Micaiah Carter and The New Black Renaissance

Portrait of Micaiah Carter wearing baseball cap and yellow t-shirt on blue background

Micaiah Carter and The New Black Renaissance | In episode 67 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits sits down with photographer Micaiah Carter.

Only 25 years old, Micaiah Carter is a highly sought after photographer. He shot The Weeknd for the cover of Time magazine straight out of Parsons Design School in New York. Now he gets prime assignments shooting the likes of Selena Gomez, SIA, The Weeknd, Pharrell, Jennifer Lopez, and Naomi Osaka. Micaiah joins us on Light Culture to talk about his shoots with the stars and what it’s like being in the spotlight as a young black creative.

Read Transcript

Q&A

David: [00:00:00] 

In these times of so-called minorities speaking up and demanding to be heard and seen, and the creative industries starting to heed that call, it’s opened the doors for artists whose work has been marginalized. Unlike the music world, where the masses vote with their dollars, the calibration in art institutions, magazines, and advertising agencies is still in its very early stages. One such artist, photographer with his foot firmly in the door is Micaiah Carter, who seems to have arrived on the public stage fully formed. Fresh out of college at the age of twenty-one, he was already being profiled in Vice Magazine as a photographer who knew exactly what he wanted. The precocious Brooklyn resident had his missions statement down, and he hasn’t had to change it. “I really want my photography to be a quality platform for representation of people of color that hasn’t been seen before.” He’s already been featured in the book and exhibit The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion. He shot pop stars like SIA Selena Gomez. And his clients include everyone from Tom Brown, Vanity Fair, Vogue, to you name it. Including the Wall Street Journal, Nike, Puma, Adidas, and many more. Welcome, Micaiah.

 

Micaiah: [00:01:26] 

Hey, thank you for having me.

 

David: [00:01:27] 

My pleasure.. So you’ve done quite a bit already. Ready to retire yet or what?

 

Micaiah: [00:01:34] 

It feels like it sometimes when it gets really intense. But, nah, I’m really excited about everything that’s going on, and the opportunities that have been given to me.

 

David: [00:01:44] 

You’re twenty-five-years-old now. You’re still young.

 

Micaiah: [00:01:49] 

Yes. I just turned twenty-five in June.

 

David: [00:01:51] 

So tell me about The New Black Vanguard. What is that all about?

 

Micaiah: [00:01:57] 

That was a book that Antwuan Sargent put together, along with Aperture. For that Vice article when I first got out of college, Antwuan and me connected. We always have been close, and he’s kind of been watching my work. There was an influx of black photographers coming out of college during that time. And seeing it come out maybe two years, three years after and, the broad perspective of how the shift is happening in image making today, with not just what is in front of the camera but also what is in the back of the camera. It was a book that showcased the world where it’s at, culturally. Not just in America but all over the world.

 

David: [00:02:47] 

What made you want to be a photographer? At that particular time? As you said, it seemed like an increase in the number of people wanting to do photography. What happened?

 

Micaiah: [00:03:04] 

My dad was a big influence to why I got into the arts. He was a Vietnam war veteran, but at the same time he was really into technology. So he was really into cameras and videotapes, and different things like that. So when I was a kid, I would always want to take photos on the disposable cameras. I would try to get those 3D cameras, those panoramic cameras I really liked, experimenting with that at a young age. But I didn’t really consider it as a full career. My parents let me go to Parsons in New York, I’m originally from the High Desert in Victorville, California. Going from there to New York City was a big shift for me.

 

Micaiah: [00:03:51] 

I didn’t really think that I would be a photographer, per say, I just wanted to work in the photography realm. But I wanted to major in photography because I wanted to focus my energy into something that I really wanted to do. But I think it was after the fact, where I saw people recognizing the stuff that I was doing. Not only as a photographer, but as almost a creative director to direct my own shoots. I wanted to be a photo editor for Time Magazine. That was something I really wanted to work towards, cause I knew that’s something that I could do with my degree. But I never thought it would flip the other way until Time Magazine asked me to shoot a cover for them. Since then, it snowballed.

