Makeda sandford is a photographer and creative director based in Brooklyn, ny. Her work reflects her exploration of concepts like intersecting identity, femininity, fashion, beauty, youth and the black american + african diaspora experience. Makeda began making images as a teenager. She is a full-time social media strategist/editor at Jezebel and has recently begun unit set stills, with two feature films done so far.
A conversation between Makeda Sanford and The Canvas
Briefly tell us how you entered the world of photography.
I started photography at 13 as a form of therapy. I wanted to be a fashion designer up until freshman year of high school, and saw photography as a way to still be involved with fashion. Over the years, I built a large library of self portraiture, starting from when I was 13 up until when I graduated from college. The photos are poorly edited and pretty corny, but were important in being one of my first real bodies of work as a photographer, especially as a form of artistic expression. College is then when I solidified my personal style.
Your work explores the balance of revealing one's vulnerability with this sense of power and dignity.
Thank you, yes, that balance within the art does come fairly naturally. To depict women, especially Black women, with an air of power and an air of high regard. I was raised with a lot of strong Black women as teachers, mentors and had three aunts who helped raise me who are all very powerful, confident Black women. I was also raised by my grandmother and mother as well. My mother is the black sheep of the family. Being the daughter of the black sheep of the family gave me a cool perspective, because I questioned the idea of womanhood in parenthood, because of her alternative ways of being and also seeing these kind of more standard energized ways of womanhood. I'm very grateful for how I was raised, and I think that definitely shows in my work. Also, worth mentioning, my subjects may show signs of power but not always happy, because I want to capture their naturalness.
Or even the essence of being human?
Yes, exactly. I avoid wanting to curate too much and showcase how they naturally show themselves to the world. So my work is a balance of naturalness with intentionality.
What were some of your most favorite commissions projects?
Recently, I have worked on unit set stills on two feature films. I really enjoyed capturing behind the scenes and stills on a set of a film. Working with a film team is amazing, because they're all creatives too. The lighting is always perfect, actors are extremely photogenic, fun and I am able to work along a storyline. It's been my most favorite work so far.
Tell us a bit about the type of area you are most excited about exploring next?
I am really, really excited to do more personal work. As an artist you get to a point where you can work for commissions where you see other people's visions come to life through you. And that's a really amazing gift. I'm ready to explore my own vision on a deeper level. Also, I think it's the best time to be a Black woman photographer. There's more opportunity for a Black woman's perspective to be actually heard, and listened to, and felt and empathized with. So I'm very grateful a lot of my projects that I get naturally are concerning Black women, portraits of Black women as professionals in the industry, them expressing femininity and the womanhood that is being elevated right now. I think that that's kind of the natural lane that I'm seeing to be able to provide, and I want to continue exploring this subject.
If you could collaborate with one brand, who would it be?
I would love to collaborate with A24. I love their story making, filming, storytelling and visual identity.