June 2020 I got an message through my website from an unfamiliar email, with the way 2020 was going it wasn’t totally out of the ordinary. It went as followed:
I found you through researching Brighton based Photographers on Instagram. I am local to Brighton and London and have lived here for around 3 years.
I am in the process of launching a charity and artist lead garment printing company. We basically work with artists, illustrators and photographers through limited curations of their work onto garments for selected charities.[…]
I was wondering if you would be interested in contributing some of your photography images or illustrations towards a BLM campaign or charity. Due to the significance of the work I would love to contribute all profits after t-shirt costs to your chosen charity or campaign. The campaign would also include lots of promotion for yourself and your chosen charity.[…]
I was immediately interested and the discussion with Finite Edition about collaborating on a campaign to raise money for a charity of my choice began. If you know me by now, the first thing I had to do was start my research on charities, was I going to choose an international one? a local one? If I was to choose an international one, could I find out enough to see where the money was going? Who ran these charities?… So many things to consider, and how much time did I have!?
Well, with it being the most prominent year this millennia that Black Lives have Mattered, I wanted to spread my work out a little bit, so we opted for doing the campaign the month of October, it was Black History Month in the UK, and by this point hopefully people would get the idea that just a black square wasn’t going to cut it.
Even though Finite and I had spoken about using some of the photography I had taken, particularly from the Black Brighton shoots or White Gaze exhibition, I decided quickly I wanted to do an illustration. I had done a lot over lockdown and really wanted to do something original and new for the campaign.
Going back to my charity research, I had asked a few people in the black/colour community I have, and the charity that popped up the most was BMEYPP (Black and Ethnic Minority Young People’s Project). Doing further research, I found that this local charity’s main aim was “Facilitating the empowerment of BME young people”.
After my White Gaze project and the ism I had with The Argus at the beginning of the year, I had vocalised on multiple platforms how creatively, the black community can sometimes be at a disadvantage due to upbringing and our parents/grandparents views and their own experience of expressing their creativity -or should I say lack- due to the opportunities that weren’t offered to them or not financially possible. Speaking from experience, my grandfather never understood my whimsical and playful attitude towards my future, growing up I wanted to be a wedding dress designer, when I said this to him, his response was “why don’t you be an architecture, it’s still drawing isn’t it” being an architect was a more respectable job.
So after the years work I’d already produced, and the long struggle it was making it into the chosen industry my heart desired, I wanted this feeling, the feeling of my work actually now going somewhere, to be possible for others, easier for others, to have a community where you can grow and be who you want to be. So after a lot of talking to friends and previous volunteers, I sent an email to BMEYPP and got a very warming reply to my proposal. I got full transparency on where the donation would be directed and that they have my full support off and on line. And with it being a local charity – after the campaign – I had it in my thoughts to find my own space at BMEYPP in volunteering and hopefully, inspiring young people to do whatever it is they truly want to do. What’s the point in anything otherwise?
By September, I had the full support of the BMEYPP and the conversation was whipping between Finite and I; the building momentum leading up to the campaign was undeniable .
For the artwork, like I said before, I wanted to create something new – In my style, recognisable – but new. I decided to use a photograph I’d taken for Black Brighton and turn it in to an illustration. I chose a photo from the second Black Brighton shoot of Yolanda. I edited it to how I wanted the final piece to look on photoshop and then drew it on 16×20″ canvas board. Once that was done, I photographed it and edited on photoshop to look like the original.
Now it was time for a little fun, I knew that the price of printing would be differ between mono and colour, but I wanted to try and turn it into a graphic piece like I see is so popular nowadays, I had no idea how most did, and I didn’t want to, I wanted to try my own interpretation, doing this in the past has proven rewarding in finding a new style. Once I had drafted four different versions, I sent them to Finite for a final choice to be made.
Once we decided on the white to be printed a black tee, Finite got on to ordering samples to begin advertisement. Throughout the entire campaign, the dialogue was always open between Finite, BMEYPP and I. Finite and I were always clear on what the other was doing and when (definitely one of the most constructive and consistent collaborations I’ve been involved in).
Due to Covid, the samples didn’t get to us until well into the month of October, but we didn’t panic, we simply saw it as an opportunity to remind people learning about Black History and doing things for the Black community was not to be dedicated to one month. We got over our lateness without worry and drifted into the new scheme with ease and pleasure.
Alongside 3 other artists, and hitting the start of November, the campaign was ready to go! With posts every/other day from Finite with different graphics, full transparency, all the right hashes and tags, an audience was being pulled in.
A few weeks in we hit another little road bump; Finite was planned to come to Brighton to do a shoot of tees modelled on myself and one other, but with lockdown he was there and I was here. He asked if I had any friends in London that might be willing to model the tees one day out in the City. I had a handful of friends, but the first person to spring to mind, who I could trust to be comfortable and confident in front of the camera, was my acting friend Shanice, my one and only friend who I made such a strong connection with on Instagram, we became friends in real life, I wanted her to model, I wanted her to be a part of this project. She was happy and willing to help a sistar and charity out, speed bump averted and another better result!
By the end of the campaign, Finite and I had posted, tagged, photographed, advertised, whatsapped, shouted and raved about the campaign and I’m so happy with the amount of work, contribution, purses opened, words spread and all round time spent on this campaign. Thank you BMEYPP for doing what you, thank you to everyone who took the time and money for such an amazing and needed charity, and thank you so much to Finite for approaching me, being such a dream to work with and doing what you do.
In total, we sold 11 tees and raised £148.50 to go to the BMEYPP. Ahead of that, I hope to work further with BMEYPP, raising more money, and collaborating on more work with Finite Edition, who was an absolute dream to work with. And remember everyone please, Black Lives Matter not just in the USA or in 2020, they matter everywhere, all of the time.