Interview // Kenya Shakoor // Photographer
“In December of 2019, Kenya Shakoor premiered her first art show titled “Dreaming In Black”, which explored the beauty and mystic elements that blackness so often is not awarded in media. This show included myself and other black individuals, where we were photographed in spaces that we found comfortable.This interview was recorded in November of 2019 at the Frye Art Museum.”
A: What caused you to become interested in photography?
K: I actually got a camera to start a YouTube channel to make videos, but I realized I liked taking photos, especially of certain subject matter.
A: What subject matter do you like to focus on?
K: I photograph black individuals almost exclusively. I wanted to make art the art I wanted to see, and all too often I’ve come across seeing almost no art to relate to in museums. So it’s important to capture people with kinky textured hair, brown skin, etc. because we need to put ourselves in the room, and to feel authentic in doing so at the same time. One of the great things of working with my subjects is that before the process they never were captured by anyone, and afterwards they finally feel seen.
A: What is one thing you wish you could change about the world?
K: I wish I could change how there is so much greed in society. There’s so much hoarding of resources, and it’s leaving people starving. I wish everyone could support their families and live their lives, and not have these systems holding them back from living happy lives.
A: How do you intend to change it?
K: “By not allowing the outside world to affect my internal self. Marginalized individuals self worth is already lower due to how society has defined them, so I want to expect the best of myself, that way no one can ever diminish my self worth.
A: Has being a black woman influenced how you use your medium?
K: Definitely. In terms of being a black woman, I feel I have more intentions/ responsibility to do something greater than just taking photographs, whether that’s broadening someone’s view or starting a conversation through my photography. In technical terms, I’ve become particular to how I shoot black individuals behind a camera. Our skin absorbs more light, so a natural light really shows a person’s true skin tone. I really think there’s such a magical aspect of the sun hitting black skin.
Amanda Morgan photographed by Kenya Shakoor for “Dreaming in Black”