Profile | Justin French - Representing the LGBTI Community & POC Through his Work
Justin French is an emerging New York based photographer whose origins are in portraiture, event and fashion photography, his focus has since evolved to fine art photography with an interest in showcasing dynamic range in skin tones and attempting to push ideas regarding future history.
Justin was recently a part of the Red Hook Labs New Artists exhibition in New York with twenty four other emerging unrepresented photographers from across the globe, one his first major exhibitions. Justin's body of work endorses representation for the LGBTI community and People of Colour.
The photography industry has become decentralized over the years with the rise of smartphones, anyone can become a photographer, how did you embark on your photography journey?
Very uknowingly, It’s only recently I realised I was practically conditioned to explore photography. I’ve been bought and gifted cameras as young as 8 years old. I had a knack for capturing really beautiful candid shots
You are based in London, Paris and New York. How do your surroundings influence your work?
Surroundings are the lifeblood of a good project. Be it the people, or the setting of the shot. It all becomes very vital to the story behind an image, whether the viewer is aware of it or not.
You photograph very distinct individuals. Please take us through the process of seeking the models right through to shooting them
There isn’t much of a process with respect to seeking them, however once we are together it becomes my task with making sure I take an image that both I and they feel strong and beautiful in. I want them to look at themselves in a way they haven’t before. For the image I took of them to be their favourite image and for it to resonate with those who view it.
You produced a series of work titled ‘the unwilling martyrs’, Please tell us more about the work?
This was a collaboration with Ib Kamara. It was a really fun project to work on with him. He has an ingenious way of approaching projects and essentially we sought to create highly amplified characters of the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement, sort of playing with the idea of creating tropes regarding the types of characters you would come across at a rally. Kind of comical but still absolutely dire and serious. The less political I tried to make the images appear however, the stronger the visual political implications became.
What does representation and identity mean to you?
Representation for me specifically is having the freedom and autonomy to speak for oneself. Identity for me is the ability for an individual to (without external pressures) inherently develop and mature into what they desire based on their own natural instincts.
What do you think about the current standpoint of black photographers in Africa and the diaspora?
I’m very excited about it. Lanes are opening up and the black art world is becoming a place of integration from Africa and the diaspora, dialogues are occurring between the continents and I’m very eager to participate in the conversation myself.
Any future projects we should look out for?
There definitely are projects in the pipeline, some completed, and others in germination. But I’m extremely patient so I’m not entirely sure when or in what context they will be released in.
Photography: Justin French
Interview: Sinalo Mkaza