 

David: [00:04:42] 

What did they see at Time Magazine of your work that made them think you’d be right for that? And what did you shoot for them?

 

Micaiah: [00:04:50] 

I shot The Weeknd for an international cover in 2016, 2017. Paul Moakley, he saw my work at the show that we had for Parsons. Because they have a BFA show. They had it at Milk Studios, and it’s a big event that they have in- in the city, in Manhattan. And, I won, along with two other people, Best of Show for that class. So I think he saw my work that way, and that’s how we connected after that.

 

David: [00:05:23] 

What was the image? What did you shoot for the show?

 

Micaiah: [00:05:29] 

It was an image from this book that I’m working on, or this thesis, Ninety-Five Forty-Eight, which kind of talks about the relationship between my dad and me. With him being twenty in the Vietnam War and the Black Power Movement, and me being twenty now kind of going through the same resurgence in the media. And how it’s kind of shifting in the same realm with everything going on with Black Lives Matter, as well.

 

Micaiah: [00:05:56] 

So it’s something I was working on. It was a portrait of a guy wearing a durag, but he was dressed like he was in the ’70s. But it had this urban feel.

 

David: [00:06:08] 

So your dad, let’s talk about him you said he was in the Vietnam War.

 

Micaiah: [00:06:15] 

Mhm.

 

David: [00:06:15] 

And- you were living up in the High Desert in California, and he was also involved in the Black Power Movement of those days? The Black Panthers or was it in Oakland?

 

Micaiah: [00:06:25] 

Well, my dad’s originally from Kentucky. From Louisville, Kentucky. He got drafted in the war, cause he was working at IBM before, and he decided to take the Air Force route, which I guess was more not being on the field. He ended up getting on the front line. When he finished that, he came back to California, and he started a coalition with a lot of other black soldiers and people with different religions to have a safe haven, to be themselves and have these discussions that were going on throughout the world. Because when he came back from the Vietnam War, America was a different place, than when he left. It was inspiring to see his initiative for communal support, not only for people to get together, but also for people to really feel seen and have their words be heard.

 

David: [00:07:31] 

When he came back, was it the Civil Rights Movement, or Martin Luther King marching, or what? 

 

Micaiah: [00:07:38] 

No. It was the war on drugs.

 

David: [00:07:40] 

Oh.

 

Micaiah: [00:07:41] 

That when he came back. It was during that time.

 

David: [00:07:45] 

You feel like you’re continuing the legacy. And I’ve seen some of the photos, which you are actually paying homage to his photos by casting, similar people in today’s world. That replicates images that he had created. Is that part of what you’re doing in the book?

 

Micaiah: [00:08:07] 

Yeah. Exactly. Because a lot of the photos that he has, I call them characters because, I guess, in the ’70s, the way people dressed was so different, their own personal style. I think that was really reflected. That was super inspiring to me, seeing people in my own community as well. That’s where that inspiration comes from.

 

David: [00:08:30] 

Is he still alive, your dad?

 

Micaiah: [00:08:32] 

Yeah. He’s still allive.

 

David: [00:08:34] He’s, I’m sure, very proud of you. He feels like you’re really carrying on his work in many ways. As a photographer and also as an activist. I know you’ve organized, to help raise money, in the group, See In Black?

 

Micaiah: [00:08:56] 

Yeah. See In Black. Yeah, he’s really proud of me. I think he can see his inspiration in everything that I’m doing, and he’s really proud of that. See In Black is an organization that I started with my other friend, Joshua Kissi. Me and him are co-founders. It’s a coalition of black photographers that act as that same safe haven. We’re not representing these artists, but we are saying that we all are in this together. This push for how the world is shifting now with media.

 

David: [00:09:35] 

Well, let’s talk about that. Shifting in media to the extent that, as I mentioned in my introduction, that a lot of these previously boarded up institutions, corporate and otherwise, have, basically profited off of black culture. Whereas, you know, not really working with the creators. 

 

David: [00:10:05] 

It would be very difficult for people to break in. So do you think that things are changing now, significantly?

