Wrapping the third week of our celebration of creative excellence for Black History Month, Guest Editor Coltrane Curtis, founder and managing partner of Team Epiphany, sits down with photographer, artist and author Shaniqwa Jarvis.
Jarvis’ expansive creativity ranges from commercial work for and creating products with companies such as Adidas, The Standard Hotels Group, SNS and Supreme. She has also executed large-scale portrait projects and exhibits around the world, in cities including L.A., New York, London and Tokyo. Her first book, the self-titled “Shaniqwa Jarvis,” delves into her editorial and personal work over 20 years.
“Shaniqwa is one of the go-to photographers for the culture and like a Godmother to your favorite portrait photographer,” says Curtis. From shooting portraits for President Barack Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross, to famed lookbooks and advertisements for fashion brands like Supreme and Gap Kids (and my personal favorite, my son Ellington for North Face), Shaniqwa has redefined what a commercial photograph could be. She never compromises her principles while managing to lend her undisputed cultural credibility to her projects for over two decades.”
Here, Jarvis recalls one of her favorite projects—the Budweiser x AfroPunk experiential activation in Atlanta from Fall 2019, during which she captured the creativity and energy of about 1,500 consumers. Rather than utilizing a trendy photobooth to standard images, the experience offered uniquely styled festival-goers a one-of-a-kind photo session that would provide them with a lasting memento.
Credit (on-set shots above featuring Jarvis) : Dave Crawford for Budweiser
Coltrane Curtis: More than another global festival series, Afropunk is a culmination of art, music, fashion and community—it’s a proud and acclaimed expression of the culture. What was it like to have your own booth with Budweiser at AfroPunk?
Shaniqwa Jarvis: I haven’t been able to wrap my head around what’s one of my favorite set of photographs, but I truly love the ones I shot at AfroPunk in Atlanta. The booth was designed exactly how I wanted it; a mini version of what I normally shoot, in but the energy of the people who came through to have their portraits taken was on another level. A lot has changed in the world since my pop-up photo studio for Budweiser x AfroPunk, I can’t imagine doing the same thing during current times which makes me enjoy looking at these images even more.
(The open-air concept allowed the sounds of the festival to filter in, but the walls made the space feel like a small oasis. A collection of low-sitting furniture, chesterfield couches and mid-century barstools allowed guests to decompress while waiting for their portraits to be taken. The space was decorated with an eclectic, soulful aesthetic reflective of Afropunk—worn-in, multi-print rugs, vintage photos and classic Budweiser cans filled the space.)
Credit: Shaniqwa Jarvis
Curtis: You are one of the few photographers to respected from a lifestyle/cultural perspective and for also doing amazing brand work. How have you been able to find that balance and excel at both?
Jarvis: When I left Parsons, I believe I said to myself that I wanted to bridge the gap between art and commerce. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become comfortable with working within the gap and realizing I don’t have to bridge anything.
Curtis: You’re a certified veteran that’s shot for brands like Supreme, the North Face and Gap Kids, and your work is not monotonous. How do you continually come-up with fresh & innovative concepts while keeping your signature style?
Jarvis: I’m fortunate that some people who work for brands understand how to utilize my talents and want me to be able to bring more than just my photography to projects. I’m thankful for all of those collaborators who think outside the box and who want to ensure that the commercial work we create together is truly organic and authentic to my point of view.
Curtis: What advice do you have for upcoming photographers that are looking to work with brands more?
Jarvis: The advice I have for anyone trying to do anything is find your voice and use it. I say that and I mean find your signature look and smash it so that no one can deny that’s your work. Don’t do what everyone else is doing, just do you.