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an introduction to hip hop
atlanta 2013
"You're Canadian and you don't know Drake?!"

I met my foodie soulmate, this printmaking student and weird genius artist. She and my boyfriend at the time introduced me to hip hop. I have fond memories of driving on Peachtree St. listening to everything from Juvenile to J. Cole.

I know who Steph Curry is now. Popped my strip club cherry. We had this beginning of school quarter tradition where we'd start the night at Department, catch the last hour or two of Follies, then asian karaoke, and finally Waffle House at the crack of dawn.



fast friends
summer 2014
This was my first time in New York, my mecca for art and culture. I made the most of it. I remember going to Baby's for the first time. Gabriel Garzón-Montano was the opening act. His performance was so powerful I was left speechless. After his set, he walked out into the crowd. The girls started their swarm. I slinked my way in front of him. Still couldn't talk when we made eye contact. "Oh my god, that was so amazing. I literally can't talk." Fucking hated myself for sounding like a stereotypical groupie. Thank God he could tell I was being genuine.. I think.

We hung out a few days later. I followed him around for a day, watching him record at Electric Lady Studios, run errands, eat, pack, and holding conversations in between. He let me take photos of everything but asked I don't publish a particular set until after his father passes. I felt a warm glow being entrusted with a secret from a fast friend.


brainstorm
fall 2015
I found a cute ass apartment in Brooklyn. My best friend moved in with her boo in Queens. We were riding the train together and I began talking about starting a new project. I was so full energy! Charged by all the new people I was meeting.

"You need a common theme."

"Uh... I don't know... The majority of them are black guys. Can I just do a project about following black men?"

"Ennis you probably shouldn't say that."

Why not?

I questioned myself a lot. Is it really faux pas if I focus on black people? Because I'm not?


branding
The scope of Realest expanded. I discovered hip hop was a common thread. At the same time, we began prototyping the Realest book. Identity was a consideration from day one. Lauren Rust helped with her amazing design skills.


the official beginning
october 6, 2015

I did my first Realest session with Sebastian Mikael, a singer I met at a Ty Dolla $ign show. He wasn't exactly hip hop, more r&b, but he was the first person I convinced to let me follow around for 24 hours. We met at JFK. The fast friends process became pretty second nature after I got a couple shoots under my belt. I began chasing people down via internet and through friends of friends. What a time. I hoarded every penny for film and flights. I lived off bodega coffee, office leftovers and naps instead of meals. Cigarettes were both dessert and a great appetite suppressant.

always revise
winter 2015

My original plan was to publish a sleek, hardcover coffee table book, using the best photos from a year's worth of shooting. But as the project progressed, I realized there was a flaw in the execution.

One or two photos would never do 24 hours with someone justice. I wanted to show the full day from beginning to end, and all the things in between. So I revised, and redesigned the book into a softcover. It was called "524" at first. (Each issue was going to feature 5 People, 24 Hours).



I took this prototype everywhere. You never saw me without it. (Left is me shot by Eduardo Whittington) (Right is Chuck Inglish spitting out some food because it was too hot.. The 524 cover is a photo of Chuck and his girlfriend Amanda, kissing when the ball dropped on New Years Eve 2016.)

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