 

Micaiah: [00:10:13] 

Yeah. A hundred percent. It’s getting more visibility in a more direct way as a unit. For people to not only find photographers they have never heard of especially in America because of everything that’s going on with the Black Lives Matter Movement kind of originated here. But also taking in the different perspectives that each of us as a black photographer bring. Not only as us all being black, but as our humanistic and our own personal differences that make us all unique on our own. And I think that was so important to kind of have in there, so everyone’s not pigeonholed to just doing black assignments, per say. Even right now I know a few of the photographers on that list have shot Time covers now. And doing really other great things.

 

David: [00:11:12] 

But yeah, and I know you mentioned this and I think it’s something worth thinking about. Though maybe it’s a little premature, who knows. What I’m referring to is, using black photographers to shoot black people is something, right, that is happening now. The next stage is you sort of have to give up some of your identity, politics in one hand, because you also want to be recognized just for your work, right? Not just only for your identity. And, it’s probably gonna be a lot harder for them to start thinking of you and other people of color to work in those contexts.

 

Micaiah: [00:12:04] 

No. Exactly. I think that’s very true. Um. For sure.

 

David: [00:12:12] 

But does that matter to you, in a way? Jamel Shabazz did brilliant work shooting street, totally street photography, right? He was exclusively shooting people of his world as seen on the street.

 

David: [00:12:45] 

Obviously, giving props to their fashion and- and sensibility. Today we look back at them and go, “Wow. Look.” And that’s a whole other story that has been coming up. The hidden history of a black fashion, black art, all this stuff that hasn’t been recognized up until now. He’s made himself known and famous in the context of just shooting this one particular thing. You’re trying to do something bigger than that. Or not bigger. Let’s- I don’t want to make, you know, a judgment on it. But let’s say different.

 

Micaiah: [00:13:27] 

Yeah. I mean, I think it’s super important for people of color and black people to see ourselves in our own light, by shooting our own people too. But I also think, yeah, it’s making it bigger than that to not just have it pigeonholed. Because I know, you know, it could only be a photographer that would only shoot black assignments, but they’re interested in doing a plethora of things. I think that’s the most important part of understanding that, yes, it’s very important, and I stand for it. And with my work too that I’ve been doing. But even with my own work, I’ve noticed probably, I don’t know, I was getting kind of pigeonholed to doing the same type of assignments. And I think that it was good for editors to see that the opportunities should be brought to everyone, not just based on the color of their skin and what they can make for the brand or for them to look good. But it’s also seeing it as these are all artists in their own right. That stands to how we see what they’re interested in and the differences between all of us as a collective.

 

And not just us as black photographers, but young photographers, up and coming photographers, and how representation on all fronts, is the most important thing.

 

David: [00:14:54] 

Yeah. It’s interesting how you use the term pigeonholed. Because, that’s how everything works in the publishing world, in general. And probably in a lot of the creative industries. Where, aside from issues of color, but just, “Okay, this guy, you know, he’s good for sports.” Or, “Let’s get a woman to do the woman, because she’s a woman and they’ll relate better.” Et cetera. There’s a lot of that going on anyway. Beyond this aspect of color.

 

Micaiah: [00:15:33] 

Mhm.

 

David: [00:15:33] 

For example, let’s say, would you feel comfortable shooting a country music person who you don’t really connect with culturally? Is that something you would do?

 

Micaiah: [00:15:49] 

No. I feel like it has to pertain to what you’re interested in. For me, shooting Sia or Selena Gomez, I think, is different than what people would expect, but those people have affected my life in positive ways. And I think that they’re allies for everything that I’m about too. Which I think is the most important part. And it’s building those connections and building that collaboration that I think furthers the conversations that need to happen.

 

David: [00:16:22] 

Well, let’s say, like Sia. I’m curious about your professional approach. You have Selena Gomez, you have Sia, you have, Naomi Osaka, which I saw you also shot. How do you approach an assignment like that? Do you research it? Do you come in with a preconceived idea? Do you sketch it? Tell me a little bit about how you work on each of these.

