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More on our Black History Month artists!

Mike Wilds

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Can you provide brief background? 

I was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. I lived in a household with my mom, Debra Booker and two siblings: Anthony Paxton and Blair Redmond. I was a pretty active child, always engaged in people, work and family. The mannerisms that people gravitate towards were instilled in me by my grandmother, Louise Booker.  

I played sports throughout my childhood and attended Hamilton High School before transferring to Dorsey High School to pursue basketball. I graduated and went to Louisiana Tech where I continued to pursue a career in Basketball and eventually played professionally oversees for 8 years.  

What  got your career in photography started? 

As a young child, I was always intrigued by film and video cameras. It wasn't until my basketball career ended that I decided to rekindle my passion for film. From there, that's when it turned from a hobby to a career. 

Can you talk about the creative scene in LA and how you've seen it grow?  

LA is one of the most influential places when it comes to film, and it has grown tremendously. When I first got into to film, social media wasn't prevalent, so it made it difficult to break into the film world. Now, you have social media platforms, streaming services and more tools for creatives like myself to connect and be able to reach bigger platforms to showcase your work. 

Are there any Black artists/creators that you look up to or admire? 

To be honest, as a creator, I never looked up to anyone in particular, but admired the work of other creatives like Kendrick Lamar and the TDE visual team, Paul Hunter, Ice Cube, Dom Kennedy, and a production company called Creative Control. 

Who are the historical Black leaders that you look up to? 

Malcom X. I admired how relentless and outspoken he was for the cause. I see him in myself because he had a "by any means necessary" approach to life. 

What does Black History Month mean to you? 

It's about paying homage to black leaders who paved the way for us, and through turmoil stayed true to who they were. 

Can you talk about your creative process with the Rams campaign for Black History Month? 

I received a text from my boy, Watts Stixx, who mentioned that there might be an opportunity with the Rams. I envisioned immediately how I wanted to tell the story. I collaborated with my team, Johnathan Champion, Darreon and Grace, and put together a treatment. We decided to a dd Michael Anthony Williams Jr. "Holla" who is one of the most prolific poets in Los Angeles. We linked up with my DP, Tim Banks and created an organic, cinematic look that would work for the NFL/Black History month theme. 

Why did you want work with us to celebrate BHM? 

As an LA native who grew up watching the Rams as a kid, I consider this opportunity one of my career highlights thus far. Being able to tell someone else's story through my lens is what I love most about what I do. (social quote for IG story)  

What do you hope that people take away from your artwork? 

That no matter what you do, there is always a place for you to win in this world as a Black creative. Hopefully, people will be able to see an expression of who I am and my perspective on life through my lens. 

What are you trying to communicate through your work? 

I feel like I'm a pure representation of what the underdog is. If you're an underdog, hopefully you're able to watch this and get inspiration and understand that your true self is reflected in your work. Never be afraid to be in your own lane and embrace what's unique about you.

D'Ara Nazaryan

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Can you provide brief background? 

I have a lot of pride around being born and raised in LA. I didn't stray too far when I went to college either. I received my BFA from Otis College of Art and Design. During my time there I jumped back and forth between the Fine Arts and Digital Media Dept. until I found my home in motion design. After graduating, I began to craft my path as a motion graphics designer and illustrator by building relationships with different companies. Starting my career in motion graphics gave me the discipline that came to inform the rest of my practices.  and recently began focusing primarily on illustration and have been able to collaborate with some of the industry's top directors and studios along the way.   

Can you talk about the creative scene in LA and how you've seen it grow?

Honestly, it's such a beautiful thing to behold. I think many people come to LA and find the city to be isolating but there's something here for everyone as long as you're willing to tap in. I think the more I began to pop up from behind my computer and immerse myself in the creative community here I found myself constantly being inspired by what others were doing. From fashion, to music, wellness, the visual arts I've seen so many people grow exponentially and it's beautiful to witness. That's the thing about this city, it's full of opportunity, literally anything can happen.  

Are there any Black artists/creators that you look up to or admire? 

Inspiration for me begins at home, so the whole squads lit. Whether it's making beautiful visuals, and products or creating inclusive spaces for us to convene and exist within I'm surrounded by greatness.   

