Photographers CreativeSoul, a husband and wife duo from Atlanta, Georgia are on a mission; “We want every African American child to feel proud of their heritage, to love the skin they’re in and, their natural curls and culture.”
It was this philosophy that inspired them to create their AfroArt series because Kahran and Regis passionately believe that it’s incredibly important for kids of colour to be able to see positive images that look like them in the media. “When we entered into the kids’ fashion space we saw there was a lack of diversity, we’d have African American children with gorgeous, natural hair showing up for shoots with it straightened - because they thought that was what they needed to do to get into the industry.”
From that day forward, Kahran and Regis resolved to work with kids from all around the world, focusing on the beauty and versatility of Afro hair.
Among those who have influenced Kahran and Regis is the legendary Gordon Parks who became the first African American staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine, it was while at that incredibly influential publication he would document poverty, racism and rally support for the Civil Rights Movement through his lens.
More contemporary influencers are Osborne Macharia, a Kenyan born visual artist who focuses on themes of Afrofuturism and Lindsay Adler whose use of creative styling and lighting resonates with the pair.
It’s perhaps, this combination of looking backwards and forwards that has helped CreativeSoul forge their highly distinctive and original style. “Our inspiration comes from many places, from African culture, jewelry, hairstyles, ancestral tribal rituals, fashion and more.”
The creative process
Once Kahran and Regis have the idea that will form the basis of the shoot, in this case, it was to be a geometric and monochromatic theme; they then typically develop a mood board. “We outline our ideas for hair, wardrobe and set - so the hair stylists have a good idea of what we’re planning.”
Kahran continues, “A lot of the magic happens on set. On the day of the shoot we bring in lots of elements and lay them all out - so that we can try different things and experiment.”
Continuing with the monochromatic theme, they chose a similarly monochromatic wardrobe, “One of the models we used is living with Albinism, so we wanted to enhance her fair skin rather than change it.”
For the high-key images, they placed a Profoto B10 Plus as key-light to the side at quarter power aimed directly across the model towards a reflector that then bounced in fill from the opposite side. A second B10 Plus was placed behind the subject at half-power to light the background.
For the darker images, the first B10 Plus again acted as a key-light in precisely the same way. But instead of using a reflector to bounce in fill light from the other side, they instead used the second B10 Plus with the gel aiming across the model from the opposite direction; this helped separate the model from the background, and bring a little pop of blue to the hair.
Additionally, Kahran and Regis used a 3-foot Octa Softbox and a Snoot. The Octa Softbox softened the light on the subject while the Snoot would add a circle of color to the backdrop as well as separating the model from the background and adding that touch of color to the hair.
What the B10 Plus brings to the party
Much as the kids very much enjoy the experience of creating images with these incredibly visually exciting hairstyles - they are still kids, so it’s essential to move fast.
“Because the Profoto B10 Plus is lightweight, we can move fast without sacrificing power - and having a continuous light that allows you to change the temperature of the light is a real advantage too.”
Regis adds, “we’re always on the go, and now we can make our entire studio mobile because the B10 Plus fits easily in a small backpack. And because it packs a lot of power, the B10 Plus has given us the confidence to experiment more on location.”
As photographers, CreativeSoul recognizes that they have a unique opportunity as storytellers to show the world as they see it. And are thankful that they can showcase the beauty of natural hair positively.
“We love that we get to shatter the existing negative stereotypes about natural Afro hair, and we love the positive energy the kids get from being a part of this movement - they definitely leave the studio with their chest puffed out a little more and a proud skip in their step.”
Finally, a few tips for aspiring photographers
We asked Kahran and Regis if they could offer five nuggets of wisdom to young photographers taking their first steps in the profession - what would they be? This, was what they told us.
- Develop your unique style - it’s easy to fall into the trap of following the latest photography trends, but developing our unique style is what has helped our business the most.
- Practice with personal work - we are huge advocates of consistently doing personal work as photographers. Our personal projects have often been the ones that propelled our career because we can experiment and try new things.
- Network and collaborate - we love collaborating with other artists, vendors and even photographers. We learn something new from each collaboration, and it makes us better photographers.
- Never stop learning. It’s important for us to continue learning new things - whether it’s new lighting techniques, styles or even business and marketing strategies; it’s essential to our growth.
- Step outside the box. Never be afraid to step outside the box and do things your way. Learn the rules, then experiment with breaking them to develop your style.
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