I’m from Omaha, Nebraska and so living in the Midwest, your neighborhood is like your community. I come from that background of having this community and knowing who people are, and checking in on people and looking out for each other. When I moved to Bushwick, that was the natural thing for me. It’s about moving into this place and saying, ‘What is my relationship to this community?’ You know I could also be considered as a gentrifier, and so what is my role in that, or do I have one at all? There’s all these internal questions that you ask yourself because you’re just a human being, but then there’s also questions you ask yourself because you’re an artist. For me, when it comes to either having these relationships or building this community, it’s all just very organic. I’ll go out and I’ll be in different parts of the city that aren’t my neighborhood, and I’m photographing people that I don’t come in contact with on a daily basis and I feel like that’s still part of the greater narrative of what my work is about.
I feel a responsibility as a Black photographer. I feel a responsibility as a community photographer. More than anything, I feel responsible to myself, to the story I want to tell, and to what feels genuine to me. I let the work talk to me and tell me what direction to go in. And I feel like it’s better like that. Like if I’m going out, and I’m making work, letting it speak to me feels better than me trying to tell it what to do.
The work that I’m doing in my neighborhood, and the people I’ve been photographing, I’m like ‘nobody could come here and just like do this in a week.’ There are pictures I might have that maybe took me three years to get. And so I do feel like there’s a pull internally, because you’re part of the community. You’ve talked to the people, you’ve walked the streets. You’ve seen the change. You’re part of the heartbeat. So it’s feels like the story is so connected to your experience. That’s what storytelling is. You telling your experiences. So, it’s hard to imagine a stranger coming in and telling that story, when you know that don’t eat the food that these people are eating, they don’t walk the streets everyday. They don’t know what it’s like when the first of the month comes around. They don’t see what it’s like for everything on your block to get gentrified. It’s hard to come and tell that story when you haven’t really been part of the evolution of what’s happening.