Michael V Louis Q&A
Michael V Louis talks photography with TheBlkGaze.
My point of view as a Black man dominated by white people. The way I see this world matters because the way it is has not been designed for me to fit in, or feel like I belong, or that I truly matter.
The Black Gaze is about my point of view and narrative stopping traffic – it’s about Blacks recognising that we may be different shades of Black and Brown and yet, as a community feeling connected to each other as brothers and sisters. If you are going to refer to me as brother you better back it with affirmative action befitting a brother from another mother.
How does this relate to your photography practice?
I am not afraid to point my camera at any situation that needs a visual representation. As a Black man with a camera in my hand, I have been stopped on the streets for creating photographs innocently. I stood my ground and made these people aware of who I am and why my photojournalism matters. Every photograph I create is a self portrait and you’ll see who I am through the individual story and narrative of my work.
What do you want to say or address with your photography?
The Expression of life in all of its manifestations. Right now my camera is pointed towards my mother as we battle her ongoing dementia. My duty is to care for her and preserve her dignity in 35mm.
I am also blown away by the beauty of Black women and my ongoing project is called a Celebration of Women. This project features all woman but my muse is seeking more Black women to collaborate with. I find the human face a source of ongoing inspiration. The portrait is much more than a headshot, it’s a creative journey into the psychological construction of human identity. The identity of the Black men and women has gone through a serious transformation in the last 400 years. I hope my visual stories can encapsulate the spirit and dignity of Black people.
What influences and inspires you? How is this reflected in your work?
I am a professional magician so this in itself is beautiful. To see an amazing piece of magic and gasp in astonishment is part of my photographic armoury.
When I see the light I get excited because the light reveals a possibility, now I wait for the drama to unfold. I study the light and the gesture in each specific moment. Lighting is everything, without it I would be fumbling in the dark. My relationship to the light has been my study this year. As a magician, I see a wonderful connection here to create visual stories with my images that draw gasps of astonishment.
Who are your favourite Black photographers from the past? Why?
Mr Gordon Parks, because he saw the possibility to frame the experience of Black of people and the injustice directed at us. His work reveals our dignity with vivid and dynamic clarity. Black people created a life in a time and a place where they weren’t wanted and he was there to capture it.
I also love the work of Howard Bingham. He had the life time gig, photographing Muhammad Ali night and Day. Can you imagine doing just that? I met him and Ali at a charity show I performed at. Mr Bingham was a gentleman, full of class and dignity so much so that I am researching more Black photojournalists from the past.
Please describe the highs and lows of your experience as a Black photographer?
I have been creating images since I was 15. I’ve always had camera of some kind. I started studying the craft seriously seven years ago. At present, the only highs I have felt has been to study with my friend and mentor, Bryan Peterson. Having purchased his book, I signed up for his class in Washington D.C. The high was completing an online class with Joel Meyerowitz.
As for lows, can’t say I have had any. That said, people stopping me in the street for creating images is stupid and ignorant. I’m not easily intimidated.
What work are you producing and what more would you like to do?
‘Dementia Through My Lens’ is my current project. ‘Celebrating the Beauty in all Women’ is another. Through conversation and portraits I build up a narrative that explores how women REALLY see themselves.
My camera doesn’t come out unless rapport and connection is present. It all begins with an honest, authentic conversation.
About Michael V Louis
Michael V Louis is a London-based, visual storyteller passionate about celebrating life and capturing humanity. His work is centred on conversation, communication and self expression.
View Michael speak about how photography saved his life and career.
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The Q&A is an ongoing discussion open to Black photographers of all ages, genders and genres.