Shavon Meyers: The Black Experience, Filmmaking & Evoking Emotion
Yeerrrrrrr! My name is Shavon Meyers (she/her), I’m 36 years old, I’m from Brooklyn NY and I’m a visual artist (photography, short films, and video production). My work can be viewed on shavonmeyers.com!
How did you develop your passion for photography and videography? When did you know you wanted this to be your profession?
I’ve always been a storyteller at heart and I discovered early on that photography and filmmaking were extensions of that ability. My passion for filmmaking and videography developed when I was younger while watching movies and music videos of the 80’s and 90’s. I was always attracted to certain shots and the framing of them and how those creative decisions would evoke certain emotions out of audiences. As I got older, I recognized those same creative attributes were found in still photography and it was a natural progression and blending of the two professions. I guess I knew I wanted to tell stories visually when I would wake up thinking about visual ideas and go to bed with those same thoughts. I would constantly see certain “shots” in my daily life and when I recognized that as a talent that not everyone possessed, it became clearer that this could be my profession. Also, when my passion began making a profit with my business, it was solidified for me that this would be my profession.
How would you describe your work in 3-5 words?
Professional, creative, and raw.
What about photography appeals most to you?
The ability to freeze time. Each image is a moment in time that can never be replaced and the photograph (or video in some cases) is the only representative of that moment outside of one’s memory which can be fickle.
What’s inspiring you right now?
The uprisings across the country and the new energy being channeled into Black lives. Black life has always been a cornerstone of my work even before I could put into words what I wanted to showcase. Now more than ever I feel inspired by Black life, Black people, Black culture…all Black everything.
What do you do when you feel creatively stuck?
Well before the world closed down, I would visit museums for extra creative inspiration. Living in NYC I’m fortunate to have a plethora of museums at my fingertips. Seeing the work of others from different artistic backgrounds always sparked something in me and by the time I left the museum, I would have a new idea and new energy to work.
The theme of our first issue is ‘INTROSPECTION’. -the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. Do you think art should result in self-reflection in the artist and/or the audience? What makes your art purposeful?
I think if the art being produced doesn’t result in some aspect of self-reflection for the artist, the work will show itself as a bit soulless. It’s almost inevitable that some self-reflection happens while creating art of any form. There should be some self-reflection in any artist’s work as the sheer act of sharing your work is exposing a bit of yourself. There’s vulnerability in that alone. That takes courage and that starts with the artist being honest with his or herself about the work being produced. My work in particular tells unique stories from marginalized points of view, serving the purpose of solidifying for future generations that these individuals, these stories were here and mattered.
What do you want an audience to take away from your work?
It depends on the project or the subject, however I do want to spark thought in my audiences when they view my work, no matter what it is. I think art should make the audience think, start a conversation and hopefully evoke emotion and that’s what I want my work to do. Love it or hate it, did it spark a thought? Did you wonder about the subject in the image? Did you relate to the woman in the film? Did you feel any emotion after you viewed the film? If you answered yes to any of these questions after viewing my films or photography, my job was accomplished.
Who are some of your influences?
Carrie Mae Weems, Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks, Ava Duvernay, Leslie Harris, Gina Prince Bythewood, Kasi Lemmons, Spike Lee to name a few – I have so many!
What career achievements are you most proud of? What have been some of your favorite moments working and shooting?
I’m most proud of covering the NAACP’s 100th year celebration back in 2009. President Barack Obama was the keynote speaker and I was allowed to hear his speech and photograph him from the press pit. I’m certain I was the youngest photographer there representing my “little” podcast that I used to host and probably the only Black woman with a camera covering the event but I was there and it showed me early on that half of the battle is showing up and being willing to work. Some of my best and proudest moments in my career have come after the completion of my short films. I’ve completed 3 short films and they’ve all gone to various film festivals. There’s no greater feeling than sitting in the back row of a movie theater filled with people watching your film. Watching their reactions, observing what moments make them move in closer to the screen, getting the applause when the credits roll. The entire film festival experience is amazing (at least all of my experiences were) and pushed me to begin work on my first feature-length screenplay. I love working events that involve a happy occasion where people are in generally good spirits and are coming together for a good cause or something creative. I shot an “event” that was a woman and her team taking over a subway cart and turning it into a 1980’s themed subway party. Within a few stops in Brooklyn, her crew transformed the train cart into a 1980’s aesthetic complete with fake graffiti, music, break-dancers, and an actual member of the NYC Guardian Angels. It is still one of the best shoots that I’ve done and I did it for free! But, it led to other paid gigs from the woman who organized it as she was impressed with my work and professionalism.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received? What are some dos & don’ts for new photographers?
One piece of advice that I always remember is “Quality over quantity.” 1000+ mediocre images will never compare to 10 AMAZING images. That leads to a “don’t” for new photographers, don’t rapid-fire shoot without any intention. Shoot with intention, tell a story, and learn how to aim to get the shot right the first few times early in your career. Do take the time to learn the craft! Learn to shoot in manual mode (major key). Learn to tell the camera what you want it to do, not have the camera tell you what it is going to do (auto mode). Learn how to light a scene, learn how to edit, and keep shooting. There was a period in my life when I carried my camera with me every single day. I gave myself “assignments” in between periods of schooling. Don’t be afraid to share your work. Do take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.
What else are you up to? Any upcoming projects? Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
I’m currently finishing up my first feature film screenplay, I have an ongoing body of work on shavonmeyers.com entitled The Black Experience which is a visual exploration into Black life – one section of this body of work is devoted to 35mm film. Revisiting shooting with film is honestly one of my best creative decisions simply for the discipline needed to shoot film. Additionally, Juneteenth 2020 marked the launch of my latest project Reflections in Black on reflectionsinblack.com. Reflections in Black was born out of the 2020 quarantine due to COVID 19 combined with the events surrounding the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd by police officers. Seeing massive amounts of information from various sources scattered about, I decided to pool together resources and create one space where they can all live.
5-10 years? That’s if the zombies, COVID 19 or 2020 as a whole don’t get us first! In terms of my career in 5-10 years, I will have sold my first feature screenplay and will have the attention of at least 1 of the 3 potential directors that I’d love to have involved with the project. I could see myself teaching a visual arts course that I am currently developing and also owning my own creative arts studio space. I’ll always capture life whether visually or otherwise so I can see my vast body of my work being showcased in an exhibition space, gallery, or museum of some sort in 5-10 years.