08 Jul 2020
“Kind of measured,. I’d say that I’m a routined person. I pray and I read to start the day. But there is also a lot of flexibility. Connecting with people, connecting with art. Putting my body and mind first. “A La” is French for “in the manner of,” so it’s really about a strong emphasis on what I love and being true to myself."
“It’s really just my happy color. It’s a color that pops, adds something to every situation or outfit. I had a natural gravitation towards it since five years ago, now it’s almost like a branding tool in the sense that people might think about me when they see orange.”
“Very, haha. Typically, I wear a lot of muted colors. But orange is the pop in my life. I like to think it’s my influence that he’s also starting to wear orange."
“I really would love to go to Amsterdam during Kingsday! I’ve been to Amsterdam once before, but I was only there for 8 hours because I was passing through from Paris. Amsterdam is great though, it really did something for me. I have a lot of Dutch friends, among whom Olaf Hussein and Hussein from Daily Paper.”
“Both cities are very creative, and a lot of people from Amsterdam come to New York. Brands like Olaf Hussein, Daily Paper, Patta, MENDO, those are internationally respected brands that reach far beyond the Dutch borders. The community is just amazing.”
“I was born in Brooklyn, but my family is from Haiti. Haitians are very resilient people. It was the first Black republic to gain independence in 1804. If you come across a Haitian, you’ll find someone who's very positive and resilient. People that have been through a lot historically, but are always able to persevere and appreciate the simple joys of life.”
“Exactly! I have lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I don’t really see myself anywhere else. I think I thrive off the madness. Everywhere else is too slow for me. New York brings that friction in your day-to-day. It’s a fast-paced environment, and there’s always a challenge.”
“Well, if you look at recent news, I think it’s kind of evident. I’m a strategist by trade, I went to business school and studied finance. Those are environments that have not been very open to black people. Through that path, I fell to consulting and strategy in different industries, and even the coolest brands in New York are not that diverse at senior levels. These industries have been closed off to other minds. And bringing in new perspectives, specifically from the black community, is needed.”
“Breaking the barrier of how you find these people. Devaluate formal education and look at interesting life paths. These are the people who should be getting the jobs. In America, people look at credentials made at high valued universities that are only available to the rich, while the majority of the consumers are not from that background. We should be breaking down the criteria. That’s how things will change. The pool of talent should be more colorful, in whatever way you want to interpret that.”
“Yes, that’s true. It goes from Africa to Asia, to Europe to Haiti. That’s the beauty of living in today’s world.”
“It comes down to having a good team. In the beginning, I was very involved with Port Tanger. My partner Bilal Fellah is really the driving force, and I pretty much came on board to formalize the idea that he had. I did my part to bring on some talented people, but the team now is so strong that I don’t need to be super involved. The balance is pretty smooth. At Daniel Arsham, I’m formally listed as the Managing Director for his editions practices. But I also oversee collaborations and future growth in China. The last year I’ve been mostly working on exploring and catering to the Chinese market.”
“It’s about telling stories. Many things lately have been so surface leveled. I think people are eager to dig a bit deeper. Extract something culturally interesting. That’s what we do with Daniel’s artworks, and with Port Tanger.”
“I’ve been in quarantine for over 12 weeks, so I’ve had the time to watch some movies. I recently saw that documentary about Miles Davis; Birth of the Cool (2019). I’m a big jazz fan, so it was an inspiring watch. The way he was able to evolve throughout his career and all the phases he’s been through was incredibly inspiring to see. He also really embraced the youth. Many jazz legends we know today were discovered by him. One part in particular that I liked about the movie was about his score for Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud (1958). He composed that score on the spot, reading off the emotion of the protagonist in the film, and translating that into music. I watched that right after I saw the documentary on Netflix. So if you have the chance, make it a double-feature.”
12 Aug 2020
“The difference is that a photographer takes a picture of reality, while I try to create a new reality. In my work, I create new environments and sculptures. During my time at the visual academy in Madrid, I was not only focused on photography. It is a bit too narrow for me. Sometimes my work doesn’t even involve a camera."
“Chaotic, haha. I like to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself as much as I can. both visually and conceptually.”
“Not as much as you might think. I never do any retouching, and when I do postproduction I usually work together with RGB Berlin and Studio Wolfram. They know how to make everything look exactly how I want it."
“To be honest, Madrid didn’t bring me that much. So when I was done, I was kind of stuck and didn’t know what to do with my life. I started traveling around and assisted some photographers in Paris and London before I had the idea to go back to school. That really changed me and the way I approach my work. The freedom of the Rietveld Academy as well as the city of Amsterdam made me fall in love with my work again.”
“I’m teaching at a couple of academies in Madrid and I do workshops abroad. Mostly about the boundaries between commercial work and art. I think that’s the most important discovery: if you look at recent developments, the distinction between art and commerce has pretty much evaporated. Beyond that, I try to make future generations aware of what’s going on in the world and the systems that lie behind it. Movements like feminism and antiracism are things I value and I think they are important for an artist to acknowledge. I’m not trying to impose my views on them, but the work you make reflects your ideas. A great picture is not just a pleasant thing to look at, it should have an impact.”
“Absolutely. The work is so much about who you are and where you position yourself. I think I create in an intuitive way so I can’t really have distance from my work. Because I’m in the middle, I can’t step out of it so far.”
“Somehow my work became quite object-oriented in the last few years. That grew organically. I shoot many still lifes because you don’t need a big budget to make them. But I wouldn’t say that I’m a still life photographer at all. Lately, I´ve been doing fashion and documentary as well. That variety is what I love most. If you look at the great artists in history, they don’t follow one straight path or genre at all. It also excites me to flip the anachronic hierarchy of genres. Still lifes are still being undervalued if you compare it to animal painting, landscapes, genre, portraits, and history paintings.”
“I live in one of those gentrified neighborhoods of Madrid, and I am lucky enough to have a place where I can both work and live. We chatted with Paolo and Olaf, and we tried to brainstorm about ideas. I tried to figure out what I could do in the limited space and time we had. I invited two friends who live nearby, we ordered some props, and had some fun. One of the things I love about my work is the collaborative process. That’s why I live in Madrid, I can work with the people I trust.”
“I was mostly at my studio and I rarely went out. I don’t follow the news that much either, so a lot of things went by me. Workwise it was an interesting time. Because I don’t need huge sets or teams, I was able to still do a lot of work. I did a story for the latest issue of Wallpaper magazine, which I haven’t seen yet because all the shops are still closed, and I just did a story for Amazing - Closing Ceremony, my favorite magazine from Shanghai.”
“My friends! We’ve gone on zooms and walks while having a lot of good conversations during the quarantine. Sometimes until deep in the night. Both stupid jokes and deep conceptual thinking. This is something we already did before quarantine, but during times like these, you come to realize how important these things are.”