AS

It all started with courage. 

Standing at the corner of 12th and Franklin outside of iCamera, a re-sale and camera repair shop in Downtown Oakland, I had a decision to make. Continue taking pictures with my phone or graduate to something that required more technique. Buying a camera may not seem like a courageous act but I was newly unemployed and living in one of the most expensive parts of the country, not to mention I had a habit of abandoning new and difficult challenges. Tapping into my funds for a DSLR felt like a high risk with no guaranteed reward. I knew that I loved taking pictures but I questioned whether or not I could be great photographer. Standing on that corner with me, my friend Mandela said with a reassuring voice, “It’s time yo!” 

On December 14, 2016 I purchased my first digital camera.

Confusion rears its ugly head.

With my gently used Rebel T5i in tote, I headed out into the world to create. In my most optimistic voice, I told myself, “This is going to be a pleasant and painless experience!” I was so wrong. “Why are there so many buttons on this thing.” “What’s ISO?” “Which setting should I shoot in?” “Auto focus or manual?” The questions came by the dozen. Feeling overwhelmed and defeated by confusion, I sat my camera down. It was now room decor! I gave up. And with my head held low, I returned to an industry that I didn’t want to be apart of, holding a job position I knew wouldn’t bring the freedom that I wanted. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. 

Special arrival from Houston. 

It’s May 2017 and one of my closest friends was in the Bay Area for the first time! Dana is a entrepreneur, business owner, cosmetologist, and stylist. I assumed her visit would be all fun and girlfriend games but she flew into Northern California and gave me the read of my life. “What are you doing out here Amanda?” “Why does that camera have dust on it?” “Your laptop’s broke?” “You’re working where!” We had a conversation about hustle, flow and commitment that resurrected my creative spirit. Dana’s visit was the revival I desperately needed. 

Committing to commitment. 

My camera was now with me at all times. Emphasis on all. I was still intimidated by it but determination always beats intimidation. My subliminal pledge to myself was to have fun, be myself and learn at a comfortable pace. I made myself available for opportunities to learn my tool and to practice cultivating my eye. I turned to YouTube for tutorials, I read books, I went to other artists for advice, I attended photography meet-ups and I joined a creative club hosted by the Blackmail Collective. Something that helped me tremendously were the Live Learning classes that Canon hosts in San Francisco. The inexpensive, lectures and workshops at Canon teach Creative Composition, Advance Auto Focus Techniques, Beginning DSLR Photography and so much more. Attending, Own Your Own: The Power of Entrepreneurship and Controlling Your Narrative curated by Third Space Media, was another workshop that inspired me to not only commit to photography but to an entrepreneurial lifestyle as well.  

Faith. 

It's July 2017 and I'm asking God for help. There are subconscious and conscious Christian ideologies swimming within me, that help me approach God for all life circumstances. Creativity now included. I asked God to help me become the best photographer that I could be. Surrendering control over my creative life provided me with growth and opportunities I never imagined. 

A respectable email. 

On a late August afternoon, my friend Cinque and I are sitting outside Farley’s East having coffee and of course talking photography, when I get the email of my life. It’s Trey, a Developer from the Oakland Museum of California. I’m speed reading through his message and pause immediately when my eyes land on a sentence that says, “We’d like to have you come by the museum and meet with our team of curators.” I was in complete awe! OMCA wants to meet with me? See my portfolio? Have me participate in an upcoming exhibition? 

All is well. 

Being invited to participate in a prestigious exhibition at an early stage in my artistic career was intimidating. I was excited and extremely grateful but also nervous about showing work on a large scale. But all was and is well. The team of curators at OMCA, Trey Amos, Penny Jennings, Rene de Guzman, and Scott Moulton helped me to see myself and my photography in a new light. This chapter of my life has been about perseverance, diligence, esteem, friendship, art, love and community. My contribution to RESPECT: Hip Hop Style & Wisdom features 20 images (all captured in 2017) that are a small fraction of what I saw while falling in love with photography, with myself and with Oakland. The images will be on display at the Oakland Museum of California from March 24-August 12, 2018.