 

Micaiah: [00:16:48] 

So I think a lot of it is collaboration, and one I’m very keen on with my work in general. Like for Sia, for example, Nicola Formichetti who was the stylist, he already had a similar idea of what he wanted to bring to the table with his styling. And I approached it in a way that mutually how can create these images of her that were timeless but also felt more advanced than what she would normally do. 

 

David: [00:17:13] 

Which- which one was that? Was that the Selena or the Sia?

 

Micaiah: [00:17:16] 

That was the Sia. Yeah.

 

David: [00:17:17] 

Yeah.

 

Micaiah: [00:17:17] 

For Vogue. For Vogue Australia. And the way I approached that was just in a new way. We connected on the music that I was playing. She wanted to listen to hip hop the whole time, which was interesting to me and up my speed too. So we connected on that as a base. And we just vibed. We had a connection and we flowed through it. I come with preconceived thought- I come with the mood board ready. I come with references that I pull from things that I see that I like. Lately, I’ve been shooting on a lot of colored gradients and different backdrops that can reflect with the clothing that we did. For Selena, it was more of a conceptual thing. Cause we were inspired by Frida Kahlo. We wanted to create a modern day version of that. For that, there was more collaboration. The road that was taken there as a more historical, route versus Sia was kind of more abstract and kind of more with the vibe. But even with Selena Gomez, we connected on that we are both Cancers, we’re both the same star sign. So I think we connected from that off the jump, and we just really vibed. And we both had this really down to earth demeanor, but at the end of the day, we had a concept going out. Making it comfortable, so we can get this part of the person that we’re shooting, that you never have seen before.

 

David: [00:18:46] 

And then Naomi? Very different.

 

Micaiah: [00:18:50] 

Yeah. Naomi was a little different. She was a little more shy and kind of more reserved.

 

David: [00:18:55] 

She’s not used to getting photographed all the time. Is she?

 

Micaiah: [00:18:57] 

Yeah. Yeah, she’s not. But I think she was really excited, just the chance to do something different, and be seen in a different light that she’s not usually in.

 

David: [00:19:11] 

You know, in that book that we referred to, The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, so what is, art and fashion, and also your- your personal work? Maybe it’s art. You would think of that as art. So what is the difference for you, in your approach to those a work that you might do for Nike or somebody versus something that you would do for yourself? It’s kind of an art piece that may go into your book or somewhere else.

 

Micaiah: [00:19:44] 

I think for something like that there’s a level of commercialism and consumerism that I think overlines the whole thing. You know, believe it or not, you know, you’re trying to sell something at the end of the day for editorial, for commercial work. You approach it in a collaborative way, but it’s more so a marketing approach in how you can combine this marketing with something that is aesthetically pleasing and something that’s different, with a feeling. I think in some cases, you can really create authentic work through pairing these worlds together with art and fashion. But I think at the same time, there’s always an end goal for that fashion photo, at the end of the day, for what selection is made. Versus an outtake that would be more artful, that wouldn’t showcase the clothes as well as something else would. If that makes sense. Even for fashion and art, how for art, you can shoot whatever you want, for how the looks will be created. But for fashion, it would have to be all the same brand. Has to be approved through different levels of things. A lot of more components, I think, are headed to that than me, you know, for what I did for my thesis show. Shooting my friends, kind of me styling them myself and shooting them, really kind of raw and not using a team at all. I think that’s the biggest thing that I noticed through how I differentiate the two as well. Unless I’m coming with a complete concept of why I’m lighting something the way I want to for my personal work, usually I think my most memorable things to me are just the ones that are the most off-guard, the ones that are most in the moment and like feel more grounded, versus a commercial photo that has the senses of that but is still selling something. If that makes sense.

 

David: [00:21:45] 

It does make sense. But also, I’m curious about how you can bring your aesthetic, your politics, your mission into those situations when you’re shooting for a brand or a company. Do they ask you, do they involve you in the choice of models? Or do you recommend people? Or how does that work?

