How long have you been in the photography industry?
Unofficially, I've been a photographer since I was a child. I say unofficially because as a child, I didn't actually have a camera but I did have an eye for noticing things that would make great pictures. I would be out playing or at the grocery store with my mom & notice a unique object or a really nice sunset & think, "that would be a good picture." I didn't start putting my "eye" to use until 2010 when I received a camera as a gift. After taking plenty of pictures, I began to wonder why my photos didn't look like the ones in magazines so I enrolled in two of the most well-known academic institutions in order to learn the techniques of the craft... "Google Community College" & "Youtube University." I also found a great mentor to help me gain experience in the field in order to hone my skills. What started out as a hobby has blossomed into a passion unlike any of the creative outlets I previously experienced.
What drew you to the Natural Hair Community?
Growing up with 3 sisters & being the only boy, I had encounters with natural hair from an early age. My sisters would rock braids one day, then on another day I'd see them with pony tails, and yet on another day, I would see them with Afro puffs. It was all very interesting to me. Once the natural hair movement swept over the black community, I started noticing more & more women rocking all of these styles that reminded me of my childhood experiences with my sisters. I just knew I had to use my photography to start a project that would really capture the beauty of these women.
Tell us about your Natural Hair Portrait Project and when will you be launching it?
So the project is all about highlighting the beauty of women with all types of natural hairstyles. I want to be a part of the movement that paints natural hair styling in a positive light. There are certain elements in our society that would have black women believe that wearing their hair in it's natural state is not attractive or professional & this project is my contribution to the cause of proving that the opposite is true. As for a launch date, this is an ongoing project but I have a tentative launch set for the summer of 2015. I started shooting portraits for the project in June of 2014 in Baltimore, MD and have since been from New York City to Los Angeles, CA shooting Naturalistas from all over. Before it's all said & done, I will have taken the project to Toronto Canada & London England, making it an international affair. My intent is to take the best images from this project & have a one-night only gallery exhibition to showcase the work. My goal is for this event to take place in the summer of 2015. I have also been receiving inquiries about the release of a coffee table book with the images, so that's something that I am strongly considering releasing as well.
What do you hope to gain from this project?
It's really not about what I hope to gain, it's about what I can do to give back. Early on in the process, I decided that I want this project to have an impact in multiple ways. Aside from aiding in the perceptual shift of viewing natural hair styling as beautiful, I wanted to contribute to another worthy cause in a tangible way. It has been placed on my heart to use this project as a way to raise money for a non-profit organization focused on feeding hungry children in America. I'm in the process of vetting an organization that meets this very urgent need but until everything is set in stone, I'll refrain from saying any names. Once everything is locked in, I'll be raising money through donations, ticket sales to the one-night gallery showcase & if I do a coffee table book, a portion of the proceeds from the sell of the book will go to the organization that I ultimately decide upon. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me! lol
What have you learned most about the natural hair community/ natural hair women you have showcased in this project?
The question is, what HAVEN'T I learned! LolSince beginning this project, I've had the opportunity to delve into the world of natural hair by attending various expos, meet-ups, & through interacting with the numerous "naturalistas" I've had the privilege of photographing. Through these experiences, I have learned that this community of women is very supportive of one another. In each of the events that I have attended, there has been an overarching sense of unity; everyone seems truly committed to the growth (literally) of one another. I've also learned a lot about hair in general & the importance of properly maintaining it. My wife has natural hair & the funny thing is that I find myself dropping little tips here & there that I've learned. I remember one time in particular when she was expressing some concern about her hair being dry & I was like, "honey, I think you should moisturize your hair more than you do & all of the heat you put on it may not be the best either." Of course she rolled her eyes & went on about her business! Lol, but that leads me to the last thing that I've learned, which is to respect & appreciate the natural hair lifestyle because aside from the upkeep and maintenance of having natural hair, these women also have to deal with the societal pressures to conform to what is deemed acceptable or beautiful. This movement is so much more than a fashion statement or fad, it's a way of life.
Any other insight you would like to provide to our readers, please feel free to share:
The only insight I can share is to be comfortable in your own skin... & hair, whether natural or relaxed. In life, as with your hair, you have to choose what works best for you so base your decisions off of that fact. Lastly, I'm feeling the overwhelming urge to leave you with the timeless words of the main character from the movie "The Help", Aibileen (played by naturalista Viola Davis), "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." :-)
How can we keep in touch with you and your project?
I can be found on Facebook under Kel B Pics Photography but I will be posting exclusive content from the project on my Instagram account @kelbpics so follow me to stay updated on its progress.