Curt Saunders is a 24 year old photographer born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Here in his exclusive interview with WILDABOUT he talks chronic illness, WOC, softness and his artistry…
TSKENYA: How did you discover your creativity?
Curt Saunders: In some ways I always knew I was creative, but when I was younger, creativity for me was more of an escape-ism than a way of life. I never thought I could completely live as a working creative.
TSK: Growing up were there any hardships that you faced? How did you overcome them?
CS: I was born with Sickle Cell Disease, so growing up I would face some difficult episodes with my health. Sickle cell can be a very painful condition, so for precautionary reasons I had to be less physically active than my friends would be, and many times I’d feel very left out. There are many mental/psychological components that come into play when you have to remain aware of your differences to other people, but I’ve decided not to think in terms of limitations. I overcome by putting my faith at the forefront and not my condition. I see the fact that I’m alive as a blessing, and that there must be a purpose beyond the pain, so I trust that God will help me to be strong and fulfill this purpose as opposed to becoming a victim to weakness.
TSK: How did you get into photography?
CS: My father planted the seed for sure. He was always taking photos for fun on film cameras and I was always really eager to see the results. I’d spend hours looking at the photos he took, and I still take joy in looking at those memories today. Additionally, I’ve always been drawn to visual art whether it be paintings, photographs or film, and so photography feels like a way for me to channel everything I’ve absorbed from years of looking at imagery.
TSK: You capture women, especially black women beautifully, was it always your intention to capture WOC in this way? Why is capturing black women in a natural, delicate light important to you?
CS: Thank you for those kind words and for asking this question. At various points in my life, I’ve faced strong realizations about many of the ways women, especially women of color have been visually portrayed in the media. Imagery is very powerful in the sense that as positive as representation is and should be, it can also be contaminated in a way that generates stereotypes, promotes oppression, etc. We’ve seen that as a constant pattern developed throughout history, (especially as it pertains to women and people of color.) Both men and women internalize these images, and express what we internalize in various, sometimes unfortunately harmful ways. I say all this to say that I do think intentionally about photographing women in a way that is respectful and celebratory. I’m very aware of my shortcomings as a man, so this is not to say that I do so perfectly, but if nothing more, I do feel it is my responsibility as a visual artist to use my powers for good and not for evil so to speak. I owe it to the many women who have personally taught me so many important values, both directly and indirectly. Knowing the impact that images have in correlation to human perception and behavior, I hope to remain very mindful of all these things and do my part to be the change that I want to see in the world.
TSK: If you plan on having children, what advice would you give your daughter? If not, what advice would you give a niece, sister or female friend?
CS: The truth of your existence and the existence of your truth validates you, not the opinions of others.
TSK: What advice would you have given young Curt? What would you have said to him?
CS: There’s a Pharrell tweet that says “you are already that person, just put yourself in that place.” That and “relax your shoulders.”
Thank you Curt.
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