Makeda is leading a new generation of multidisciplinary artists, carving out her own lane in the world of art


Hi Makeda, tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm a 23 year old college senior and freelance photographer currently living in the mountains of North Carolina and on the internet (lol). I study journalism and Africana studies, and I write music editorial content for I'm a bit obsessed with color and storytelling, so that's how I got here.

What did you have for breakfast? Do you have an early morning ritual that prepares you for a day of creativity?

Oh my, I actually didn't have breakfast today. My appetite has been all off. But in the mornings I usually have something sweet for breakfast and I'll do some stretches and read articles. Wakes up my mind and body.

What music are you currently listening to. How does music influence your work.

I've currently got the new albums by Kelela, Sabrina Claudio and Daniel Caesar on repeat. I always go back to Sade, Musiq Soulchild, Amy. And then I gotta throw in my alternative... Mac Demarco and King Krule's new albums are love. I try to stay current with my music so I'm listening to anything new at the moment usually. Music has everything to do with my visual work. I like trying to interpret sound to color and enhance those in my work. It sounds kind of difficult but it's as simple as turning music on while I shoot or edit.



How would you describe your style of work and photography, you seem to frame a lot of your subjects in the centre. Is there a particular reason for this?

I like framing in the center because to me, it is tastefully breaking the rule of thirds by putting the person in complete control of the frame. It becomes an identification image, a photograph that is no distraction to what the person's face and body says about them. I believe representation is so important, and my subjects hold the power of their own narrative this way. 



Your online portfolio features two sections light and dark. How does your mood/emotional state influence your creative outputs.

I did that because I just really love organizing in color, and it makes for a more interesting time browsing a typical portfolio site. I love conveying mood and shedding light on the realities of mental illness in the creative world, so I always try to show that duality in my work.

Can you talk us through your creative process? What/Who are some of your biggest inspirations/influences?

My favorite shoots were done when I put a lot in the pre-process. I fleshed out my vision by writing it down, I looked at the model's experience, and I brought some people along that would help along the concept. Working with stylists or make up artists or even just a friend to assist you will add a shiny element to a photoshoot that could've just been spontaneous (which are great when they are called for, too!) My biggest inspirations are Carrie Mae Weems, Gordon Parks, and millennial photographers like Tyrone Lebon and Driely S.

One of our favourite images of yours is the image below. It’s very powerful. is there a particular story behind this image.


Thank you! We were in this mossy garden right at dusk, and I wanted to do a portrait incorporating the surroundings, so I did an in-camera double exposure right on top of the lovely model Nova's face. A really blunt juxtaposition.

Didn’t we only ever want the birds to dance above our heads? Didn’t we only ever want to get lost just to be found again?

You mentioned in one of your articles one of your family members is a poet? Do you believe that played a strong role in your journey as an artist.

Yes for sure! My mom is a poet and so am I. I adore creative written word and see it as a perfect companion to visual art. My mom combined her paintings with poetry so I love to do that when I can in my own way.. 

Your title mentions you are also a director, are there any particular stories you feel are important to tell. What are some of your favourite films?

I creative direct all my own shoots and occasional video projects, and I've recently been helping music artists with creative direction. I'm super interested in independent film and would love to be a Director of Photography a few times in my lifetime, and continue to direct some artistic projects. Some of my favorite films are American Honey, Do The Right Thing, Vanilla Sky, and Kids. 


Your quite the Polymath, how do you balance serving all your creative practices. Do you believe in honing one skill at a time or exploring as many different mediums as possible.

I love having all the outlets to let my mind be free! When I'm at my best, I'm doing a little bit of everything. Writing, photographing, sketching, collaging, singing. I also consider my spiritual practices and helping people conceptualize a bit of an art, too.

Talk to us about your experiences being a young black female artist? How does your identity impact and influence your work are there any obstacles you’ve encountered?

It's been really interesting trying to navigate the art world at a PWI in a little white hippie city. I'm met with a few doubts, a lot of microaggressions, and just not the type of love that other artists find. It's been the driving force to push me to travel, do work remotely (like write for SH), and carve out my own space and groups that make me feel comfortable in my own skin. As I'm entering into my next chapter, I hope to have a more developed skill set to be a leader out the gate from doing all this work to just exist now.


What do you love about creating/being an artist and what are the biggest challenges that face young creatives today in your opinion.

I love being a creative because the title alone makes sense of my messy, eccentric and elusive nature/personality. I come from a very beautiful, feminine creative family, and I hope to do some damage (positive, of course) in the art world to make them proud. As a young creative we have technology changing the landscape of art as we knew it growing up, every day. We have to stay on top of it, but it can work in our favor if we use it properly and stay open and ready for change.

Has there been a defining moment in your career as an artist, if so talk to us through it.

Last month I participated in my first ever group show in NY with a few other black women creatives. Super affirming for a southern girl to be included and considered a peer by inspiring young women!



What advice would you give to other young creatives?

Don't forget that you are a student of life. Listen more than you preach, especially in the time of social media and the importance of clout + coolness. Sit back and watch, all while you honor your own personal process and pace, honor your own vision. Work with people because you just can't do anything alone and without acknowledging your equals in this day and age.

Whats next for Makeda? What are some of your goals for the future?

I'm hoping to finish up college this semester and save up some money in early 2018 to travel and make an eventual move to NYC later in the year. I want to possibly start a more long term project and maybe even a short film. All in all I'd like to have more time and means to create, provide spaces, and learn about the world.

Mathieu Ajan