Photographer Myles Loftin's newest project, Hooded, centers around the way Black men and women are presented in the media. The multimedia project features photographs, screenshots and a video, all meant to show the obvious disparity in the way that Black men and white men are portrayed by the media and, ultimately, the way they are treated in real life. "I just wanted to show that we exist in forms outside of media representation, which isn't always accurate," the 19-year-old Parsons student said. On the heels of Moonlight's historic Oscars win, #BlackBoyJoy is more prevalent than ever.
It all started when Loftin observed screenshots on Twitter. "I remember seeing someone posted the Google search for dreads and it came up with a bunch of white women wearing dreads. And they Googled something else and it was a negative portrayal of Black women," Loftin recalls. "So I was interested that, even on Google, the way we're perceived is skewed. I just wanted people to be able to see Black boys in a different light. We can be playful, we can be soft, we can be feminine, we can be whatever we want. We don’t have to be put into a box by what the media says about us or how they show us to people."
And Loftin accomplishes just that. The sunny colors of the project juxtaposed by the subjects' vulnerabilities are striking through this wunderkind's gaze. This was not by accident. Citing the volume of black-and-white images in his searches, Loftin noted that he wanted the project to be "vibrant." It's also possible that Loftin's familiarity with the subjects aided him in teasing out emotions; all the young men photographed are friends of Loftin.
Though accomplished for his age, Loftin's clout is particularly impressive considering he only began experimenting with photography at age 15. It all started with a family vacation to Italy. Loftin's uncle had lent his camera to the family to document their experience. At first, Loftin's father was tentative about his young son using the expensive, professional camera. Nevertheless, he persisted. It was then Loftin, who says he's always been artistically inclined, realized this was the medium he wanted to pursue. Twelve thousand Instagram followers later, it's safe to say that this phenom brings something special to his work that interests the masses.
The videography aspect of this project, however, was something Loftin was less familiar with — not that you would know from the quality of the short film. "Adding that to the project was me putting myself out there and experimenting," he admits. "I don't really work with film that much but I wanted the project to come full circle and be impactful, so I thought having film in there was [important]."
Loftin considers this to be his first "politically-charged" work, but he confirmed we can expect more in the future. "I think it's really important to create [art] that says something and that's not just pretty. As an artist, I want to create stuff that affects people and makes them think about things and create conversation. I want to spark conversation, spark questions," he said.
With Hooded, initially submitted as a final for one of his Parsons classes, Loftin is well on his way to accomplishing his newfound mission.
See the project in its entirety here.
(Photo: Myles A. Loftin)