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Portrait Studies: Hack

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Born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn, Hackquan Sylvester Williams AKA Hack is a writer, performance artist and creative director. Not one to shy away from a camera, he has also served as a visual ambassador for clothing brands such as NY State of Mind and Dope Clothing.

Hack is an undeniably charming individual who knows how to “carry” a room. As soon as we met up on a balmy Saturday afternoon I felt immediately at ease; his charisma and natural confidence made for a seamless shoot, complete with him inadvertently art directing another photo shoot down the street.

JazzandHack-31As we sat down for a round of drinks he divulged childhood stories about sticky summer commutes to church in East Flatbush, the array of comic books he would write at the tender age of 5, the intuitive history teacher who soon changed his life. The retelling of the stories was as notable as the stories themselves; Hack spoke with wide-eyed passion and vivid accuracy about the formative years of his life.

JazzandHack-32Aside from directing and modeling for arthouse shoots, Hack is currently recording his EP under the mentorship of Duckdown Production’s co-founder Buckshot. Check out his work here.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Portrait Studies: Jazz

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Jazz is a classical pianist, violinist, MPH candidate and culture/lifestyle photographer based in Brooklyn. A woman of many talents, Jazz is passionate about redefining the modern narrative on black cultural identity through her photography and musical literacy. She can be seen lugging her Nikon to various hip-hop events and has an impressive clientele including OkayPlayer, The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and the legendary Erykah Badu.

In fact, Jazz was literally “hand-picked” by Erykah amidst a crowd of fans at an outdoor event celebrating 25 years of Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” back in summer of 2014. Was it her aura? The Nikon DSLR dangling from her neck? We will never know. Whatever the case, Erykah pulled Jazz out of the crowd and immediately enlisted her as her personal photographer for the day. This serendipitous encounter led to consequential BTS shoots and Erykah’s appearance in Grillz, one of Jazz’s celebrated photography projects.

JazzandHack-2-2Aside from Grillz, Jazz is currently working on a myriad of photo series including Festival Faces, a vivid documentation of eclectic festival goers, and The Public Health Project, a collection of photo essays depicting public health issues such as the “McDonaldization” of the food and fashion industries and occupational hazards in the postindustrial world.

Jazz’s artistic capabilities belie her warm and unassuming personality. We met up on a balmy Saturday evening in Bushwick and shot in and around the neighborhood while geeking out over Debussy and camera gear. The shoot was followed by a round of drinks as the sun fell over the beautifully marred warehouse districts of Bushwick.

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JazzandHack-24Following her stint at George Washington University, Jazz will be permanently relocating back to NYC at the end of this month. We’re lucky to have you back! In the meanwhile, check out her work here and here.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Jam Sessions: X Black Superheroes

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X Black Superheroes is an eclectic hiphop group known for their provocative bass lines and hardbitten lyrics dealing with issues of marginalization and cultural identity. I was privileged enough to spend an evening with them at Funkadelic Studios during one of their intimate rehearsal sessions.

As soon as I entered the studio, I was welcomed by the always lovely Rachel Burrell. Sefu, Tyrone, Real Theme and Baassik warmly acknowledged me as I set up my kit in the cramped quarters. Harsh overhead light illuminated the myriad of dials on the amplifier, the snake-like cables on the floor, the hollows of everyone’s cheeks. We spent the rest of the evening steeped in Rachel and Sefu’s alternating deep tenor vocals.

XBlackSuperheroes-7X Black Superheroes will be performing at The Delancey on 7/31. Check out their Facebook page to find out more.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Portrait Studies: Nkoula and Marcus

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I first encountered Nkoula and Marcus after shooting with Ntangou. As I passed by the sitting room, I caught a glimpse of the two of them nestled together on the couch, watching TV. Nkoula’s petite frame curled into Marcus’ arms ever so perfectly. We exchanged a couple words, and I left. The entire train ride home I remember kicking myself for not snapping a photo, as they looked so stunning in the fading sun.

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nkoula-markus-12Cut to: today. I am so very excited to share with you guys my second ever couples’ shoot with the beautiful Nkoula and Marcus whom I first encountered nearly three months ago. The shoot fell on a quintessential New York summer day where the air hung low, weighed down by humidity and the aroma of scorched asphalt. As usual, Nkoula ushered me into her home with a bright, contagious smile. We continued to shoot right where I saw them first — the sitting room.

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nkoula-markus-3Nkoula and Marcus met serendipitously on the beach about a year ago. Marcus, having quit a string of odd jobs to pursue an acting career, was at an interesting juncture in his life. Though he was never particularly keen on beaches, he headed to Rockaway Beach to meet some friends where Nkoula happened to be attending an event. Several events later, they were inseparable.

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nkoula-markus-14The chemistry between Nkoula and Marcus is palpable, to say the least. Even during the brief hour that I got to spend with them, I could sense a deep and unwavering friendship beneath the many layers of love and tenderness.

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nkoula-markus-10I live for moments like these. No words, no pretense – just raw and unfettered emotion manifested through the intertwining of bodies. My heartfelt thanks to Nkoula and Marcus for letting me into such an intimate corner of their universe.

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nkoula-markus-17Here’s to love.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Portrait Studies: Nkoula

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Upon entering the Badila apartment, I was ushered in by the riveting sound of fast-paced drumming and melodic chanting coming from the sitting room. The windows were wide open, letting in that New York summer breeze — two parts humidity, one part morning briskness with a tinge of Haitian BBQ from around the corner. The jam session went on as I let myself into the kitchen, a sun-drenched oasis of potted plants and mementos resting on the window pane beside a rusty radiator.

I had originally come here to get measured for a custom order with fashion designer/seamstress Ngonda of Stitch ‘n Run. This twenty-minute affair somehow turned into an hour-long impromptu shoot with jewel maker Nkoula. This is why I love Brooklyn. This is why I love New York.

nkoula-9Nkoula is a mixed media jewelry maker and entrepreneur who runs her own jewelry business, Nkodia. Nkodia is Congolese for “spiral” — the word signifies the delicate rings of a ripple reverberating across a lake as well as the metaphysical spiral of life. Nkoula’s work is deeply inspired by nature; delicate flower petals are often paired with grounding crystals and ivory-colored stone teeth. Her pieces are lovingly woven together by intricate threading and bead patterns; they range from whispy bracelets to elaborate tops (worn here) and headpieces.

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nkoula-3A Hudson-native, Nkoula moved to NYC around the same time that I did — nearly a year ago. During this time, she has flourished as an artist and fallen in love, all while feathering her nest in Crown Heights. When I asked her if New York was a forever place for her, she grew thoughtful. “I need to be somewhere warm, somewhere with nature,” she replied.

nkoula-2I couldn’t help but agree with her. Never have I ever been so appreciative of nature’s offerings before I moved here to the city of steaming garbage and dimly-lit stairways. Still, we both acknowledged that New York has a gravitational pull that cannot be replicated by picturesque valleys and crystal-clear lakes. Perhaps only amidst the slow burn of depravity can one truly wade into the deeper ends of their soul.

nkoula-5Check out Nkoula’s work here. For inquiries, email her at nkbadila@yahoo.com.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.