Beyond the Lens with CloudNai

This past March, I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Nailah Howze, better known as “CloudNai,”—a notable LA-based photographer, producer, and founder of Face2Face Media. Known for capturing the black community in its purest form, CloudNai’s impeccable photography allows her diverse clientele to embrace their individualism beyond their limits. CloudNai is a breath of fresh air, openly down to earth, and easily the one you want in your corner for all things creative-driven. I spoke with Nailah on her remarkable journey to success, inspirations for capturing black art and culture, and future career goals.

Featured image(s) courtesy of CloudNai

I genuinely enjoyed my time chatting with Nailah and was greatly inspired by her words of wisdom. My goal for anyone watching this interview is to remain encouraged and inspired to achieve your dreams. “The sun and moon both shine, just at different times—there’s room for everyone.” – CloudNai


Whose Streets? Our Streets!

Members of the Richmond-based photography collective, the Wild Bunch, answer our call to share their insights and experiences ahead of Norfolk exhibition.

Merriam-Webster defines the word movement in a number of ways, the most apt for our purpose being a series of organized activities working toward an objective, or an organized effort to promote or attain an end. There is much to draw from the definition as it pertains to the events that began to unfold around the country at the end of May, immediately following the barbaric killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, MN police officers.* The status quo of unjust treatment towards Black people in the United States was coming into sharp focus in our streets and across our smartphones. The movement towards equality that had already been going on for a long time was suddenly energized in a way we’ve never seen before.

In Richmond, the capital city of Virginia and former capital of the confederacy, what started at the end of May and continues today is being documented in part by a photography collective who call themselves the Wild Bunch. Having witnessed the very good, the bad, and even the ugliest parts of the streets, the Wild Bunch’s exhibition titled “Our Streets” is one of the largest collections of movement photography ever assembled in the state of Virginia. There is much to read about the Wild Bunch and the upcoming “Our Streets” exhibition in this article in the Virginian-Pilot so we at Popscure decided to highlight a couple of their members to discuss the processes, motivations, and lessons learned from their practice. With a Q&A conducted by executive editor Tyler Warnalis, we introduce to you Keshia Eugene and MarQuise Crockett. Read on and be sure to check out “Our Streets” at the Slow Dive Gallery, opening this Friday October 30th. Spoiler alert: the movement is not over.

Keshia Eugene @chocolatekesh

Documenting the chorus of “enough”

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
First off, could you please tell us about your artistic/photographic background?

I began technical shooting as teenager, with a film camera. Yet as a kid I loved disposable and Polaroid cameras and experienced genuine joy from seeing the photographic results. Since 10th grade having a camera in my purse was hobby that turned habit. So basically what you will see me photograph are reflections of my passions such as live music, candids of hang outs or communal events.

When the protests first started in Richmond, I’d imagine there was something in you that said, “I need to document this.” Could you tell us about that motivation and how you involved yourself? 

Due to science, I didn’t feel comfortable marching in masses, and I have spent many years protesting in different cities. The collections of photos you will see from me will be more of the unfamiliar forms of protest like the teach-ins and the transformation of reclaimed space of Marcus David-Peters Circle— this is important to show. There is such uniqueness to speak or express through art here in Richmond, the former tainted heart of the confederacy, and prominent slave drop-off; it was necessary to document our chorus of “enough”.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
While documenting crowds, engaging with people you may not know, and perhaps even putting yourself in tense situations, what sorts of things did you encounter that our readers may or may not have expected?

People are rude. Even if they may be on your side. I’ve seen a lot disrespect towards black women in general during Say Her Name demonstrations. In some cases it did spark some conversation but some people truly don’t seek to understand. Or performative protestors who are doing this for the first time and making it more of a social event and not focusing on the initiative; it’s mad irritating but this is my life and validation so I keep my head straight.

What do you think you learned in the process of photographing the protests that you could share with our readers?

My biggest takeaway is my new lost respect of black leaders in Richmond who allowed police to torment the entire city and instead of engaging in true conversation they played safe for political gain and more conservative relationships. Not sure who they are representing because it’s not the common Richmond resident and it’s like this in too many states and cities.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
What do you hope to communicate to the viewer through your photographs?

If you feel uncomfortable in the streets find different ways to share your disapprovals and thoughts for equitable change.

Finally, as a member of the Wild Bunch and a citizen of Richmond, the United States, and the world, what does the title “Our Streets” mean to you?

A reminder that origins of Monument Avenue, which was first set to segregate, will soon be dismantled. Things are going to change our way, in our streets.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene

MarQuise Crockett @_innervator

A gravitational pull to be on the streets

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
Could you tell us about your artistic background? What led you to start using a camera as your preferred means of expression? What sorts of things are you typically photographing?

