Meet Ciarra Walters (@cbozthepoetess), Los Angeles- based photographer, writer and all around creative. Here we spend the day with her and chat about the upcoming "Boys in the Front Seat" photo series launch event.
Hi Ciarra! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do!
Hey, hey! My name is Ciarra, Ci, Cboz, etc, etc. I am 24. I wear a lot of glitter daily. I’m not a real blonde. I work for the artist, Lisa C Soto, write and shoot for Saint Heron, as well as work as a freelance photographer. I’m a coffee addict.
Have you always lived in LA?
I’m originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland. I went to Radford University in Virginia and then moved to Los Angeles right after I graduated in 2015.
As an artist, how would you describe your style?
My style is pretty raw. It’s very colorful. I love colors and I love bringing out the true essence of people through my photography. It’s a rhythm.
How did "Boys in the Front Seat" come to life?
I’ve been meditating on “Boys in the Front Seat” for over a year now. The title was for a music project of mine, but then quickly became a photo series. It honestly started through a fellowship I was applying too. I had a month to think of a project, execute it, and submit it. The fellowship asked for 20 pictures, so I decided to shoot 20 guys. After another shoot, a friend showed me Carrie Mae Weems’ “The Kitchen Table Series.” I was still working on the concept for “Boys” and was unsure how this series would portray each guy differently while taking place in the same setting, the front seat of my car. After seeing Carrie Mae Weems’ work that's when I decided to actually shoot the concept.
“Boys in the Front Seat” is also a metaphor for my life. As a college educated feminist, I found myself holding men to patriarchy standards, although I was expecting them to eliminate those same standards when it came to me. I was the one driving, yet still looking for men’s validation and affirmations for myself and life. “Boys” is a healing project. I was working on trusting men again and luckily, I had phenomenal guy friends who supported me and respected my vision as an artist.
Can you tell us a little more about the creative process behind the making of this series?
The first thing I did was sat in a coffee shop for three days summarizing what I wanted this project to be. After watching a variety of music videos with car scenes and studying angles, I created my treatment for the shoot and sent it to all 20 men. Once I received the co-sign from the boys, that’s when the shooting started taking place.
I shot all 20 men with a Nikon N50 film camera that happen to have a self timer on it. I would get the film developed the same day in order to see the outcome of the previous shoot and what I wanted to do for the next guy. I was shooting between 1-3 guys per day because of schedules, it was nuts. Before the series started, I decided I wanted to interview each guy asking the same five questions on camera, which is how the documentary came to life. The pictures really highlight the relationship aspect of the series, but the documentary puts emphasis on the effects of patriarchy and masculinity on the Black male community.
How has the internet influenced your work?
The internet is a tool. It’s research. I love researching other photographer’s websites and work through the internet. It has inspired many of my shoots as well as helped me decipher between the different lanes of photography and which lane I currently am in and which lane I would like to be in one day. The internet is a photographer’s encyclopedia.
What has been your favorite project/ collaboration you've worked on?
I think “Boys” is my favorite project so far. I usually only shoot women, I rarely shoot men. To shoot 20 men, 20 homies, in one month probably was the hardest, craziest photo project I have ever done. I had to constantly push myself to stay on top of this project and the men. When a guy rescheduled, or whatever, I had to stay on top of him in order to get the shoot done. That was a real test!
I am so grateful I was able to shoot these Black men and hear their stories in front and behind the lens. Not only did I get 20 fake boyfriends, but I was given the respect as a woman and artist from them as well. I’m not sure much could match that.
Who/ what are some of your biggest inspirations?
Carrie Mae Weems + Jay-Z.
Colors are my inspiration. They dictate every mood + feeling. Oh yeah, and glitter.
If there was a piece of advice that you could give your younger self, what would it be?
“No matter where you are, you are who you are playa. You can try to change, but that’s just the top layer.” -Jay Z
What is the most important message you would like people to take away from your upcoming installation of Boys in the Front Seat?
As women, we are in control of ourselves and our lives. Men are guest in our lives and they can get out of our front seat (life) if they cannot respect, love, or be there for us in the ways we need in order to grow and feel supported.
As for Black men, they have feelings and have been deprived of feeling safe expressing certain emotions because of masculinity and patriarchy. Black men have been dehumanized in society, making them out to be aggressive, emotionalness, and “animals.”
“Boys in the Front Seat” is about women and men recognizing the effects patriarchy and masculinity has on both parties and by us being open with one another in understanding that, will lead to the deconstruction of patriarchy and masculinity.
Follow Ciarra on Instagram!