Vintage Resort Style Editorial Shoot by Spencer CharlesRead More
"The Girl With The Tattoo" is a visual component of my project, "A Subway In Harlem". The video stars, Debbie Snax, a young accomplished tattoo artist. The poetry in the video was written and performed by Avery Sawyers. This video is directed by Spencer Charles and Naomi Mack.
Directed by Spencer Charles & Naomi Mack
Poetry by Avery Sawyers
Starring Debbi Snax
When I was in high school, I use to catch the 31 bus up South Orange ave in Newark and get off on Stuyvesant Ave to go to the barbershop. I was in my school’s jazz band and would listen to all the new music I had to learn on my ipod while on the bus, looking out the window: speeding by chicken shacks, drug dealers on the corner, crack heads and prostitutes, little kids getting out of school, preachers standing on soapboxes, Mosques, muslims selling fruit and final calls, homeless people, teenagers dance battling, everything that made up the city. All to the sounds of Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, etc.
Last year I went back to Newark and caught an Uber from Penn station to my mom's house and took that ride up south orange ave. I was listening to "Figg get da money" by Schoolboy Q. We stopped at the light on Stuyvesant ave and I instantly got the inspiration for A Subway In Harlem.
"Harlem" to me is a metaphor for black culture. From the Harlem Renaissance to For Colored Girls, Malcolm X to Dapper Dan, The Apollo to Rich Porter; Harlem has served as an epicenter for black culture since the early 1900's.
A Subway In Harlem is about the beauty of Urban Culture. It's black as hell. It pulls inspiration from all aspects of black culture, from Hip Hop (A Subway) to the Harlem Renaissance. I watched the movie “Belly” 20 times and was inspired by Hype Williams’ use of color, tone, and high contrast on black skin, and used it to help convey my vision.
My intentions for this project was to show appreciation for urban culture by creating beautiful imagery using black bodies. One of my favorite quotes in life is from Ol Dirty Bastard, "Wu Tang Is For The Children." To me, Wu Tang represents Hip Hop culture and the children is the world. Black people are the most innovative people in the world; We inspire everything - all genres of music, sports, high fashion etc. Our style, our vernacular, our bodies, our music.
In a time where black men and women are getting killed by police at an alarming rate, when there's a lot of tension in the country and people are losing hope, while gentrification is happening everywhere and pushing us out of our communities, I just want to portray something beautiful to remind black people, we’re beautiful.
Last year, as I started working on my new project, "A Subway In Harlem," I rewatched the movie Belly. The color theory and imagery Hype Williams put into the film made Belly one of my main visual inspirations for my project. There's a scene when they go back to Buns' (DMX) house after robbing the club and Sincere (Nas) is sitting underneath this huge black and white photography. That piece, as well as the other pieces hanging around Buns' house in the scene are from a collection called "Soul" by fashion photographer Thierry Le Goues. Goues' "Soul" is the direct inspiration behind this series, "Liberation", as well as one of the main inspirations for A Subway In Harlem.
I named this series "Liberation" after the Outkast song off of Aquemini. The lyrics read:
There's a fine line between love and hate you see,
came way too late by baby i'm on it.
Can't worry 'bout what another nigga think
thats liberation and baby I want it
Those words mirror an internal struggle i've been having for quite some time now. As I began this project, I noticed I was moving far away from the style I became popular for. I became bored with everything I was working on. I became tired of being put in a box of only being able to shoot a certain style. I got tired of being overlooked. I also feared moving into a new style of turn a lot of people off. I started creating with what people wanted to see from me in mind and that's never the way to go. So I took a leap of faith and started creating new styles. I started posting less on social media and began focusing on bettering my style and craft. I was afraid people weren't going to like any of my new work. But I ran into a mentor to me, Chilly O and he gave some simple yet extremely comforting words. He simply said, "I see you, keep it up." He told me he could tell i'm trying to move into a fine art realm and that i'm doing well. That gave me all the confidence I needed.
Liberation: Photo Series 2017
Photographer: Spencer Charles
Model: Tiffany Toffey
A Subway In Harlem Collection coming soon...
Photography by Spencer Charles
Design by Marina Skye
Model: Nia Janay
Art Direction for Voudoir Lingerie, a vintage lingerie company based in Atlanta, GA.
Photography & Creative Direction by Spencer Charles
BLOOM is a garden theme photo series
Photography by Spencer Charles
Set Design by Leah R.
Models: Ericka Ajanae, Nia Janay, Briahna Michelle