Kenya Meon is an Atlanta, Georgia based photographer, who often uses her camera as a tool of visual communication. Down below Kenya talks about her inspiration, how she got into photography, and what's next for her.
Tell us about yourself (where you’re from, what you do, anything interesting or quirky that people should know about you)
I’m Kenya Meon, a 25 year old lifestyle/portrait photographer and creative director. I grew up in a small town just outside of Macon, Ga. and I’ve been in Atlanta for almost seven years now. I think that my personality alone can be labeled as quirky. I’m still trying to get over my social anxiety so at times I can be very shy and awkward but the few people who know me for me and not just my image have totally fallen in love with my silliness and often blunt responses.
How did you get into photography?
I’ve always had sort of a love for visuals which came from me exploring my auntie’s extensive magazine collection as a kid. Soon I started collecting my own and decided to go to art school and study fashion. Big mistake! But, I did discover that my purpose was to be on the visual and director side of the arts verses being a designer so I think its safe to say that I discovered my love for photography through fashion.
How would define your photo aesthetic?
I have a hard time putting a set definition on my aesthetic because it sometimes changes depending on my mood or what’s currently inspiring me. My work could easily fall into minimalism (Afro-minimalism to be more specific). There’s just something about brown skin tones set against a simple background or nature that resonates with me on a spiritual level.
Where do you find inspiration?
Now days most of my inspiration comes from social media. Since my phone is almost always in my hands I find myself scrolling endlessly through my explore page on Instagram. My favorite way of finding inspiration is still the old school way which is to spend hours at my local bookstore going through magazines falling in love with the same types of images that made me want to become a photographer in the first place.
How do you go about deciding what to capture?
When it comes to people, I usually find some unique feature about them and I instantly become inspired by that feature and come up with a few options as far as locations that I feel would highlight those features. Locations for me are mostly accidental. I like to go out and explore a lot so most of the places I chose to photograph happen off chance. If I can’t shoot there at the moment I discover it I will take a photo with my cell phone and save it in my archives until the perfect subject comes along.
How do you remain original with your photos?
A lot of the originality in my photos comes from both my directing and editing process. I like for subjects to be as natural as possible. I’m a very kind of go with the flow person. Since I’m self taught I don’t get too technical when it comes to photography. I’m always more focused on the overall composition and mood as opposed to worrying about what my aperture is set on. Even though that stuff is important I do believe a lot of photography ends up looking the same because most photographers follow the same technical rules. I think I allow for more freedom in my work.
A lot of your photos feature people of color (black people) why is it important to capture black beauty in a way that challenges the stereotypical depiction of black beauty in mainstream culture?
Representation is so important to me! It’s one of the things that drove me to take my photography to a professional level. I’ve grown tired of seeing black women over sexualized and black men shown as hyper-masculine. I want to be one of the photographers that isn’t afraid to experiment with the idea that men and women of color can be soft, fragile, and vulnerable. Those qualities are just as important as our strength and add so much to our narrative as a people.
What's your creative process before capturing a photo?
Before any shoot whether it is client based or something creative for my personal portfolio, I like to study the subject at hand as much as possible and then gather as much inspiration as possible based on what I gathered. I usually compile my favorite inspiration photos into a digital mood board for both myself and the client/ muse. The rest I allow to flow how it may.
What do you aim to capture or portray through your photos?
I always aim to capture a sense of softness and vulnerability. Most of my muses aren’t “professional models” and I love that because they aren’t trying to portray a
look or image that they were taught is beautiful. That takes a level of vulnerability and trust that I myself am still uncomfortable with (as someone who is extremely camera shy) and I admire them so much for trusting my eye. I want to show people who may have issues with confidence or being vulnerable that its ok to be you insecurities and all.
What does minimalism mean to you? and How is this reflected aesthetically in your photos?
Minimalism to me means simplicity and more appreciation for details that usually go unnoticed. I’m a very detail oriented person, but I don’t like a lot of things going on in a blatant way. In my photos I like to keep the composition simple with a direct subject so that subject is greater appreciated.
What's next for you? Any long term plans?
I’ve been praying and manifesting that I’m able to travel soon. I have an extreme case of wanderlust with no means of just being able to get up and go (just yet). Hopefully the universe works something out soon thought. I also want to continue working with local brands and independent artists to help build their image. In the near future I would also like to do more collaborations with other photographers as far as creative directing.
Where can people find you?
I’m usually tucked away sipping coffee with my eyes glued to my laptop at one of my favorite coffee shops here in Atlanta or out exploring, but if you’re not local you can find me on Instagram @K.Meon or on Facebook at Kenya Meon.