Behind The Model: Keiko

Back in May, after realizing that I barely keep up with my blog, I was trying to think of ways to use this platform more consistently. When it comes to my social media, it's often solely my voice. If you follow me on twitter, you definitely know I use my voice a lot. The same goes with Instagram, I post photos I've created in collaboration with someone else but it's always my side of the story. That's about to change. The people I collaborate with are so incredibly talented and their stories deserve to be told just as much as the photos that we create. You get to see the faces I shoot but now it's time to actually introduce you to the dreams, personalities and lives behind the photos. 

Even though I just started shooting with Keiko in June, it was a creative love at first sight. There was an instant connection and after countless shoots over the last few months, it always seems like we're always just on the same page. In a short amount of time, we truly have grown together to create some of my all time favorite work and there's no sign of stopping any time soon. 

How would you describe yourself to someone who has never met you before? 

"It’s always hard describing myself to other people, haha. I always feel like I sound like a business interview so I like for people to get to know me and then make their own perceptions of me. One thing I will say is that I am independent, or at least try my hardest to be."

Tell us a little about your latest project, Aberdeen Place.

"Aberdeen Place is an online resale shop I started where 10% of proceeds go to the African People's Defense & Education Fund."

What inspired you to start Aberdeen Place? 

"I grew up on a street called Aberdeen Place. I lost the house I grew up in to foreclosure when I was about 17 and I never really recognized the trauma it had on me and my family until I started going to therapy years later. Aberdeen Place is so important to me because it's my chance to pay homage to something very dear to my family and I. It also gives me the chance to give back to others who may be going through similar scenarios."

How does creativity play a role in your life and how do you choose to express that creativity? 

"Creativity is my life. I come from a very creative family so they made sure to instill freedom of expression in me at a young age. I like to call myself a jack of all trades but as I get older and closer to a career path, I find myself becoming a master of one, which has really always been fashion. I love being able to express myself through what I’m wearing." 

How important is style to you & how would you describe yours? 

"Very important! But not in sense where style is everything that matters but style is a form of independence and individuality to me. I never really molded to one style because I’m very good at adapting to many. I get my chameleon like nature from my mom lol."

Where do you draw your inspiration from in regards to styling & modeling? 

"Definitely my mother, and many other power house females such as Erykah Badu, Solange and Diana Ross."

When it comes to fashion, what season is your favorite and why?

"Fall, hands down! I love the Fall because you can play up/down anything. Fall is also a time when I like to experiment with different looks since the weather is so easy to work with."

What is one staple you can't leave the house without? 

"Hmm. Well I suppose I always wear jewelry. Specifically my rings. I've been wearing them for years because most of them were gifts from my mother."

If you could have your dream job tomorrow, what would it be? 

"My dream job is working for myself. I’d have a store front somewhere close to home (North Philly) filled with little pretty vintage things and I’d still be modeling for fun!"

You can keep up with Keiko on Instagram and Twitter, and follow Aberdeen Place on Instagram. 

Nothing In Life Is Free

Everyone has different rules or feelings toward the compensation they receive for their time and photos. I'm definitely not here to say whether they're all wrong and my perspective is right, or vice versa.

At the end of the day, it's your art & business so do what you feel is right for you. With that being said, I've seen so many social media posts saying that the rule for photoshoots should be "if I contact you, it's a free shoot or TFP, if you contact me, you're a client & should pay." I don't see it so black & white. There's a lot of gray area when it comes to free vs paid shoots in my opinion. If I charged every person who reached out to me to shoot, I may have a little more money in my pocket but also wouldn't have the experiences I've gained from collaborating with those people. If everyone followed that rule, no collaborations or photos would ever be created. Why is it a rule to charge a model who reaches out to you but not pay the model when you reach out to them? Is it only free when it benefits you? When faced with the decision of doing a shoot for free or expecting to be paid, I ask myself one question, "Is everyone involved mutually benefiting from this?" Whether I see it as a learning opportunity or an opportunity to network, it's not all about the money for me. That doesn't mean I'm rolling in money and don't value my art because that's the farthest thing from the truth but when it comes to photography, it's not what pays my bills right now so I feel like I have more freedom to be creative and don't have to focus so much on only doing paid work. If every model I reached out to followed that rule, I wouldn't be able to work with everyone I've had the chance to work with. I'm so thankful that they've seen enough value in my work to want to spend their time and effort to collaborate with me. And the ones who either declined or never responded when I reached out, that's okay too.


However if you reach out to a photographer (or a model, stylist, makeup artist, etc), free work should NOT be expected. If they don't feel like it benefits them enough for it to be a collaboration, either politely move on or if you value their work enough & have the means to do so, compensate them for their time & art. No one wants to be taken advantage of or feel like they're being used. It sucks & doesn't allow anyone to produce their best work. At the end of the day, no one is forcing you to do shoots you don't want to do & no one should be guilted into doing shoots they don't feel represents their art & brand. I think the bigger issue isn't about the money, it's about the respect. Respect everyone's time, skills & art. Respect their decision to charge or do work for free/TFP.


Okay, last thing, if you slide into my DMs with "we should shoot" 9 times out of 10, im not gonna take you seriously & we're not ever going to shoot. I see it as you're telling me what to do instead of approaching me as a fellow artist. this goes back to respect and no one owes you their time so act like you value them.

As photographers, do we have the responsibility to represent all types of people?

I'm not here to tell other photographers what they should and shouldn't be doing with their cameras. However, for me personally, I will always feel a deep responsibility and passion for capturing the beauty within all people. When Instagram is filled with feeds and feeds of thin, white women, we should want more for our work than to just stay within this narrow view of beauty. When someone confronts a photographer about their lack of diversity, they should have more to show than the one black woman they shot a few months back. I want my portfolio to be so diverse and full of all kinds of beauty, not just one traditional standard of beauty. Who you choose to showcase in your portfolio is a reflection of who you find beauty in. Photographers are always looking for ways to make their art truly be unique and step out of the box but how can you achieve that by shooting the same type of models day in and day out? Make a conscious effort to do more and reach out to models who don't fit conventional beauty standards. As a photographer, if you truly believe you're showing off and appreciating the female body and its beauty, you shouldn't feel obligated to represent all people, you should feel honored that you get the opportunity and outlet to do so.


When POC have lacked representation for so long, as a photographer, why would you want to continue to contribute to that? By only shooting models who are thin and white, it enforces society's ideal beauty standards. Someone with a platform should want to use that to influence beauty standards and allow those previously misrepresented or not represented at all to finally be accurately represented. Give them their spotlight. Use your art to amplify theirs. Representation has a huge impact on self worth and how we view ourselves so why would you not want your art to aide in boosting the confidence of others? By no means is any artist required to do anything with their art but at the end of the day, your art should be a reflection of what you believe in, and I believe there's beauty in all people so my work will continue to portray that.