921) was a self-taught portrait photographer from Bamako, Mali. His portraits gained a reputation for excellence throughout West Africa between the1940s and early 1960s. His photos are widely acknowledged not only as a record of Malian society but also as pieces of art.

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Keïta developed an interest in photography when his uncle gave him a Kodak Brownie with eight shots of film in 1935, after returning from a trip to Senegal. In the beginning Keïta worked as both a carpenter and photographer, taking first portraits of his family and friends, later of people in the neighborhood. He learned photography and how to develop from Pierre Garnier, a French photographic supply store owner, and from Mountaga Traoré, his mentor. In 1948 he set up his first studio in the family house in Bamako-Koura behind the main prison.

His numerous clients were drawn by the quality of his photos and his great sense of aesthetics. Many were young men, dressed in European style clothing. Some customers brought in items they wanted to be photographed with but Keïta also had a choice of European clothing and accessories (watches, pens, radios, scooters), which he put at their disposal in his studio. The women came in flowing robes often covering their legs, only beginning to wear Western outfits in the late 60s.

Seydou Keïta worked primarily with daylight and for economic reasons took only a single shot for each picture.

I learned about Seydou Keïta through my interest in another African photographer Malick Sidibé (I will do a whole post on him tomorrow).  It is said that Seydou Keïta was discovered in the West in the 1990s. His first solo exhibition took place in 1994 in Paris at the Fondation Cartier. This was followed by many others exhibits in various museums, galleries and foundations worldwide. He is now universally recognized as the father of African photography and considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

“It’s easy to take a photo, but what really made a difference was that I always knew how to find the right position, and I never was wrong. Their head slightly turned, a serious face, the position of the hands... I was capable of making someone look really good. The photos were always very good. That’s why I always say that it’s a real art.”

Seydou Keïta died November 21, 2001 in Paris, France.