ASC Mentor Program

  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Statement

“Once a (Black) dancer, always a (Black) dancer.”

I approach cinematography as a former ballet dancer with a deep reverence for the people and communities that raised me. I was raised in a home of eccentric and eclectic grandparents from two of the poorest towns on opposite ends of the world who emphasized higher learning and cultural awareness, a mother who invested her family in nation-wide community outlets, resources and programs, and a brother who stands as the poster child for the infamous pledge of brotherhood “I am my brother’s keeper”.

My gratitude for my grand-pére and grand-pére for migrating from Haiti and the hills and the delta of Mound Bayou, Mississippi cannot be appropriately expressed in the limited English language. Their deficiency of normalcy dared them to dream of life with better opportunities and thus greater possibilities. And much like the photos of James VanDerZee, Andrey Tarkovsky, and Gordon Parks, which have inspired me, photography became my grandparent’s tool for cultivation and legacy. Seeing their images as I grew up sparked an appreciation for photography, not for its technicality, but its ability to translate human experience in real time.

Today my personal work reflects a deep connection to my cultural upbringing. It’s only when I look back to past projects that have defined my budding career that I realize my approach is unconsciously guided by my honed philosophy of simply showing up for people and their stories. Two encounters specifically speak to this philosophy in action: When I was approached by the Lead Producer of a feature length documentary highlighting Black queer communities in Chicago they were perplexed that I insisted my project compensation of $1000 be donated to the project’s first fundraising campaign, and when I was nominated and selected to be an Oprah Winfrey Leadership Scholar Mentor to a (Black) woman getting her Producing degree from NYU. Becoming a nominated as a mentor means so much because everyone it’s an act of visibility and someone saying “I see you and the contributions of your work”. As a (Black) cinematographer from Southside Chicago striving for more visibility and opportunity has been more of a challenge than actually picking up a camera and just shooting.

Fun Fact: I was a self-taught cinematographer before applying to grade school and I learned on a Canon 5D my grandmother bought me.

Working in a medium where perspective influences creativity it’s challenging to push creative boundaries and stay technically sound without the opportunity to work with the tools and equipment. Like my grands-parents I believe access and opportunity brings greater possibilities and I look to one day before on the giving end of this life-changing mentee program. My short and long-term goals are simple. Soak up as much information as I can from leading professionals so I can employ and pass it on to next next generation of budding cinematographers.