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The Young Photographer Who Questions Racist Stereotypes

“I’m interested in telling stories of people whose stories aren’t told, or when they are, they’re told incorrectly.”

Myles Loftin

At 19 years old, Myles Loftin already seems to have accomplished his artistic goal several times. The young photographer has been making a name for himself with his intriguing work, filled with commentary on the negative stereotypes of black youths as well as playful portrayals of both racial and sexual minorities. We recently had a chance to interview him regarding his projects and artistic philosophy.

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Myles works at the DMV area (D.C., Maryland, Virginia), and he is a student at Parsons School of Design in New York City. He’s developed an impressive resumé as a freelance photographer, with clients such as Urban Outfitters, Nylon Japan, and Rookie Magazine. It’s no surprise that he’s reached such a level of success at such a young age, as his visual aesthetic, which he describes as “youthful, vibrant, and warm” shows a level of maturity from an artist beyond his years. When looking at his work, it’s hard not to become enchanted by the color of his images, the compassionate eye with which he captures his subjects, and his precision when shooting fleeting moments of beauty.

Nowhere are these professional and artistic traits better reflected than in what might be his best known series titled HOODED. In it, Myles combines portraits of young black men wearing colorful hoodies with contrasting screenshots of Google image searches for “black boy in hoodie”, “white boy in hoodie”, “four black teens”, and “four white teens". The series, as explained in the artist’s website, aims to shed light on the internalization of racial stereotypes, which make us associate a young black man in a hoodie with criminality, while a young white man in a hoodie is equivalent to a smiling kid. He complements this message by photographing four young African American men in hoodies with bright colors, playful poses, smiles, and hugs. He states:

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“This project seeks to understand where these negative portrayals [of black males] come from, and how we can change them for a better future.”

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Besides the photographs, he directed a video that further explores his themes. In it, he and his four models rotate in front of the camera while excerpts from a Hilary Clinton speech describing young black men as “super predators”m George Zimmerman’s call before shooting Trayvon Martin, and mentions of “black male” criminals in the media contrast with a recording of a compassionate poem by Leo Avedon. The result of the entire project is powerful, a sensitive reinterpretation of the stereotypes surrounding black youths in the United States of America.

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When we asked Myles about his take on art’s role in bridging gaps created by prejudice and biased narratives, he answered:

“I think that art can help communicate certain messages that words can't. Interacting with art can be an emotional experience, and I think one of the most powerful methods of persuasion is through emotions.”

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The compassionate images of smiling black youths dressed in brightly colored sweatshirts stay with you long after you see them for the first time and force you to question your own prejudice and internalized stereotypes.

For HOODED, Myles researched racial portrayals in the USA, unlike some of his other projects, where he explains, the simple action of capturing a particular group of people as a form of documentation becomes political just by who his models are. Furthermore, his editorial work demonstrates his ability to connect with his subjects, as seen in his series Thomjana, where he captures the titular model in playful close ups. She smiles, winks, and seductively stares at the camera, which captures her in black and white, his casual approach to the session further complemented by bright paintbrushes that give a new dimension to the image.

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“I usually allow the person I'm photographing inform the way in which I photograph them. It's all inspired by their energy and personal style,” he explains.

 

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All in all, Myles Loftin is a photographer you should keep an eye on. This old rising star is sure to make some even larger waves in the near future with his fresh vision and undeniable talent. You can start by following him on Instagram and Facebook.

Now check out this photographer who finds beauty in the mundane and one who portrays Mexican life.

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