Q&A With Photographer Kreshonna Keane, Using Her Lens to Remind Us That Beauty Exists in the Hood

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Name: Kreshonna Keane

Age: 24

Hometown: The Bronx, New York

Kreshonna Keane is a photographer whose mission with her photography is to “tell stories and evoke emotion” through her city of the Bronx. Despite the struggles that are endured in the hood, Keane uses her eyes, lens and colors to visually push people to take a closer look of their surroundings and remember that beauty exists in the hood, too.

In this Q&A, she talks about her love of art growing up, the purpose behind her visual arts brand, Visuals By K, and her newfound appreciation for the struggles she once endured in the Bronx.

Ngozi Nwanji: At what age did you first pick up a camera?

Kreshonna Keane: I want to say I was 14 or 15 years old. My mom bought my first camera and I used to go to school and just take pics of my friends as a hobby. But, my grandma always had the disposables ready! I guess I really got my interest from her. 

Photo: Visuals By K, Kreshonna Keane

Photo: Visuals By K, Kreshonna Keane

Which photographers, or any visual artists, inspired you growing up?

KK: Growing up, art was always my favorite subject. I work in other mediums such as drawing and painting. Though I’ve always considered myself to be an artist, I never thought it would be possible to make a career out of art so I never really looked for inspiration. However, looking back now, the one thing I can say that inspired me growing up was music videos and 80s, 90s movies. 

When was the true moment that you knew that photography wasn’t a hobby for you, but what you wanted to pursue as a career?

KK: When I was 15, renowned photographer and family friend, Kesha Lambert took an interest in me and asked me to intern for her. I would assist on photo shoots which exposed me to an entire world of possibilities. When I turned 16, I started college and I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in photography. However, at the time, photography wasn’t offered as a major at my school. So I got my degree in business management and became a self taught photographer.

The slogan for your visual arts brand, Visuals By K, is “Telling stories through colors in a hood near you”. Describe to me what that means for your work and the process for choosing your color scheme.

KK: It’s so interesting to me that it’s kind of become coined as my slogan. It started out as just a caption, but I felt it truly represents what I’ve been trying to do as an artist from the Bronx: tell stories and evoke emotion. A friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder broke down each of my color stories by the emotions that first came to her mind and it wasn’t until then that it occurred to me that different colors can make people feel differently. 

Photo: Visuals B K, Kreshonna Keane

Photo: Visuals B K, Kreshonna Keane

The color stories give me a structure. My process honestly just comes to me naturally. I choose the next color and things just flow. Colors literally start attracting to me and showing up everywhere around me. I also plan my posts months in advance - so it’s almost like filling in the pieces to a puzzle. 

Visuals By K makes me feel like I’m walking into a classic Hip-hop music video. It’s so fire, do any legendary artists influence your work?

KK: Thank you so much! I’m highly inspired by everything from nostalgic eras like the 80s, 90s and early 00s. Whether it be the [Hip-hop, R&B and neo soul] music/music videos, every John Singleton movie, or the fashion. Some of the early work of photographer Jamil GS, and current works of Nadia Lee Cohen, really inspire me as a creative. But, I try not to let any other artist influence my work. 

You describe the focus of your brand to “Highlighting beauty in hidden and overlooked spaces”. What are a few experiences growing up in The Bronx that helped both shape your perspective and sharpen your eyes of your surroundings? And, how did these experiences spark your appreciation for New York which has now translated into Visuals By K?

KK: Growing up in the Bronx, I’ve seen a lot of sh*t. Sorry I don’t even know if I can curse in this. But, I’ve seen a teenage boy get stabbed right in front of me on a route I walked every single day. My eyes have always been sharp to the struggle, the pain, the poverty and the stagnance. So I’ve always seen the Bronx as a place I had to get out of. Until I finally did.

I moved to Atlanta and I realized that the Bronx will always be home, no matter where life takes me. After moving back, I found a new appreciation for the all the things and places I once strove to run away from. I began to see the beauty in the struggle and I want all Visuals By K work to reflect just that, beauty in the struggle. 

What I love about your work is that you bring beauty out of the hood, and that beauty is of course already there, but your photos paint a clear vision for outsiders who may not initially see it. What specific message and intention do you hope is evoked when people see your photography?

KK: Thank you. Truthfully, the beauty is hard to see, even for me sometimes. My main goal has always been to evoke emotion. I just want people to see my work and feel something, anything. It actually amazes me that you see a clear vision painted through my photos because to me the vision is constantly changing.

FIRSTS 

First camera?

Nikon Coolpix L110.

First [real] photo shoot?

2016, with Kaya Marley. I say “real” because that’s when I actually decided to consider myself a photographer, although I’d been shooting for five years prior. 

First favorite photographer?

Kesha Lambert.

Where do you hope to take your photography? Album covers, magazine shoots, concert tours. What’s your ultimate dream?

KK: My ultimate dream is to create with full freedom and purpose, and to capture life around the world. I would love the opportunity to see my work on the covers of albums and magazines such as The Fader, I-D, Paper, and Schön. I really want a billboard in Times Square! That would be a dream.

Photo: Najah Brown, IG: @najwiththecam

Photo: Najah Brown, IG: @najwiththecam