Story 53: Rashod Taylor

What is your backstory?

When I think about experiences that have pointed me towards photography I tend to go back to when I was around 8 years old and being very interested in our family albums. We would have boxes full of photos and albums that my mom would put together. Growing up my parents would take photos for all our events, birthdays, vacations and family gatherings with this little 35mm Vivitar PS:35 point and shoot. I remember that little camera till this day. It’s probably sitting in a box somewhere at my parent’s house. Those memories have stuck with me and really sparked my interest in photography. I continued to get more into photography in high school working at the school newspaper and yearbook covering events and making portraits. Ever since then I gravitated to photographing people and that has stuck with me ever since.

Family has been a central focus of my work. As it pertains to family I am also interested in how that fits within the Black American experience.

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What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I am old school; I love film and analog processes. I learned photography on it so old habits die hard. Most of my work is made using large format cameras typically 4x5 but some 8x10 and wet plate also. I enjoy shooting in black and white film and love the simplicity and richness to it. I develop and scan at home, but my main output is making prints in my home darkroom.

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LJ with the Hose.jpg
Rashod_Taylor_Bath time.jpg
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Rashod_Taylor_LJ and his Fort.jpg

How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

Shooting large format helps with the depth that I want with my images and it also slows me down when making photographs. I always think about light but at the same time do my best to keep my son entertained and still while I go through the process of making an image on large format. I shoot Ilford HP5 at iso 320 to open up the shadows a bit and I take a little off of my development time to achieve that. My developer of choice is Kodak D-76 with a 1:1 dilution. I typically digitize my negatives with my old trusty canon 5D Mark II, tripod and a light box. I use lightroom and photoshop for processing and editing for the web. I prefer to use my darkroom to make prints and proof sheets. There is nothing that can match a well printed silver gelatin photograph.

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Rashod_Taylor_LJ with ball.jpg
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What is ‘Little Black Boy’ and what is the story behind it?

This project started to simply document my son’s life but as I photographed him more, I started to see themes within the images that I wanted to address more intentionally. I wanted the viewer to see what childhood is like growing up black in America and also the viewpoint from me navigating fatherhood as a black man trying to get over fears and insecurities while leading my son through his childhood. All of this while displaying the realities of racial inequality and social injustice that are prevalent in our lives. With these different themes in mind, I work to package this work in a way that it can show love and tenderness but at the same time highlight the pain and struggles that we go through as people of color. With the work I give it a sense of duality where one image can be read multiple ways. This I think is where the images have the ability to connect and do so with different audiences. Ultimately, I want to keep the conversation going in terms of the black experience and elevate the depiction of black life which has been very much one sided by media and in the consciousness of America. I see many possibilities for my son, and I want these images not only capture who he is and what he can accomplish but show that black children have bright futures and can make an impact despite having a handicap that other children simply don’t have based on the color of their skin.

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What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Make photographs of the things you care deeply about and everything else will fall into place. Never stop making photographs, even when it’s hard, keep doing it.

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Rashod_Taylor_Superman.jpg
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self portrait with LJ.jpg
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Rashod Taylor

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Story 52: Sam Spinks