 

Micaiah: [00:22:06]

Yeah. I think now it’s getting more collaborative in that point of not only having the photographer just come shoot the content, but, come up with a concept as well in mind. For example, Pyer Moss’ Open Studio street that I just shot for their campaign. That was something that blended my both worlds perfectly, I believe, because, for one, the cast was all street casted. And there were people that weren’t just all models. There were people that were in the industry that were some of my peers in the artistic world, especially in New York. I think that really showed a sense of community, and that’s what I like to share in my own personal work. But the clothes are beautiful because, I think, it matched up in a way that you created this luxury to something that is not really seen, but it still felt like grounded.

 

David: [00:23:00] 

You mentioned your peers. Kirby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, the designer, is also very much part of this community approach to his work: how he shoots it, how he presents it. His personal politics, as well, I’m sure, matches up with you. You mentioned that other peers that were shot. Who else was there? Who do you consider your peers? And I’m curious, is there a group, a crew that is happening in that world right now? That are all friends and hanging, and playing, and working together that we don’t really know about? If you had to put together a crew, who would that be of your peers?

 

Micaiah: [00:24:03] 

It’s just people that I’ve met in New York, growing up here, since I was eighteen. Like, for example, Martina Lee, who is a jewelry designer that we shot. Ron, who is a visual painter, who was my roommate that I thought of for that campaign. It was a lot of things that kind of hit home. People that are artists and musicians that we shot too that are within that group, that are in this network of people that grew up during the same time. I know Kirby has been doing this for a very long time, but I know that through that, the last seven years, a lot of the people that have been in and out of New York have grown with him too. And grown throughout, you know, we’re networking across each other, I think. That’s the biggest thing that I think is happening. I mean, I don’t know if, per say, like a crew in like definition, but I do think there’s something happening with black creatives, especially, in New York and LA, these bigger cities, where we’re coming together, um, and really using our resources and trading that and really trading our ideas off each other. And keeping it within the community, which I think is great.

 

David: [00:25:21] 

Having been around longer than you, probably. I’m probably around your dad’s age. We’ve seen things come and go, where you feel like, “Okay, this is it. There is something really happening here.” Let’s say, I’m thinking about graffiti when there was this whole crew and energy going into the ’90s. And the doors were opening and the galleries were interested, and movies were being made. And suddenly it all fell apart. And- nothing happened for years, until later. How do you avoid that? How does one take the sort of momentum that’s happening now, and prevent it from just dissipating as, you know, the Black Live Matter, you know, let’s say is not as intentional as it is now. If Biden wins and things hopefully get a little better and not as intense. Do you think there’ll be less pressure on the corporate world, basically, that we’re talking about here, that’s adjusting to this new reality. You know, as the pressure leaves, will they just revert back to their old ways?

 

Micaiah: [00:26:36] 

No. I don’t think so. And honestly, it sounds kind of silly to say this, but, social media now, especially, there’s this thing black Twitter, that really has been a key in a lot of things that’s been happening, actually. Which is kind of intense. People are being outed for stuff just, you know, more of the discrimination people are being realized of the things that they’ve done. You know, in ignorant ways and non-ignorant ways. I think we’re in a time now where, especially Gen Z, it’s sensitive. You have to be more sensitive. And I think moving forward, the audience that they’re showcasing to isn’t the same audience that was here, even fifteen years ago. So I don’t think it’s gonna change. I think, if anything, there’s gonna be more push for inclusion. But I think there’s gonna be an evolution of how we see that. You know, how trends come back and stuff like that, but even how I grew up in the early ’90s and 2000s, it felt the same way of this inclusion, of these things that kind of were heavy conversations that are finally getting pushed to the ground. A lot of opportunities are being made. And seeing not only where we are right now, but the future of where that lives at. Even with movies, I think Afro-futurism is something that’s super important. And something I like to keep in my own work too, cause there’s a future beyond a struggle. And I think it’s important to see what that would be envisioned like. While also pushing the barrier of the things that are important in the world, as well. Even if it’s not, you know, Black Lives Matter on fire as it is now, because everything going on and things get better. I think there’s still gonna be pressing issues that people will still resonate with and still fighting to keep things in a way that’s progressive.

