Traversing across the inter-webs we came across Portrait & Lifestyle Photographer Kibwe Brathwaite. He also consults on creative projects, so we reached out to him and he agreed to step from behind the lens to answer a few questions.
How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
To me, creativity is the use of your imagination and knowledge to solve a problem or serve a need/desire. I use these words quite carefully because there is much today that we identify as "creative" or "creativity" but it's merely nothing more than blindly following others.
Creativity means being able to custom tailor solutions based on the nuances of the prob... OMG do I sound like a designer?
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
My creativity is an equal combination of both. From childhood I've always had an interest in aesthetics; in drawing, sneakers and fashion trends, music and music videos, page layouts, video games, and... LEGO. So being able to feed my interest (mostly through lego, SNES, drawing sneakers and watching rap videos I was probably too young to view) I was able to independently explore and imagine how these things worked, and create some versions of my own (in my head or on a piece of paper). In that innocence was raw innate creativity.
Growing older, meeting new people, and attending school taught me about cultures and communication and the psychology of it all etc, I discovered the ability to efficiently express that creativity through photography.
When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I realised that I wanted to express my creativity in my mid-twenties; relatively late in my opinion. I’m not sure if it was encouraged or not by my parents. I think at that point I didn’t care if anyone was cheering from the bleachers.
What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
I ask myself the question “How will this piece of work be viewed in 100 years (seriously, 100 years)? How much will any of this work matter?” I use these questions to evaluate my creative work and the work of others. There are a plethora of sub-questions that determine the answers but that’s where it all starts from. Sometimes these things translate to monetary rewards, sometimes they do not. I mean, Van Gogh died pennilessly. I can only hope a similar fate does not fall upon me.
Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
If I allowed people’s views to influence my perception and evaluation of my creative endeavours I’d probably be shooting a lot of scantily clad women. The culture of where I live currently substantially influences my work; the subjects, the biases, the everything-ness that forms my aesthetic (whatever that may be). Parts of my work walk hand-in-hand with the culture in which I exist, and parts of my work have an underlying defiance that purposely walks against the culture.
What do you do when you experience a creative block?
My creative blocks are usually connected to my depression, and my depression is most easily governed by my diet, my exercise and my sleep. When I fix those things, I fix my depression and thus I fix my block.
How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
“Leaps” and “Sparks” never happen to me. I prefer a very gradual process of conceptualising ideas and allowing them to leisurely evolve. That’s me.
Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
I simply take a look at my bills.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
I do not believe my style has changed really, but my maturity has altered what I decide to shoot. I shoot much fewer things. I’ve grown into a belief that not everything should be photographed. Photography should be a memory trigger and not become the THING. People spend so much time behind a camera or a phone and lose the experience of the time and place in which they are existing, and they believe that you must have a zillion photos of this thing when all you need is probably one good succinct photograph that tells enough of the story.
Sorry, what was the question again?
What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
I don’t know if this would be considered a sacrifice, but I used to be an oilfield labourer, I had a nice salary for a young feller, a fun car and savings in the bank. However I loathed my job, I didn’t believe in what I was doing and I became too uninterested in a job that required all my faculties because my life and the lives of others depended on it when out there. So I left that for an unknown. No parachute, no guidance, (and after staying unemployed for 15 months) no money. But I wanted to do this and this was the only way I knew how. I sacrificed security.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
Two people, they don’t know it; Marlon Darbeau and Alex Smailes. I’d prefer not to speak of it in any more detail to not jinx the whole thing.
Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
Why can’t it be both? Why can’t there be a balance? Why does everything have to be so polarised? You can love what you do and also be adored by others, no?
Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
Rejection has never affected my creative process because it’s a process, to the end product. Rejection may most definitely alter the end product, the artifact, the piece or whatever, but not my creative process. Unless one day I discover my process is actually utter rubbish.
Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
This is all a journey of discovery. Admittedly, there are a few cringe-worthy things when I look back, but nothing I’d really change.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
You assume I possess a talent. I’m doing this until someone finds out that I’m a charlatan. A confused bloke in shorts masquerading as a photographer, as an artist.
What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
There’s nothing just yet, but I really like the “Essentials” series, better known as “Free Gallery”. The naming thing was a massive confusing blunder on my part and folks just went with the Free Gallery thing. Anyway, I really like that and quite proud of the little prankish project I did with it. But really I’m proud of how I’ve been evolving the visuals. Most of the evolution is still unseen because it’s all still in the ‘lab’, but I’m really proud of myself having the patience to allow it to eventually come to me.
What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
I always questioned if I should stop shooting, or diversify. This is because I happened to amass a circle of more designers than photographers as friends/associates. So I’ve always wanted to do something else. However Darbeau, Smailes, also recently Gerard Gaskin and Kevin Browne, all on separate occasions, have expressed to me to keep going, persist, be consistent, keep doing that THING people know you to do.
To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
Go be a Mud Engineer or Geologist at an oil company, yo. Just kidding (but not really). I’d advise a young creative to go out and have different experiences, experiment with different crafts, meet different people, have a few different jobs at the beginning. Why? Because these experiences furnish your life and fuels the way you approach your craft.
What would you most like to be remembered for?
If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
I love Black.
Black is Absolute.
Black is Pure.
Black is Mysterious.
Black is Power.