Apple gave more than 30 Black Photographers, a new iPhone 12 Pro, to capture and share their hometowns with their special lens, all captured on iPhone 12 Pro, during the celebration of Black History Month. Throughout the US, these photographers set out to highlight the people who represent their local society, and the pockets of their towns.
The iPhone 12 Pro helped Julien James, a local photographer in Washington, D.C., extend the world around his subjects. “My favorite camera to shoot with is the iPhone because it’s in my pocket and I can take it anywhere,” he says. “Since it’s nearest to the human eye, I normally shoot 50 millimeters. I want everything I shoot to reflect or be as close as possible to what we see naturally, so I was very shocked to see how Ultra Wide was actually shot by the iPhone 12 Pro.”
Five photographers from Washington, D.C., Chicago’s Bronzeville area, Manhattan Beach in Southern California, Downtown Detroit, and the Bronx, New York, give a peek into their local communities.
Black comes in numerous skin tones, hair colors, sounds, dialects and languages, and cultures. More of a continuum, it is. Black people come from all over the United States and the world to Washington, D.C. to research, work, engage in politics, and they all carry their own cultures. It’s this big pot of flavor. D.C. The.C. They have a significant population of West Africans and the largest population of Ethiopia outside Ethiopia, and they contribute to the fabric of the Black culture.
Then there are the native Washingtonians who created music for Go-Go, fashion trends, and even the culture of bike-life. All add them to the pot. In these photos of Nate, Taryn, and Chris, I tried to capture the richness of Black culture, and especially in D.C. All of them are so special and distinct, from their sense of fashion to the texture of their hair to their cultural upbringing.
Nate has this great energy, even his facial expressions embody D.C.’s vibe. “I usually focus on a lot of direct eye contact when I shoot. The Ultra-Wide camera allows me to get up really close to someone, still, catch that direct eye contact, but also catch a ton of information in the background that paints a fuller story,” Nate said.
I wanted to capture the essence of Chicago and its excellence. Bronzeville has enabled the careers of many jazz, blues, and gospel musicians, so I wanted to capture Sam in his element, playing his trumpet, while also placing him in the history of the neighborhood. The South Shore Drill Team also has a deep history in Chicago. Shooting with iPhone 12 Pro allowed me to place both Sam and the band members in these locations, and immediately see them through a new light. I was blown away by the speed of the camera and my ability to quickly edit these color shots to be black and white, adding to their historic, timeless feel.
Since I was young, my mom taught me the importance of knowing our history. She also taught me that everything Black was excellent. Malcolm X was excellent. Martin Luther King Jr. was excellent. I grew up in Italy, where schools didn’t really teach African American history, so my mother made sure that I knew about the leaders and movements of my people. As a photographer, my job is to document the Black experience in Chicago. My hope is that the stories I’m telling will help in changing the narrative of what Chicago is to the rest of the world.
El Porto in Manhattan Beach has a history of redlining Black people from the area. Throughout the history of the US, Black people have been relegated from recreational spaces, like surfing the breaks in Manhattan Beach. Marikah and Ludine show resilience and power — that Black women can do whatever we want to do if we put our minds to it and have access to it. I wanted to visually call upon surf archives to show the parallels between surfing then and now, and show Black women occupying this space and looking like they belong.
I’m a third-generation Detroiter. Mom worked in a bank; Dad worked on the assembly line in the auto industry as his dad did before him. I’m from the West Side. Most of our neighbors knew one another, and contrary to the narratives people often hear, there were many families on our street and a genuine sense of community. The neighborhood wasn’t perfect, but there was a sense of pride in hardworking middle-class life. So I try to look for glimmers of that pride. Sometimes it’s manifest on the faces of Detroiters just going about their lives on the street; other times it’s in the physical place itself, in the beauty of Detroit spaces and the energy of the city.
These images have a lot of dimensionality to them. I shot architecture because I wanted to see how iPhone 12 Pro performs with extreme highlights and extreme shadows in the same image. Without needing to edit the images, they pop right away.
I think of Blackness as a shared socioeconomic bond that is almost universally understood by Black people. It’s “Joy and Pain,” as Frankie Beverly would sing. It’s a legacy of surviving and even thriving despite certain forces that would perhaps rather not even see us exist. It’s in the way we attack problems, and it’s in our intellectual view of the world around us. It’s the good that we’ve built and the bad that we’ve endured, which makes us defiant toward opposing forces but also sympathetic to individuals we don’t even know. It’s a mutual appreciation that we are collectively running the same gauntlet, no matter what city we live in.
Black is generational. It’s about family and the places that have meaning to us. I tried to bring a sense of intimacy and authenticity of the everyday New Yorker to these images by featuring close friends and family members who are all from where I’m from. Featuring them in our uptown neighborhood gives people from other parts of the world an organic look into these real, true parts of New York.
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