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Rising Stars: Meet Caleb Griffin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caleb Griffin.

Hi Caleb, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I was born in Montgomery Alabama, where my interest in art was first nurtured by my parents. I was homeschooled until the fourth grade, and this allowed my parents the freedom to place me in various art programs associated with homeschooled families. From there, I attended two magnet schools for middle and high that also catered their experience to the arts. In high school, I was first introduced to photography where I studied the process of black and white film for two years before moving on to digital. After graduating high school, I attended the University of Southern California, where I recently graduated in May of 2020 with my B.A. in art and emphasis in photography. At USC, I was immersed into a robust creative community of black students who became my network and family in Los Angeles.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Honestly no. Upon first entering the environment at USC and the city of Los Angeles, I felt a great sense of imposter syndrome. In class, I wouldn’t speak that much because of anxiety and immense feelings of inadequacy. This experience is not unique to many black students on campus. I thankfully was able to find my voice through writing and art, where I eventually felt empowered to exist with the same confidence I put in the work I created. Other struggles included keeping up with the pace of the city and college. Although LA does not feel like this now, I often felt like a hamster on a wheel during school. Turning out project after project, assignments, and wanting to maintain a social life while also working and freelancing on the weekends took a toll on my mental health. This fostered unhealthy habits when it came to production and feeling the need to put out. Luckily, after school, I’ve had the time to set my own pace, form my ideas around capitalism, and figure out what kind of creative professional I want to be.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My artistic practice consists of fine art photography, commercial photography, and creative direction for music artists. My personal work has much to do with my feelings on familial longing, being that I am from Alabama and recently graduated from USC. It is influenced by my upbringing in the church and my proximity to a multitude of performing artists. That has led me to make work about the inherited space of the black church, as a pastor’s son, intersected by my experience as a black, gay man. Visually, I am intrigued by the lack of environmental awareness a performer is able to act in when they are consumed by their craft. This imagery centers motion, the beauty of the human form, and the daunting act of commitment. I want viewers to be imparted with ideas or customs that could possibly be foreign to them. Once imparted with those ideas, parallels can be drawn to their lives, and ultimately universal understanding is achieved. The newest part of my journey includes embarking upon a partnership with a close friend, Domia Edwards.

This collaboration will be covering fine art photography, editorial, fashion, and branding/creative strategy for recording artists. As a collective, we bring our southern upbringing and cultural influences to the landscape of Los Angeles. We aim to use theoretical art practices to reconcile artists’ lyrical content and heritage with futuristic aesthetics. A few accomplishments that I most proud of include receiving a community grant fund from Adobe Lightroom and being a major photography contributor to the Getty Museums’ new book on the Robert Irwin Garden. My creative direction work also has been featured alongside artists on sites such as V Magazine, NPR, Rolling Stone India, PopSugar, Fader, Complex, Spotify, and Essence. Also, I received the Handtmann Prize for Photography from USC in May of 2019 which includes a solo show that will take place sometime in the future. I believe that my authenticity and commitment to my craft sets me apart from others. I am enjoying the process of being enraptured in my creations and the immense healing that comes with purging all of your emotions into a body of work.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Networking horizontally has helped me more than anything. I think approaching each connection organically and with humility goes a long way. Also, understanding that you don’t have to collaborate with everyone. Catering your collaborations so there is a mutual benefit/ exchange is key.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

1. (black and white dancer) model: Brianna Mims 2. (dancer by river) model : Le’Mia 3. Cover art (blue jewels) model: Ayoni 4. Cover art (red chain mask): Ayoni

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