UO Interviews: Aundre Larrow

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For the past year as an Adobe Creative Resident, Aundre Larrow has been taking photos and collecting interviews from people all across the United States. His project, titled 'stories from here,' is an exploration of how one's sense of home frames their identity. In anticipation of his celebratory closing photography show at the Space15Twenty gallery, we talked a bit about the project origins, his upbringing, and the momentum that comes when you join the Adobe Creative Residency team.

‘stories from here’ is a super fitting name for such an expansive project--how did you land on that title?

Honestly, I had the name ‘Echo Chamber’ for a while, but the longer it sat with me, the more ominous it sounded. My goal with my work for my residency was to create work that made us stop, listen, and learn from someone else. The name ‘Echo Chamber’ came out of this idea that we seek out confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories, but I realized as the project began that it came with a level of judgement and digital scolding that I thought would be unattractive to the viewer. The name ‘stories from here’ actually came thanks to the inspiration from Joe Kenneth. He published a book called Days After Your Depature about dealing with his mother’s passing and the title of it always stuck with me. I asked myself, how can I create something that sounds that accessible? I originally wanted to rename it ‘here and their,’ as in “their” stories but ‘stories from here’ came after brainstorming with my friend Libby Nicholau.

Where is 'here' for you these days? How has 'here' shaped your career and led you to becoming the person you are today?

Here for me is Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, this fusion neighborhood of Pratt students, families and artists with a proximity to the city. Everything I am is a result of the environment my mother created for me. Her here didn’t matter as much as her ability to make almost anything work for her thanks to her level of intensity. It took me a while to get it and catch up to her level, but her bravery in moving to America without me to make money, dealing with the heartbreak of being away from her one-year-old son, and then coming back, getting me, and building a life with me in it taught me a lot. At that point I didn’t realize I was learning, but those days I went to Florida Atlantic University and did homework while she was in class, or when she would pick me up late after working at the Motorola factory, I was in school, learning what it took to overcome the hand we were dealt to create something for myself.

That’s what led me to New York, I saw a place that on some level could yield fruit for as much work as I was willing to put in. The result is a minorly successful, very antsy person who is never happy with what is created but thankful that I got to do it.

How is NYC different from home? How have these self-realized differences further propelled you in interviewing others for ‘stories from here?’

I grew up in Fort Lauderdale. A sweltering biome where folks move slower because they want to soak in their lush surroundings. You have to drive everywhere and air conditioning is your closest friend for 11.5 months out of the year.

New York is loud. New York is busy. New York is unrelenting. The pace is what can break you. You never truly realize until you leave for the first time after moving. You find others’ walking pace irritating, you are confused why email responses take so long, you see a healthy work life balance and seem to find it offensive.

‘stories from here’ allowed me to not only analyze how others live and why but also why I do. In El Paso, Sundays are treated not only as a type of Sabbath, but as a day firmly rooted in family. In West Palm Beach, the concept of rebirth and second life is pervasive with a population of residents that are now discovering parts of themselves for the first time in retirement. And so on and so forth. Each lived experience became a lesson for me and one I hoped to translate to others. Each moment allowed me to learn a bit more about America as it is, a series of shades of lived experience clashing with each other over a vast geographical expanse.

What has it been like, being an Adobe Creative Resident for the past year?

Man. It’s kind of insane. When I first heard about the Residency I thought to myself, “I mean come on, they have to want me to wear Adobe polos and pimp myself out for them for this to be worth it for them.” But I was wrong. I got paid to do my own thing and talk organically.

The freedom of not having to chase clients allowed me to really tap into the recesses of my brain and channel my creative energy like a kamehameha toward my desire to mix the concept of art with journalism. It was really a one of a kind experience.

I spent each day a little purer you know? I concepted for each week. I tried to make goals and then spent every waking moment chasing them because I knew with an opportunity this big if I didn’t deliver my peers would hold me accountable.

Often these types of huge projects get the ball rolling on collaborations with other companies and individuals; what kinds of opportunities have arisen since you kicked off ‘stories from here?’

I couldn’t have guessed this, like this is more than 16-year-old me hoped I would do in a lifetime in term of big projects.

This has led me to:

- Shoot portraits and BTS for United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.

- Do a version of 'stories from here' for the Golden State Warriors, Fan Night which was insanely surreal (I got to see myself on the jumbotron and see shirts with my work on it in every seat in Oracle).

- Do an Apple talk on how to shoot and edit for darker skin tones.

What's the official end date on your residency? What do you have left to accomplish before that date?  

I feel like Nas. Album done. The year is over, but I still have about thirty stories to publish and I want to shift my focus to a small film project I pitched during my residency called ‘please, no nikes at the pool,’ about how access to pools among other things has led to the statistic that African-American kids are five times more likely to drown than white kids.

It’s crazy, the residency kind of fused with my regular life so I don’t know when it ended and I started again, it really changed how I view myself as an artist and for that I am still super thankful for.

 

Connect with Aundre here: www.aundrelarrow.com

Keep up with 'stories from here' here: www.storiesfromhere.com

Follow Aundre on Instagram: @aundre

Portrait of Aundre by @rayneutron.