 

David: [00:28:34] 

Your point about social media is very good, important. Because that has, undercut the influence and power of the white elite that had been running things pretty much forever. And now the taste makers are not who they were before, like Anna Wintour is not who she was five years ago, even. Certainly not ten years ago. Because now, what’s cool is not determined by what’s in Vogue Magazine, it’s determined by what people are talking about on- Instagram and the other social media. Cause now you have people setting trends that have absolutely no access to the mainstream media.

 

Micaiah: [00:29:22] 

No, exactly. Yeah. And honestly, I think that’s amazing, because I think it’s finally giving a viewpoint of what really matters to the majority of the people. And you can see this on all spectrums, even with political things, with music. How people deal with that. I think social media is a very big start. Like even for example, shooting Selena Gomez, and seeing all of her fan sites, and all of the people, you know, kind of feel how she feels people really have these all different subgenres in this kind of world. It’s a lot. And sometimes it’s hard to get out of that. But I think with that being said, there’s no escapism of something going under the rug. As much as it would back then.

 

David: [00:30:19] 

Definitely. The next step, or at some point, it would be great to have some ownership stake, that’s where the final control comes in. So as long as the owners are who they are, we’re just workers for them.

 

Micaiah: [00:30:38] 

No, exactly. I think that’s the biggest thing. And I think we’re seeing a shift even with Samira being the editor and chief right now of Harper’s Bazaar. I think we’re seeing a little bit of that happening now. And even with a lot of the new black designers, like Telfar Clemmens, and Kirby too. I think we’re kind of seeing this shift in this whole thing.

 

David: [00:31:04] 

How do you feel about playing the game of commercial photography? Meaning, climbing one mountain after another. So you’ve made it to Australian Vogue, so do you feel now American Vogue is next, and then British Vogue is next. Is that part of what drives you to be recognized as that kind of photographer?

 

Micaiah: [00:31:31] 

No. I don’t think so. In my eyes, I mean, I’m a workaholic to the core, honestly. I love to shoot, I love to work, and if I’m given opportunities that I think reflect with me, I’ll take them. I say no a lot to things that I feel like wouldn’t make sense for me. But I think, um, what drives is just my passion for photography, to create images, and to try different things. Try different techniques that I’ve never gotten a chance to use before. Being able to connect with people that I wasn’t able to connect with before, and going to their world. I think that’s the biggest thing that inspires me still, uh, to this day. That connection.

 

David: [00:32:17] 

And do you keep up with all the music and fashion, and those areas? You know, I know you shoot a lot of people. Do you always love their work?

 

Micaiah: [00:32:28] 

I keep up as much as I can. I mean, everyone that I’ve shot, I have referenced their stuff so long. Everyone from Missy Elliott to Megan Thee Stallion, Pharrell, Solange, Selena Gomez, even Sia. Lakeith Stanfield, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt. I- Yeah, I love- like all those people. They inspire me a lot. Even growing up, being able to watch their movies and listen to their music. I don’t think that I’m on, per say, trend with everything that’s going on with Gen Z. [laughter] I mean, I barely make the cusp of it. But I feel-

 

David: [00:33:06] 

Now you’re feeling old already.

 

Micaiah: [00:33:07] 

Yeah. I feel so far removed from even my nieces on Tik Tok, and I don’t understand. I still don’t understand that app. There’s like a whole ‘nother world that I don’t understand. For example, Naomi is kind of young too, but like, you know, there’s different things that I resonate with more. Music is like a hit or miss. I’m kind of realizing that I’m gonna be stuck in my ’90s ways and the music that I grew up with. But I do appreciate all of the new artists that are coming out too. A few artists I know, Kendrick Lamar is doing his own thing called pgLang, and he has some artists on there named Baby Keem and Jorja Smith that I think are really cool, they’re some up and coming artists as well.

 

David: [00:33:54] 

Let’s talk a little bit about your personal work then. When do you find time for that, and how does that evolve? Or do you have something in mind that you want to shoot, or is it all working off your dad’s photos? He has a lot of photos from his era?