I was raised by my great grandparents Vernon and Dorothy Crockett who had deep roots in the Baptist church community in Richmond, VA. Not going to church wasn’t an option on Sunday. I first started singing in the youth choir and did it for the majority of my childhood. Then in middle school I was introduced to the lever harp and later graduated to playing the pedal harp in high school, as well as playing the 5th bass in my high school high step marching band. [As far as photography goes] even at a young age I was kind of obsessed with old family albums. I was in love with the idea of having tangible memories. The love came full circle a few years later when I was gifted my first camera, a Canon EOS Rebel t3i. I’ve been learning ever since. I don’t have a preferred thing to shot I just love to create content. However, landscapes were my first love.

When the protests first started in Richmond, I’d imagine there was something in you that said, “I need to document this.” What compelled you to hit the streets with your camera?

I don’t know what made George Floyd’s death different from all the others, but I had a gravitational pull to be on the streets, to let my voice be heard and tell the real stories of what’s happening on the ground. I remember reading a quote “Would you rather be at war with yourself and at peace with the world OR at peace with yourself and at war with the world?” Every time I turn on the TV, or look on social media, or even walking in my everyday life I’m constantly reminded that the world is and has been at war with black and brown people.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
While documenting crowds, engaging with people you may not know, and perhaps even putting yourself in tense situations, what sorts of things did you encounter that our readers may or may not have expected?

Being on the ground for the first time was intense, the air is electric with emotions, the sea of signs and messages, megaphones singing chants, trailing cars blasting “Fuck Donald Trump.” It was a lot to take in, but what I also experienced was a real sense of community. There were so many tents of people in and around the circle. Whether if it was for making free masks, food, medical attention, liberation education, music, and sanitation – the PEOPLE proved that it could provide for its community.

What do you think you may have learned in the process of photographing the protests that you could share with our readers? (This could be either technically related to your photography or on a more humanitarian or societal level)

I’m learning that outside of taking photos and being passionate about my craft and telling important compelling stories through my art form that getting connected to the community and the leaders who have been doing this work is just as important if not more important.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
What do you hope to communicate to the viewer through your photographs?

I want to convey the truth of what really transpired this summer. Its important for people to engage with these images and see what we experienced this summer at the hands of RPD, VSP, VCU PD, and Capitol police, the sense of community, and the fight that is STILL being fought on our street.

Finally, as a member of the Wild Bunch and a citizen of Richmond, the United States, and the world, what does the title “Our Streets” mean to you?

“Our Streets” means another chapter in the struggle for equity and equality – a story as old as the American experience itself.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett

“Our Streets” opens to the public on Friday, October 30 at the Slow Dive Gallery in Norfolk, VA and will continue to be on view for several weeks following, both during normal business hours and by appointment. More information on the opening, including the link to RSVP for your specific time slot on Friday or Saturday, can be found here.

*All of this coming mere months after Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by Louisville, KY police and Ahmaud Arbery was pursued and fatally shot by white men while jogging near his home in Brunswick, GA and the list goes on and we should know their names and say them.

Enter Stage 6: Cloudnai

Our last ART BISH profile is Bay Area photographer, Cloudnai. Working with big names like Nipsey Hussle, A$AP Rocky, and Post Malone, the artist has solidified her name in the game. But what’s more important is her mission to representing the underrepresented. Highlighting black bodies, black hair, and the black experience, her art depicts the reality and beauty in being comfortable as the underdog.

When she’s not capturing intimate moments, she is the founder of Face2Face Media, a platform centered around networking with creators from all walks of life. Nailah Howze provides a place where the unheard can shout.

And that’s a wrap for our ART BISH profiles, BUT you can learn even more at the upcoming ART BISH Digital Festival, next Wednesday (Sept. 30th) at 5PM PST//8PM EST.

Sight Is Faculty, Seeing Is Art: An Interview with Dawit N.M.

Dawit N.M. is an Ethiopian photographer and filmmaker with an aesthetic that is both intimate and reticent. His debut museum exhibition, The Eye That Follows, will be on display at The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, through August 16th. Dawit’s story is one that invites onlookers to view life honestly in Ethiopia, Virginia, and New York. While personal to the artist, these images express ubiquitous themes of community, family, and faith. Over the past few years, Dawit has released a book, earned a nod for Emerging Director at the American Black Film Festival, and continues to emerge as one of the exciting, new perspectives in film and photography. Our CEO and Marketing Director, Cam Murdoch, caught up with Dawit to talk about his debut exhibit, the sacred nature of identity, and surviving 2020.

