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Meet Alexis Hunley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alexis Hunley.

Alexis, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I can’t draw straight lines. My hands shake. I stopped playing piano in middle school. I don’t sing. And I stab myself constantly when I sew.

There’s no way you would have been able to convince me I was an artist two years ago. I lived my life “art adjacent.” The majority of my friend group is comprised of musicians, singers, writers, filmmakers, chefs, painters, creative directors, stylists, and more. I was always in awe of each one of them. The way they light up when talking about their newest project or piece. The way they all move with confidence when they are in their creative zones. They know who they are. And I wanted that. I wanted that unbridled creative energy that came from knowing your purpose. I wanted to feel passionate and love something so much that I was willing to go without sleep or money or food to make that dream a reality.

Looking back now, I’ve always been an artist. Secretly. I’ve always been creating. Shooting short films. Writing short stories. Documenting my life with photos. Building things from scratch. Always finding ways to create.

I had opportunities to pursue art but ran from them because I knew I was good at sports. I was scared to be bad. To fail. So the more I avoided spaces where I could “fail” the more I found myself drawn to friends that were freely expressing themselves as artists. I was always so happy to be a support system for the artists in my life – providing structural and organizational support in any way possible. Remaining “art adjacent” so that I could be near the art I secretly wanted to be creating without ever having to expose myself to the vulnerability that came with being authentic. And so I played it safe.

About two years ago I had a moment of clarity after taking some time to examine my life and what I truly wanted. I wanted to create! But what would I create? And how? It took a few weeks of beating my head against the wall, but I eventually stumbled upon some old pictures I had taken over the years – they weren’t half bad. How had I never considered photography? I’ve always been taking pictures. Had I really let the fear of not being good enough deter me from even trying? It was a bit of a slap in the face but I needed it. So after a little more coaxing from family and friends, I decided to just do it. I committed myself to being the best photographer I could possibly be. I spent 4-5 hours each day reading articles and watching YouTube videos to figure out how to shoot, how to edit, how to negotiate contracts, etc. I lived and breathed everything photography.

After a few months and some noticeable improvement, I did the one thing that terrified me: I started reaching out to others for help. For guidance. For support. For honest feedback about my work. And it was terrifying. Each person I met left me with a new lesson or sent me on a path toward a step I needed to take. Portfolio reviews. Meetings with photo editors and agents. Assisting other photographers. I placed myself in as many new, uncomfortable spaces as possible because I knew that I could not grow if I was not brave enough to really put my all into what I was doing.

It’s been about a year now since I’ve been able to comfortably and confidently call myself an artist. I no longer live adjacent to the art that I love. I jump right in and allow myself to explore any art form that calls to me on a given day: painting, filmmaking, pottery, cooking, etc. I have never felt more myself.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The furthest thing from easy. Photo equipment is REALLY expensive. I’ve had to save for a lens at a time. Or a new camera body at a time. Don’t even get me started on the price of good strobe lights. Renting studios to test. Portfolio reviews. It’s a lot! Every dollar I’ve earned from shoots has gone back into developing my craft. One of my biggest goals for the end of 2019 is to be in the black financially! Outside of financial constraints, most of the difficulties I’ve encountered can be boiled down to one thing: fear. The fear of failing. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of being vulnerable and passionately throwing myself into something I loved. I was terrified. I felt alone and isolated a lot in the beginning – unsure of where I was going, what I should focus on, and if I was progressing. I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark. With time things started to fall into place but then the stress of inconsistent income started to hit home. There was a three month period where I had no money coming in because I was solely focused on developing my artistic voice and working on a personal project. Mind you – I am a homeowner. I have a mortgage and utilities and taxes to pay. Stressed barely paints an accurate picture of how I was feeling a majority of the time. At the end of those three months of hard work and practice, I landed my first commercial gig. I took a chance on myself and it paid off.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Alexis Hunley – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I tell stories. I’m a visual storyteller focused on understanding the human condition. My main goal is to create beautifully composed images that make people feel. I want people not only to see but to feel the things that get lost in words. Pain. Joy. Peace. Wonder. Rage. Anxiety. Love.

The unique lens that I have been gifted as a black queer woman who has lived all over the US is what sets me apart. I am most proud of the progress I have made since I started shooting about a year and a half ago. I am proud of myself for being vulnerable and brave. For facing new fears each day and continuing to put my best foot forward even when I am exhausted, anxious, financially strained, or doubting myself.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Long term, I plan to take on as many creative projects as possible in both film and photo. I am excited to take on more commercial projects, continue working on a few long-term personal projects, and start the process of preparing to self-publish my first photobook by the end of the year. I am looking forward to traveling the world and creating everywhere I go!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Brianna Marie, Nassali Kiggundu, Evan Lewis, Ankofa Chris, Rickstar, Sarah Polednak

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