On Monday, January 28th 2016, I attended a photo exhibition held at Scratch Deejay Academy called“Stills of Sound.”
“Stills of Sound” was an event created by photographer Xavier Webber (23) to sponsor and acknowledge a few of his colleagues and their work. As I was walking to the 2nd floor where the exhibition was being held I could feel the vibrations of hip hop music welcoming my feet. I walked inside to be greeted by a painting of a Deejay with wings and a halo, wearing a top hat and having his arms crisscrossed as he is touching his records emphasizing the movement of him “scratching” his turntables to created unique sounds. Underneath the painting there were actual turntables and a headset.
As I walked around there were turntables and speakers next to each other covering the entire room. Above each one lied the portraits of the photographers that Xavier was sponsoring, Harrison Corwin, Alexander Richter, Nick Torres, and Alberto Vargas. In the middle of the room were two giant speakers blasting the mixes created by Deejays“Alternative Ears and Marvelito” mixing and scratching hip hop, rap and R&B on pink records. The music was perfectly synched together each time and with each song that played people couldn’t help but bump their heads. There was a small open bar where people were welcomed to have a drink and vibe and feel great while looking at the beautiful photography hanging on the walls of the academy. Anyone who walked into this event automatically had feelings of euphoria.
I sat down with Xavier to discuss what made him create such an event and why. I asked what exactly was “Stills of Sound” what inspired him to create this event and Xavier responded, “Stills of Sound” is a photography exhibit where it showcases the art and talent of photographers who mainly focus on shooting musical artists, my goal was to highlight this because a lot of times it goes unnoticed and a lot of their work often times gets stolen so I feel like it’s important for people to come out and just experience it and also if they can purchase it. I think I was inspired by the actual space of Scratch Academy, it was founded by Jam Master Jay and that alone, was reason for an event like this to be put into action”.
I then asked out of my own curiosity, “How does music such as hip hop connect to photography?” and he replied…
“I think that it always connects to photography because any artists that you think of from the beginning of hip hop from like Tupac, to whoever before that, there’s always like iconic images of them but nobody ever knows who the photographer was so I feel that that’s very important as well”.
Xavier has been into photography since he was a young boy, he explained to me that he has always been fascinated by the beauty in photos as well as the meanings behind them.
“I took photography seriously about three, four years ago, I began shooting events, portraits, doing documentary work and once I began taking it seriously and doing it often that’s when I realized how much I loved it. I was inspired by my parents who always used to take pictures, we have hundreds and hundreds of pictures in my house, prints from when we used to have film. I don’t think it was any other photographer to be precise or seeing one image that inspired me it was just my parents constantly taking pictures all the time”.
I then asked Xavier what inspired him to create great imagery ? and he replied…
“I think it’s just my environment and whatever I’m around is what pretty much inspires me, I just want to document people who don’t have their story told, you know unheard voices, unseen faces.Music in general inspires me to create imagery, even through my editing process, I sit there for hours, I’m there listening to music, so I think that in itself and also certain projects I work on are also influenced by a musical artist. I had one project where I was heavenly focused on Frank Ocean and it just reflected in my work.”
Music was not the only influence for Xavier, culture seemed to play a big role in his work as well. I asked how exactly has culture influenced his work ? in reply Xavier said;
“Societal culture influences my photography a lot as far as what’s going on politically, for instance last year I took a trip out to Baltimore to document what happened after the Freddie Grey incident and that alone opened my eyes, being there opened my eyes to the situation and the gravity of how serious it was. It’s different when you see things happening on the news and actually being there. Culture influences everything I do, from my decisions to my actions. I never went to school for photography however I am majoring in English and Journalism and so I focus on the journalism aspect of photography.”
Every photographer has their own unique style that makes their work different from everyone else’s and so I asked Xavier about his type of style asking him to describe his style in reply he commented saying,
“My style is documentary definitely, I don’t like heavy edits on my photos, it’s pretty much as natural as possible, just a clean documentary style”.
If you ever look at Xavier’s photos you would see exactly that. Some of his work where he takes photos, there would be a story behind it such that reminds me somewhat like the work of “Humans of New York.” There are deep messages in Xavier’s work that help to make great impressions on society.
Although much of this interview connected with Xavier, he was not the main focus of this day. He explained to me saying;
“This event was not to recognize me but my friends that have gone unnoticed for their work”.
The photographers showing work at “Stills of Sound” are Alexander Richter, a photographer from Queens, New York who worked on multiple projects with work ranging from Method Man, Seam Price, Action Bronsonand many others. Harrison Corwin, a producer from the Mass Appeal Company who photographs many concerts showing the work of Travis Scott, Miguel and many others. Alberto Vargas, a portrait photographer who works closely with John Baptiste, Princess Nokia and many up and coming music artists. Nick Torres is a photographer fromForest Hills, NY with a large body of concert photography and intimate portrayed the “World’s Fair Group.”
As our interview was coming to an end, I looked up to see the room filled up with so many people. People were either mingling, observing the photography, taking pictures or bumping to the music. I observed photography of famous celebrities such as Angel Haze, ASAP Yams, Miguel, Travis Scott, J. Cole etc. I met many artists, photographers, poets, rappers, Deejay’s, singers, producers, instrumentalists etc. you name it and they were there. The vibes were amazing, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
There were a lot of reunions occurring as well were people reunited with people they haven’t seen in years as well as myself, I ran into a few friends I haven’t seen since high school. There were about four Deejay’s that switched sets and keep the music flowing. Some people even ended up dancing. Towards the end of the night almost everyone met someone new and exchanged either numbers or social media accounts.
Ending our interview I asked Xavier if he had any new or upcoming projects occurring and he replied;
“Right now I’m working on curating more events to give artists this platform to showcase their work, I’m also working on putting together a production company with some of my friends in order to start working on our own documentaries later on in the year.”
I asked him if there was any advice he would give to someone who wants to pursue photography and he replied,
“For anyone who wants to pursue photography I would just say always branch out, meet new people, make connections and don’t be stuck doing one thing, expand your horizons.”
Attending “Stills of Sound” I observed it as more than just a photo exhibit. I met new artists and I shared my perspectives on certain aspects of art as well as the observations of the photography from the exhibit. This event not only helped these four artists to obtain notification but it helped other artists that were not featured or not known to meet them as well as others sharing similarities as well as differences. People who were watching this event from videos on social media were wishing they had attended and from my observation this was one event you would have regretted missing.
Article Written By: Hollie Kawall
Follow me on Instagram: @Holidayseasonnnnn
Photos Courtesy of: Hollie Kawall