With COVID-19 and a national uprising, how have these “uncertain times” affected you?

I kind of got used to the quarantine lifestyle because I work from home, so it wasn’t that big of a change, just my roommates are at the house too now, so I was there with them all of the time. That was a little adjustment, but for the most part it was chill. I was there for the protests in Brooklyn for the first three weeks, and out of nowhere you would just start hearing loud fireworks going off every night. Every night you would hear police sirens, for no reason sometimes. It just got crazier and crazier, and I’m hearing that it’s even getting worse now.

Other than that, I’ve been chilling. Just really focused on work and getting this show up again [the exhibit was initially scheduled for March but delayed for COVID-19 closures]. It’s been actually a needed time to catch up on some work and to catch up on some studies. The first couple of weeks I was super pressed to work as much as I [could], but then I gave myself a week of vacation, and I was like, ‘Damn, I haven’t had that in such a long time.’ The concept of not working seemed so foreign to me because of the hustling mindset I’d inherited from the people I came up from and also this society. I’m realizing all of the effects of capitalism . . . like I knew it was there, but I didn’t know how bad it was until I didn’t have anything to do.

Your work has consistent themes of community, family, and day-to-day life. Why are these subjects important for you to explore, or is it simply life captured in your style?

I’m a firm believer in just telling your story and that the best person to tell your story is you. So, a lot of my photos are usually just friends or family because I know them the most. I feel comfortable taking their images because I know they are comfortable with me taking their image. They know I’m going to represent them in a way that’s true. It’s just going to be a documentation of that moment . . . just like the image, Brad, Solo, and the Mirror. It seems like there are three people in that image, but it’s really just Brad and his child Solo and his reflection. That came from me and him just talking about how he came from a fatherless home and how he’s now a single father. We were just reflecting on that, and I just made an analogy within the photo where he was looking into the camera through the reflection.

Dawit N.M. (Ethiopian, b. 1996)
Brad, Solo, and the Mirror, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2018
Courtesy of the artist

Also, on the surface level, I’m just way more comfortable with people that I know. I’ve trained myself to find moments in everyday life [that] can look beautiful and interesting in a photo or film format. Even the stuff I did for Mereba, if you took away all of the music and the nice visuals and just imitated what she was doing, it’s really nothing crazy that she’s doing. It’s just the feelings that are present within those moments.

You and Mereba seem to have a lot of creative chemistry that feels like an extension of your previous works as a photographer.

The Universe lined it up, and it was the perfect collaboration. When I first got the email about the Mereba video, it was like the week before I was going to move into my apartment in Brooklyn. At the time, I had this job offer as an editor, and the safest route would be to take the job offer . . . but man, I would have regretted it if I didn’t take the Mereba video. I remember at the end of the first shoot, she came up to me and told me I did an amazing job. It was my first time handling a shoot that big, with that big of a crew. At that moment, I feel like that trust was really solidified. I think that’s when we realized that we wanted to keep working together. The reason I’m doing this is to help people, so if someone has that same purpose, I think I would have a connection with them. I mesh well with people who are super genuine and genuine about their craft.

Tell me if you agree. Learning something as a craft comes from a place of love for that thing, whereas some learn in order to commodify and sell their skills who may not have a love for the craft.

I don’t want to work with anyone that doesn’t have a purpose, and I’m starting to question that whole notion because I feel that everyone’s purpose should be to just . . . help one another. It’s just a matter of figuring out how you can go about helping someone. I used to ask myself what my purpose was in life, but then I started to ask how I can help someone. Right now, it’s through the format of film and photography. For a long time, even now still, Ethiopians are misrepresented in the media. That’s why I did the photo-book, Don’t Make Me Look Like The Kids on TV. Even while working with Mereba, not only was I presenting her in an amazing way, I was also showcasing a different narrative that people weren’t used to, especially for someone with an Ethiopian background. The main reason I became a photographer or filmmaker wasn’t really for a love of the craft, it was more a love of the people, a love for preserving the culture, and archiving it for future generations.

With everything that’s going on today with facial recognition, monitoring, even wearing masks outside, there seems to be a new emphasis on the intimacy of seeing someone’s face. Have you thought about that in comparison to your stylistic element of obscuring the face in your portraits?

It’s a cliché statement but a true statement, the eye really is the window to the soul. Also, . . . I had this eye infection when I was younger, so I’m always curious and careful about eyes and not so much in the face. A lot of my photo work revolves around hiding the face because when people were taking pictures of Ethiopia during the drought, they didn’t respect the people’s identity. They would just take these photos of people and just plaster their face[s] everywhere. That motivated me to find ways in which I can hide the face while still showing the person’s presence.

