a quick chat with photographer shaniqwa jarvis

Photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis’ work is “female, black and brimming with raucous, positive vibrations”.

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Jul 19 2018, 2:36pm

Photography Shaniqwa Jarvis

Last week, much-loved NY photographer, long-term i-D contributor and all round awesome person Shanqiwa Jarvis held a pop up exhibition in east London to mark the release of her debut photo book, published by Baque Creative Press, late last year.

The book -- a blend of modern fashion photography with the unfiltered emotion of art portraiture -- features just some of Shaniqwa’s best-loved imagery. On the cover is a photograph of her niece, Madison Anderson, wearing Shaniqwa’s clothes and using her phone, while inside there are 160-colourful pages full of the people and places that make up Shaniqwa’s world.

From her now infamous Bathroom Portrait series, shot in the toilets of bars in the early 00s and featuring snaps of pro skateboarder and Kids star Harold Hunter in the Cherry Tavern, and fellow photographer and Parson’s student Ryan McGinley at The Hole, to portraits of SZA, Lee Scratch Perry, George Condo and Cardi B, together with a few requisite selfies – obvs - the book is visual proof of the power of following your dreams.

We caught up with Sheeks while she was in London to chat photography, speaking your truth and the three rules she lives by…

How would you describe your photography?
My images are an invitation to join me on a journey to see the world from my vantage point -- one that is female, black, tirelessly hardworking and brimming with raucous, positive vibrations!

What picture are you most proud of in your career so far?
My photographs of Ericka Hart for the cover of Riposte. When I first met Ericka, she told me that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age she searched online for images to see what she would look like after a double mastectomy. In her search she couldn’t find any images of black women. So she thought if she could flood the internet with images of herself after a double mastectomy then other black women would see them. A gesture I took to heart and felt it was most important to get beautiful images.

When and where did you start your career in photography?
I started in NYC, shortly after skipping out of Parsons in the late 90s.

What photograph has inspired you the most over the years?
Every single photo in Carrie Mae Weems’ The Kitchen Table Series.

You work with a lot of celebrities, who’s been your favourite to photograph to date?
Lee Scratch Perry, without a doubt. Throughout our shoot he was rambling on about life and I kept thinking ‘what is he going on about?!’ In the moment nothing made sense, but now when I think back to that moment in his house I realise his ramblings made all the sense! We also have the same birthday.

How do you ensure your subjects feel confident and relaxed in front of the camera?
I remain confident and relaxed! Real recognises real.

If you could photograph anyone, past or present, who would you photograph?
Big Daddy Kane circa 1988.

What’s the best thing about working as a photographer?
People are amazing.

What’s the worst thing about working as a photographer?
People are disgusting.

What’s your proudest achievement to date?
Mastering Janet Jackson’s Pleasure Principle choreography and also gaining a voice and presence in an essentially male dominated arena.

What three rules do you live by?
Get greens in every meal. Speak the truth. Treat people how you’d like to be treated yourself.

If you weren’t working as a photographer, what would you be doing?
I’d be a child psychologist.

What advice would you give young photographers hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Carve your own path. Dig into yourself and find out what it is you truly have to say.

Finish the sentence; photography is…
The way I’ve chosen to communicate while on this planet.