Interview: Tafari Stevenson-Howard :: Photographer

How did you discover photography? I discovered my love for picture taking in my teens when I became the family “picture taker” and photo archivist. Today I still have photos that family members want but I refuse to give them up. More recently, I became excited about the art of photography after my cousin & photography mentor Verlisa McNair-Allen encouraged me to get my first DSLR about 4 years ago.
After I decided to make the purchase of my DSLR, the rest was history! My love for taking pictures quickly developed into a passion for making photographic art and telling stories through the lens.
How is your ethnicity a source of inspiration or strength in your work? Or is it just sort of a default setting that has little bearing. My ethnicity is a secondary factor when it comes to my artistic vision but I will say that I find so much beauty in my people that I love to capture. Even things like a man’s ashy & rough blue-black hands have a story to tell.

Tell us about the challenges of being a photographer. One of my challenges is staying motivated in the winter months here in Michigan. I love getting out and about to photograph on the streets but the snow, cold temperatures & drab colors of Michigan winters take a toll on my creative soul. To help combat this, I work on indoor projects that help fill my needs, such as my food series. (
Other more universal challenges that I face are keeping up with software & equipment technologies. Seems like I’m constantly trying to stay on top of the latest & greatest so that I can stay relevant. And one of the largest challenges that I & many other photographers face is the continual decline of client photo budgets.
With so many young inexperienced photographers on the scene offering prices at a fraction of a real rate, it’s hard to compete. Especially when clients are looking for more but want to pay less. I have had to walk away from quite a few jobs because of this.

What aspect of photography do you really love? I LOVE macro photography with all of my heart! Specifically speaking, macro floral photography is where it’s at for me! I see my floral macro images as offering an inside look into hidden elements of a subject that is not fully understood or appreciated for its intricacies.

What's your dream job/project? My dream project is such a cliché yet it is my desire! I would love to travel to Brazil (São Paulo, Bahia, Brasilia, Salvador) to photograph & document the lives of my people. Life from the favelas to the beaches to the boardroom.
It is known that Brazil has the largest population of Black people in the world outside of the continent of Africa & I have a strong desire to see what life is like there myself so that I can share with the rest of the world.
Know any sponsors???

Can you discuss any specifics about the process of creating a few of the pieces you sent. 
"Black Is Beautiful" - I incorporated a continuous shutter while dropping a rubber ball into the cup of coffee. It took me about 4 tries to get a result that I was happy with but I had fun while doing so. And yes, it was a mess!!!
“Dark Berries” – The service berries presented here are actually grown at my home. My goal was to have soft and muted colors with the exception of the berries, which I wanted to basically pop off the screen or print. After we finished a few shots, we enjoyed the berries.
“So Pink, So Juicy, So Delicious I” – This photo shows a red powder puff flower which I photographed with a 105mm macro lens, which was about 12 inches. When in the hand, you cannot see the pollen at the end of the petals but thanks to the magic of a good macro lens, those hidden details come out for an impressive show.
“Caribana Blue“ A random street scene taken at the 2008 Toronto Caribana parade. This image represents how mistakes can sometimes turn to gold. The sun was so bright and I had forgotten my sunglasses & could barely see my camera settings, so I kinda fudged my way through some shots & wound up with some fun & brightly colored images. I guess I can say that this is one mistakes that paid off.

Lastly, two consistent themes in my images are color & light. The color must be rich & attention grabbing. The light must be perfect & I have a preference for ambient/available light.

Any advice for neophytes?

1. Learn to live without using your camera’s automated settings such as shutter & aperture priority. Photographing in manual mode gives you greater control!!!

Once I got out of my comfort zone & into manual mode, I discovered so much more & my images became more creative as I was able to control how my subjects would be photographed.

2. Seek out a photography mentor in your community. Learning on your own works in most cases but there is nothing like learning from someone who has been in your shoes.

3. Open a Flickr account!!! Over the past few years, I have leaned so much from participating with Flickr. There you can find creative inspiration, seasoned technical knowledge & an audience for your work that can help you grow with critical feedback.

4. A camera is a camera, don’t get caught up into having to have a Sony, Nikon Canon etc. Get a camera that feels right for you. And once you have that camera, please invest into a 50mm f/1.4 lens. It will save your life. Trust me on that!

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