 

Micaiah: [00:34:12] 

Yeah. He has a lot of photos. I went through and made selections from them. I haven’t been able to shoot as much personal work as I wanted to. Just because of the virus and everything that’s been going on.

 

David: [00:34:23] 

Yeah. Sure.

 

Micaiah: [00:34:24] 

It’s just been kind of harder to navigate with that. But I think the last personal thing I shot, which actually is funny cause it turned into a commercial job, there’s a billboard in SoHo for Nordstrom that I shot for them- of my roommate and his sister for this hike that we go on. When we were quarantined and went outside when we were in quarantine together, we went on these hikes. And Nordstrom reached out to me, to shoot something in my area, something personal. And I was able to shoot them. And I didn’t expect it to be as big as it did. They premiered it in their September issue of Vogue II this year. So it was pretty exciting to see these worlds collide. Cause I think what happened with Covid is it gave a pause for everything. And, honestly, I took a break, cause I was working a lot. So I needed a little separation to reignite my inspiration again. And when they asked me to shoot that, I think that kind of started it again. So I’m trying to find more time for it. I think the last thing, also, I did was Baby Boy, was a personal series. So for that, I collaborated with Carhartt, cause I wanted to have, like a little show and t-shirts too. But I collaborated with Carhartt and Manual New York City. They’re a creative group that helps with up and coming photographers to kind of have outreach and stuff like that. So sometimes when it works out, right, in collaborations, I’m able to create a lot of personal work. It depends on, when I have the time. And I think Covid kind of messed a lot of things up for that. But I think it’s getting a lot better now, because people are able to shoot now in safe conditions, and get tested before a shoot, and do everything properly. But it’s been awhile since I shot something.

 

David: [00:36:20] 

The amazing photographers who are, most recognized, wind up being able to make their personal work their professional work. There really is no difference, Helmut Newton, let’s say, or Ellen von Unwerth. Two people that come to mind. 

They can shoot whatever. Ellen’s work is gonna look like what it looks like, whether she shoots it in her studio or for herself, or if she goes out. Maybe it’ll be more raw. There might be some elements that aren’t quite acceptable in mainstream media today. In terms of the imagery. The photographers who are most successful, wind up having that look that’s actually the same no matter what. But then on the other hand, you’ll have, photographers like Peter Beard, I’m thinking about, who’d shoot elephants, you know. Because they need to get away from their work.

 

Micaiah: [00:37:41] 

Mhm.

 

David: [00:37:41] 

Their core work. To just almost clean the pallet and go do something entirely different from what is on their normal plate. Could you see yourself like that?

 

Micaiah: [00:37:52] 

Yeah. I definitely resonate with that. I’m learning now that I’m combining more of the two, the more I’m able to be in the room and have my own creative say before everything happens. I think that’s the biggest thing for blending their worlds. And I think I’m getting more of that trust the more I can showcase I can come with different ideas. But I also agree, and I think that sometimes taking a break from just shooting fashion at all… I love shooting my family, and I rarely get to really do it. But when I get the chance to, I love shooting them because it’s not staged. It’s always just something that I see and I try to recreate it. There’s this photo that I love of my niece. And it’s a really heated moment, because her dog kind of ran off. And we got her. But she was wiping tears off her eyes.

 

David: [00:38:51] 

Aw.

 

Micaiah: [00:38:51] 

But I took a photo of her, and it looked really beautiful because it was just something different than I would normally shoot. Someone that comes from having people look very kind, softer and more vulnerable, I think seeing that same vulnerability but then this, also, side of her together. I think it was interesting to see that, from my family and, you know, to be in love with how it looks like everything else I was shooting too. I think finding that balance, I think, is the best part of everything.

 

David: [00:39:25] 

And do you carry your camera all the time? Do you shoot street photography, as well?

 

Micaiah: [00:39:30] 

Yeah. I used to. I used to. I got busy last year, and didn’t do as much as I do. But I always have my phone on me. So I kind of shoot with my iPhone a lot too. Which is interesting, I think Juergen Teller now, he shoots a lot of his stuff with an iPhone or something like that.