Dawit N.M. (Ethiopian, b. 1996)
Still from Mereba’s – Planet U music video, directed by Dawit N.M., 2018
Courtesy of the artist

I always wanted to push the portrait world a little bit further, and I was kind of bored at looking at the portrait standard way of image-making. One of the ways was to distort the face. When I’m editing, it’s really just changing the colors up a bit, and that’s about it. So, I try to do all of the effects in the camera . . . so I’m still documenting the moment, and I’m not altering the image in any way—it’s simply how I captured it. I’m still a documentary photographer, but I go about things in a very “fine art” way.

Even though this year has been wild, it’s still important to look forward. What are some things that you are looking forward to with the world attempting to reopen?

I’m looking forward to seeing how I balance out work and life. Now I’m getting a better understanding of being more disciplined. During the restrictions, I built up a level of discipline, and with them lifting some of those restrictions, I want to see if I can uphold the same discipline in whatever world we live in next. I’m interested in what kind of stories are going to be told now, even how things are going to be shot within film and photography. I feel like there’s a big change coming in the world, and I’m interested to see what comes next.

Thank you to Dawit N.M. for the opportunity to conduct this interview. Preview some more of his work below, and be sure to visit The Eye That Follows exhibition currently on display at the Chrysler Museum of Art through August 16th.

Wild World of Weird Old Cameras

by Richard Perkins

I have shot many of shitty digital, point and shoot, SLR’s, disposables, and toy cameras in my now ten years of photographing. It’s something special when you go to the electronic section or a thrift store and see these one or two dollar squares (that sometimes even have film in them if you’re lucky), and picking it up and saying “I’m going to bring this thing back to life.”

Getting an old camera from an uncle or grand dad because “you’re into photography” and really actually taking it and doing something magical with it. I have a camera that talks to you, that tells you when to change the film. I have a camera that looks like a beer can. I have a camera that shoots 3D photos (which back in the 80’s was pretty much an early version of GIFs). I have a WWF slam cam from 1998 that, if you hooked up to your sister’s dial up computer, you could somehow put yourself in a photo with Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The Ghost Hunting Camera

I grabbed for 2 bucks at a Thrift Store in Virginia Beach and about lost my mind. Like, how stupid and rad is the concept of this camera? Also you have no idea where the “ghosts” are in the frame. It’s not even ghosts its just old photos of people and like, really shitty CGI skulls and shit.

Digital Pink V-Tech

Thrifted for a not reasonable price of 7 bucks, but still wanted it because I wanted to know what masterpieces it might make. Popped a few AA batteries in that thing, and it’s like shooting out of a GameCube Controller. 

Kodak Panoramic

It didn’t come out. The film expired Septemper 1997. But here’s a hilarious commercial I found for it from 1992.

Fuji Film

Duh. Walgreens. Like 12 bucks. Normal, plain, the “hey ima be cool and start shooting disposable cameras” starter kit. That and a Supreme shirt. 

Fuck that Hawaii camera.

That shit is garbo. The photos came out terrible.

Cameras are tight. No matter what they are. Just go shoot and have fun. Much love. 

Dive deeper into the world of Perkins & stay up-to-date on more strange camera via his blog,

What Glitters Isn’t Always Gold: Photos by Benjamin Boshart

by Shannon Jay

Benjamin Boshart finds the glimmer in the simple things. Overlooked sheen in everyday scenes or discards with the light caught just right captivate him — and he captures them with his camera. Resulting images show anything from intimate + candid portraits to abstract scenes deep in nature or right in the city. 

To see more of his work, peep his portfolio, and follow his Instagram. Catch prints of Boshart’s photos IRL at Virginia Moca until August 19th, as part of New Waves 2018. On it’s 23rd year, the annual juried exhibit sifts through hundreds of submissions to find Virginia’s greatest talents.

When did you get interested in photography?

In 2012 I took a photography class at the Portsmouth Visual Arts Center.  I really enjoyed it.  I sold my motorcycle so I could purchase a full-frame camera and I’ve kept it close ever since.

What do you shoot with?

My camera is a Sony A7 and I shoot with standard focal length prime lenses.

Who would be your dream model and why?

This is a tough one.  I can become incredibly compelled to take someone’s portrait if they’re in the right place and in the right light.  I try to stay open minded until the pictures come to me.

Whose stories are you trying to tell in your photos?

I’m telling my own stories.  It’s a game of geometry, light and time through the filter of my experience.