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Black Photographers Speak From Behind 'The Black Shutter'

Students celebrate their graduation from Howard University at the end of the 148th Commencement ceremony, at the Upper Quandrangle on campus, on May 7, 2016. Washington, D.C. photojournalist and professor Cheriss May spoke about her photography on <em>The Black Shutter Podcast.</em>
Students celebrate their graduation from Howard University at the end of the 148th Commencement ceremony, at the Upper Quandrangle on campus, on May 7, 2016. Washington, D.C. photojournalist and professor Cheriss May spoke about her photography on <em>The Black Shutter Podcast.</em>

The newly launched is already gaining attention in the creative community for its focus on people historically left out of the picture: Black photographers, filmmakers, editors and other like-minded creatives.

"The term 'Black shutter' is how Black photographers see the world," says co-creator Idris Talib Solomon. "So any Black person with a camera has a Black shutter, because you document the world the way that you see it based on your lived experiences."

The show, which started in March 2020, has put out more than two dozen conversations with Black photographers doing photojournalism, portraits, fashion, documentaries and other visual work.

"The term 'Black shutter' is how Black photographers see the world," says co-creator Idris Talib Solomon (left). "So any Black person with a camera has a Black shutter, because you document the world the way that you see it based on your lived experiences." Right: Leslie Ogoe.
/ The Black Shutter Podcast
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"The term 'Black shutter' is how Black photographers see the world," says co-creator Idris Talib Solomon (left). "So any Black person with a camera has a Black shutter, because you document the world the way that you see it based on your lived experiences." Right: Leslie Ogoe.

Solomon, an award-winning photojournalist and art director, hosts and produces the show. His partner Leslie Ogoe runs the business and operations.

Solomon wanted to create the show as a resource for Black and brown creatives, to "shift our perspective on who the masters of photography are," he says. "Because the masters of photography have always been white people."

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia and Rep. John Lewis prepare to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015.
Lawrence Jackson / The White House
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President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia and Rep. John Lewis prepare to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015.

The show's first episode is with Brooklyn-based portrait and sports photographer Anthony Geathers, whose time as a machine gunner of the Marine Corps, deployed twice to Afghanistan, allowed him to work on projects like Embed, which documented Marines and Navy sailors.

In another episode, photographer Lawrence Jackson discussed his journey to becoming an official White House photographer in the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on the steps of the North Portico of the White House prior to the arrivals of the U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit, May 13, 2016.
Lawrence Jackson / The White House
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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on the steps of the North Portico of the White House prior to the arrivals of the U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit, May 13, 2016.

Other episodes include Army veteran Michael A. McCoy, whose struggle with PTSD made him realize the importance of photographing the humanity of veterans. Khalik Allah, a street, portrait and documentary photographer, discussed his responsibility to capture the humanity of people often disregarded by society.

The show also talked to photographer Kris Graves, who took an iconic photo during the height of Black Lives Matter protests in Richmond, Va., last summer. It shows George Floyd's face and the letters "BLM" projected onto a graffiti-covered statue of Robert E. Lee.

"George Floyd Projection," Richmond, Va., 2020.
/ Kris Graves
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"George Floyd Projection," Richmond, Va., 2020.

Solomon recalls that "a lot of my fellow photographers were getting called to photograph these protests." He mentions that Black photographers might get attention during Black History Month. But shouldn't agencies call on Black photographers "for all types of stories, not just the Black-centric ones?" he asks. "So that we can bring that Black shutter kind of perspective to all types of different stories."

Left: "Discoverer of America," Syracuse, N.Y., 2019. Right: "The Murder of Michael Brown," Ferguson, Mo., 2016.
/ Kris Graves
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Left: "Discoverer of America," Syracuse, N.Y., 2019. Right: "The Murder of Michael Brown," Ferguson, Mo., 2016.

Ultimately, The Black Shutter Podcast serves as a platform for Black photographers to share their stories, struggles and achievements.

Solomon and Ogoe each has a long story about how they came to champion photography as an art form.

Solomon describes himself as being a "restless creative" from a young age. "I've been a creative thinker for all of my life," he recalls.

As a child in New York, "I grew up drawing comic books," he says. "I would flip the comic books and find a page that had the best drawing. And there was always one page that was supposed to be like the highlight page — like that's the one you could tell the artist went in on, you know? And it's usually like a whole spread."

The podcast's 17th episode features New York-based portrait photographer, painter and illustrator Nichole Washington. Left: "The Choice Is Yours," photo, gouache and acrylic on canvas. 36x48 inches. Right: "The Keepers," photo, gouache and acrylic on canvas. 30x40 inches.
/ Nichole Washington
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The podcast's 17th episode features New York-based portrait photographer, painter and illustrator Nichole Washington. Left: "The Choice Is Yours," photo, gouache and acrylic on canvas. 36x48 inches. Right: "The Keepers," photo, gouache and acrylic on canvas. 30x40 inches.

"So I would read the comic, and then I would land on that page with the spread and be like, cool. Now I'm going to draw it."

Solomon graduated from Binghamton University, where he majored in computer arts and graphic design, and became a freelance photojournalist in New York City. He's had works published in The New York Times, Bloomberg News and the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

Ogoe, on the other hand, found early inspiration in rap videos from Bad Boy Records. "We had cool stuff like Kid 'n Play and all that stuff, but I don't know why Bad Boy made me be like, 'Yo! I want to be a choreographer or a director.' " he says. "It just really touched me."

Khalik Allah
/ Khalik Allah/Magnum Photos, courtesy Gitterman Gallery
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He went on to study marketing at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., before working at "every odd job in New York."

The two creators first crossed paths in 2012 when Solomon began freelancing at the advertising firm where Ogoe was working. What started out as just the occasional nod and small talk in the company kitchen developed into a creative partnership and friendship.

Khalik Allah
/ Khalik Allah/Magnum Photos, courtesy Gitterman Gallery
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"It's that funny Black man thing in advertising. When you see another brother, you want to know who he is, but you're still too cool to be like, yo, let me just go over there and say, 'What's up?' " Ogoe recalls.

Each now has a job outside of the podcast — Solomon as an art director at HBO, Ogoe as a program manager at Google. But they're hoping to expand their work on Black Shutter to make it a production company and move into film.

"We want to be able to do it as big as the majors and employ young Black people," Ogoe says. "We just want to see our faces."

"We want to be able to do it as big as the majors and employ young Black people," Ogoe says. "We just want to see our faces." Left: Idris Talib Solomon; Right: Leslie Ogoe
/ The Black Shutter Podcast
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"We want to be able to do it as big as the majors and employ young Black people," Ogoe says. "We just want to see our faces." Left: Idris Talib Solomon; Right: Leslie Ogoe

Follow@blackshutterpodcaston Instagram.

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