 

David: [00:39:50] 

Yeah. He gets-

 

Micaiah: [00:39:50] 

Which I think is kind of…

 

David: [00:39:54] 

Oh. I’m sorry. I was just gonna say, he gets away with murder right? He can do anything.

 

Micaiah: [00:39:57] 

But I love it though. I love it so much. A lot of people don’t like it, but I think it’s genius because this is a tool, you know, it’s the same thing about his Contax camera. I think that was a tool of the time. Him using the iPhone and still having his whimsicalness about it, I think is really amazing to me.

 

David: [00:40:23] 

Yeah. It’s amazing that he can shoot fashion at all because he doesn’t really do that. And, it’s fortunate for him, he has someone like Marc Jacobs who really is there for him, keeping him busy, and loves the aesthetic. So I think that’s probably another thing. Finding the people who trust you.

 

Micaiah: [00:40:47] 

Mhm.

 

David: [00:40:47] 

Who you connect with aesthetically, to allow you to do what, you know, you’re obviously meant to do.

 

Micaiah: [00:40:56] 

Right. Cause at the end of the day, I see Juergen Teller as an artist, you know what I mean?

 

David: [00:41:00] 

Yeah.

 

Micaiah: [00:41:00] 

From my guess, seeing him using the iPhone is probably super exciting for him, honestly. Same with Nick Knight, I remember when we first kind of had better quality on iPhones, he did a whole experiment with Iggy Azalea on the iPhone. And I thought it was really brilliant, um, to push these mediums- And even for me, I’m a film head at the, you know, at the core. But, I’m learning how to shift digital in kind of a way that feels like my own kind of world.

 

David: [00:41:34] 

And do you shoot film too?

 

Micaiah: [00:41:37] 

Yeah. Since, I think, three years ago, I’ve been shooting a lot more film. Most of my work is film now.

 

David: [00:41:44] 

But I mean moving film? Like movies?

 

Micaiah: [00:41:49] 

The funny thing is when I first started photography, I was just doing only video. But I took a break from it, because it was a lot of work, honestly. I think with photos, I was able to create whatever I wanted in my head more seamlessly without having to have a big crew. But I’m getting more into it. I did a music video on Zoom, actually, for Ryan Destiny. I directed it. And that was different, but it was nice. I enjoyed doing it. I direct here and there. I have something coming up soon again, another music video. And I think I like music videos because, you know, it reminds me of growing up watching VH1 and MTV, and 106 & Park, and seeing all those videos and being inspired by that. I have yet to do something more full feature, but that’s something I also want to do as well.

 

David: [00:42:45] 

I’m not a photographer, by the way. But I’ve taken a lot of photos. And shooting, you know, I feel like the iPhone- I hate the iPhone, because it doesn’t give me that sense of having a camera. You know what I mean?

 

Micaiah: [00:43:01] 

Mhm.

 

David: [00:43:01] 

It does so many other functions. Among them it’s a camera. But I love to have a real camera that I just carry in my pocket, and I feel like now I’m being a photographer. But obviously it’s different for you, because that’s your profession. So it’s the opposite, right? The iPhone becomes kind of like a great little toy that you can have fun with.

 

Micaiah: [00:43:24] 

Yeah. Exactly.

 

David: [00:43:27] 

So my toy is the camera. [laughs] It’s the opposite. [laughter] Well, thank you very much, Micaiah Carter, for speaking with me and letting me into your mind, so that I have a better understanding of your work. And I look forward to seeing more. And congratulations on all the money that you raised. I saw you raised over five hundred thousand dollars for your Black In America campaign?

 

Micaiah: [00:43:57] 

Yeah. Yeah. It was really outstanding. And I’m really kind of taken aback by how much support that we got with everything. So I’m really grateful for that.

 

David: [00:44:06] 

Yeah. Mind blowing. Well, congratulations and thank you very much.

 

Micaiah: [00:44:11] 

Thank you.

 

End

 

Subscribe

* indicates required
Interests