@ailrick.jr 

@ayresnouveau 

@diefreestudios 

@dinnerclub_1204 

@forthecultureclub 

@hiltonturner_ 

Who are the historical Black leaders that you look up to? 

One of my favorite things about BHM is that I feel like I always learn something new, there's always more to be unearthed when it comes to our history. I appreciate all the shine Coretta Scott King has been getting recently. Women who were a part of the movement have been historically overlooked and I'm happy her continued fight to make MLK day a federal holiday is finally getting it's due praise. She made sure to uphold his legacy and now we get to celebrate him as the trailblazer he really was as opposed to the misfit he was perceived to be. Always James Baldwin, I feel like he's just recently been getting his flowers. There's this conversation between him and Nikki Giovanni taped in 1971 that I revisit from time to time. It's incredible to think how much has changed while other things remain the same. 

What does Black History Month mean to you? 

BHM is for a me a continuation of the pride I carry throughout the year. It's a time for us to collectively remember, respect, and reflect the accomplishments of Black Americans that have paved the way for us. As well as a time for those outside the community to have an opportunity to delve into our culture, and contributions to our country.  

Why did you want work with us to celebrate BHM? 

It's been a big motivating factor me in my work to try to push forward with purpose and intention. From the beginning I felt our sentiments were aligned and that was so important for me in wanting to carry through with this or any other project.   

What do you hope that people take away from your artwork? What are you trying to communicate through your work? 

I try to make work that is a reflection of myself, my experiences and what I relate to or how I'm feeling in that moment. Often using simpler geometric shapes to take more complex ideas break them down into simpler forms and make them more palatable. I usually lean into warmer bold colors as well, something about them feels really comforting to me and at the end of the day I'm jus trying to make work that makes people feel good and hopefully they can see themselves in it, that's the real win.

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What inspired you to design this illustration and what does it signify? 

I just wanted to have fun with this one, it's inspired by the iconic photograph by Estevan Oriol. I think people usually think of the city of this really glitzy, sanitized place, something similar to what they see on tv and some parts of it are. I think this really speaks to the culture of the city that runs parallel to its perceived image and I wanted to pay homage to it with this project. 

Nikki Boutte'

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Can you provide brief background?

I'm Nikki Boutte'. I was raised in Carson, CA. I've been photographer since 2013 and started at the drew league. My favorite sport is basketball, I've played since the age of 4 through college.

What got your career in photography started?

I took a photography class in college, graduated with my BA in graphic design in 2013 & that summer I started shooting at the drew league at King Drew HS. I was already attending games years prior when it was at Washington Park just to watch some of the guys I knew/hooped with to support. Basketball & art have always been a passion of mine since I was a little girl so once I got more into digital cameras I felt the drew league was the best place to start & practice my craft (with the help of other photographers who were already there shooting before me giving me tips : Cassy Athena & Zyaire Porter)

Are there any black artists/creators that you look up to or admire?

My older brother, Phillip Boutte' Jr. (artist/graphic/costume designer)

Who are the historical black leaders that you look up to?

Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Kobe Bryant & Nipsey Hussle)

What does black history month mean to you?

Inspired & grateful for our strong & brave leaders/ancestors that helped themselves during those tough times & to see how much it has helped future generations to get where we are now and to continue to strive to be better and break generational curses.

Can you talk about your creative process with the rams campaign for black history month?

After knowing what happened to the Serving Spoon overcoming their financial crisis, & Covid-19 pandemic still happening, I knew in my mind that this would be apart of history & how special my photos will be telling a story with my work. Since restaurants are not fully open & only for take out, I also knew it would be easier to focus, move around, shoot the employees, managers, food, and few customers that came to pick up their food.

Why did you want work with us to celebrate Black History Month?

Everything that was happening in 2020, sports shutting down & then hearing months later about serving spoon struggling and almost having to close down their business was heartbreaking. I was happy they decided to reach out for help & make a go fund me account to help save their business (which i also helped contribute) and to also see so many people donate to help was amazing and inspiring. As a young black woman, i was honored and felt blessed to be apart of this project with the rams & serving spoon. Im excited to see my work tell their story!

What do you hope that people take away from your artwork?

