Interview: Carolyn McDaniel
Carolyn McDaniel is a blogger and photographer based in Chicago, Illinois. In this interview, we talk to Carolyn about finding her voice in social media as an artist of colour.
Why did you want to start a blog and get into photography?
I wanted to start a blog because I was noticing several lifestyle photographers via social media and how they were creating so many beautiful images -- I would always say, “I should do that.. One day, I’m gonna do that.” but I wasn’t noticing many African American women pursuing lifestyle photography so for a while it kind of prevented me from doing so. Eventually, it did push me to start my own blog. As for photography, blogging helped me get into it because I had to create my own content and take photos of my own, particularly of things that I find interesting and that I enjoy.
Do you think there is a lack of authenticity on social media?
I believe so - I’ve noticed others who tend to get caught up in the highlights of other peoples lives, becoming impressionable to those circumstances and leading them to believe that they too should be this way or have whatever it is someone has.
How do you see yourself evolving in your work/career?
My goal is to work hard so that I can get to a point where I'm able to make my passion my career. I think that this is a dream of many creatives, to see that they are evolving and getting to that place that they want to be.
There is definitely a lack of representation in almost every creative medium for women of colour. How do you find your voice and stay true to yourself?
The lack of representation is the exact reason why I push myself and encourage women of colour to pursue their creative dreams and endeavours. I feel that my art is a genuine representation of who I am, and speaks for who I am and others like me, who wish to bring people of colour to the forefront. Being a creator helped me find my voice and that is how I stay true to myself.
I can’t be anyone else but me.
You have a lot of beautiful and inspiring self portraits on Instagram! Was there a specific time where you were kinda just like, this is me and I want the world to see who I am?
I don't think I’ve ever had that kind of moment. I like to view my portraits as precious moments where I’m able to create something fun -- which gives me peace of mind and allows me to take a break from the stresses of everyday life. By day, I work as a caregiver, which can be stressful, and I believe that my portraits represent those times where I’m able to be free and forget about life’s burdens. Even if it's for a little while at a time.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from different people and places. I love afro-portraitism and many kinds of contemporary art - I find myself pulling a lot of inspiration from such things.
What do you do to reduce stress and relax your mind & body?
I’ve found that eating healthy and watching movies help to put me more at ease. I believe that if you take care of your body, it'll take care of you - therefore, I try to be mindful of what I eat. I would also say that watching films is one of my top stress relievers. I absolutely love watching movies of all kinds especially after a long and stressful day.
Speaking of films, What are your favourite films and books at the moment?
My favourite film at the moment is called Padmaavat. It’s a Bollywood film that I’ve been obsessed with as of late. The cinematography is very vibrant and everything about this film is just beautiful to me. I’m also currently reading a book entitled "James Baldwin: Artist On Fire”, which is a biography about James Baldwin, a very prominent African American writer, poet and activist from Harlem, New York.
What's your favourite place in Chicago and why?
Hands down, the Garfield Park Conservatory. It’s such a serene place to be. Just being surrounded by plants automatically lifts my spirits. If I'm stressed or my mind needs some down time, I can count on the Conservatory to help me refresh my mind and soul. I’ve also had a lot of amazing portraits taken here.
Lastly, do you have any advice for WOC artists who are just starting out?
To the WOC who wish to pursue their creative dreams, my advice to them would be to JUST START! Don't question what you’re doing, don't compare yourself to others and just focus on you and your craft. That's the best thing that you can do, and I can assure you that good things will follow if you allow them to.
Check out Carolyn's blog here and follow her on Instagram @carolyn.lorraine.