From this project, i want people to see the love, hard work and dedication during this pandemic & how important it is for our communities and people all over the world to come together to support our small/black owned businesses.

What are you trying to communicate through your work?

To feel a connection with what I see, when they look at my work no matter what emotion it is, happy, sad, or anger. A lot of people have complimented me that I'm talented at telling a story (photos & video), expressing deep emotions with my work & I take pride in that. Overall, I want people to be inspired & cherish my images years later from my generation to the next and so on.

Max Hemphill

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Can you provide a brief background?

My name is Max Hemphill. I am a photographer and entrepreneur born in New Jersey. I am currently 25, living in Los Angeles.

What  got your career in photography started?

A former friend of mine had a clothing brand and was interested in how I took photos on my instagram. So I shot one of her collections and received really great feedback. I went back home to Jersey and came up with a long-term plan being a photographer, and that's when I started pursuing photography.

Can you talk about the creative scene in LA and how you've seen it grow?

One thing I've realized about the creative scene in LA, after being here almost two years, is that everyone is very intentional but easy to work with. The scene here is a bit slower compared to NYC but I like that. It's good to slow down and actually stay in the moment.

Are there any Black artists/creators that you look up to or admire?

I admire Beyoncé's laser-focused concentration on her projects and how she always executes them perfectly. I draw a lot of inspiration from her in regards to being more intentional and focused on what I want to say through my work.

Who are the historical Black leaders that you look up to?

James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, Dr. MLK, and Maya Angelou. They were all fearless and always stood up for things that benefited the black community.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month to me means appreciation. This month is an appreciation of all the positive and negative things that have happened to black people over the course of 400+ years. Black people have persevered time and time again and it continues to show, despite racial injustices.

Can you  talk about your creative process with the Rams campaign for Black History Month?

The idea was to portray Reggie Scott, the Rams' Director of Sports Medicine, and how he supports his team. I wanted to capture Reggie's true essence by photographing him in places that resonate with him. He had mentioned a quote on the wall that he loved, "We not me", because he believes in the power of teamwork when completing any task.

What was it like to learn more about your story topic?

It was fantastic. Every photo job isn't the same, which I love! Getting to know more about Reggie's story, what he does, and how he helps out was very inspirational to me. Reggie had mentioned that he's worked with 3 teams in the NFL and all of them have gone to the Super Bowl, which I found to be pretty amazing.

Why did you want to work with the Rams to celebrate Black History Month?

Even though there are African-American football players on the field, there is definitely a lack behind the scenes. So me having the chance to photograph and highlight one of the few black Sports Medicine executives in the industry was a great opportunity.

What do you hope that people take away from your artwork?

My goal is always always is to inspire and make people want to create more and better work, whether it's through painting, writing, photographing, singing, or whatever it is they do creatively.

What are you trying to communicate through your work?

That we're all humans at the end of the day. I tend to incorporate more People of Color in my work because we've been ostracized by the media since the beginning and we have important things to say too.

Chris Bell

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Christopher "zCIBzPro" Bell is a young Video Producer and Editor who graduated from Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach, FL) and got his start freelancing music videos, weddings, and small corporate events.

While in undergrad at Bethune-Cookman, Chris was given the chance to intern at Cateye Network by his now mentor, Darian McCaskill. Cateye is where Chris was introduced to the world of sports videography and it is where he began building a foundation that would lead him to work for collegiate and professional sports teams in the NCAA, NHL, NBA, and NBA2K.

Alongside sports videography, Cateye gave Chris the opportunity to shoot and edit for commercials and live TV. Chris has 8 years of professional experience, but says, " My love for video production started way before then."

Chris remembers back in the 5th grade was the first time he held a camera, when he was chosen as the cameraman for the school's morning news show. "I didn't really know exactly what I was doing, but I remember thinking this is pretty cool."

That match would soon light the fire that drives him on every project.

His mindset and motto when it comes to production is "I am in the business of making you look good," meaning "I put in the time and effort as if every project was for myself." "There is nothing like the feeling of seeing someone light up form something that you created." "I love what I do and the joy of knowing I'm creating something that will outlive me."

None of this would be possible without the love and support of my family. (Ronald Bell Sr. , Kathy Bell, Ron Bell Jr.) My only goal in life is to make them proud.

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