We're proud to partner with Exposure Toronto on this new series of artist features. Exposure Toronto was founded in 2020 as a not-for-profit organization focusing on the amplification of Black creatives within the photography industry. Their community and studio are built to provide a safe and accessible space; as well as financial, physical resources and opportunities.
We want to get to know these talented artists involved and support Exposure Toronto in highlighting the artists' work and thoughts. That's why we sent Exposure Toronto some Lomography films and Art Lenses for their photographers to play with. Today, we are thrilled to feature artist Kadrah Mensah and her photoshoot using our Petzval 85 Art Lens-Nikon F Mount. Read more about her below.
Hi Kadrah, lovely to have you here in our Magazine! Please tell the readers about yourself.
I’m grateful to share my work with you, thanks for having me! I’m a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist who uses photo, video, performance, and sculpture to explore how technology shifts our identities. I try my best to document the evolving shape of the human condition.
When was the first time you pressed the shutter button?
My most vivid memory was around age 11 when I got my first digital camera which was an iconic pink Sony Cyber-shot. I mostly used it to take an obnoxious amount of photos that I’d share on Facebook (as one did in 2008) but it ultimately became a creative way for me to capture the many life stages of my loved ones and me.
How do you describe your photography style in your own words?
I think the phrase “all the world’s a stage” reflects my approach. I’m rarely sure of my creative direction. Even when I do plan a shoot, my best results come when I let the moment guide my vision. There’s nothing more interesting to me than the happenings of real life, no matter how mundane they might seem.
Can you tell us about this series? What’s the inspiration behind it?
This series is a departure from my usual work. I challenged myself to experiment by shooting in a studio where I had to direct the scene more than I’m used to. I wanted to capture the vibrant spirit of my friend Kelsey so I used vivid backdrops to complement her outfits, opposed to the muted tones I usually lean towards.
Although these photos are more carefully constructed, I think there’s a sweet honesty in the way Kelsey comes through.
You shot these with our Petzval 85 Art Lens! What camera and film did you use with it?
Funny enough, I had to borrow my friend Roya’s Nikon D750 for the shoot since the lens was fitted for a Nikon mount. This was my first time shooting on a full-frame camera!
How was your experience with the lens? Any features you like?
I must say, the gold Petzval 85 Art Lens is the most stunning lens I’ve seen. That alone made it fun to shoot with. I had a challenging time getting the focus right as it was acutely sensitive, but manually adjusting the aperture using the aperture plates was my favorite part of shooting with this lens. I would love to try it out on a film camera to see how a fully analog system might change the experience and results.
Has your creative outlook changed having joined Exposure Toronto? What does it mean to you?
There are tons of incredibly talented black image-makers in Toronto. I was really hopeful when I heard that Exposure Toronto would be a platform to showcase our work. Having a community where we can encourage, support, and uplift each other is so necessary. I would love to see the revival of Exposure in 2022.
Where do you search for inspiration/challenge?
As distracting as social media can be, it opens me up to global views of visual culture so I’d say it’s my key source of inspiration. I’ve recently started using Tumblr again to get a more focused sense of my creative inclinations. Travel always challenges me to see through fresh eyes and to feel new ways of being.
What does a typical Saturday look like for you?
I don’t even know! There have been plenty of new beginnings and transitions in my life recently so I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on, haha. An ideal Saturday would involve dedicated time resting and looking inwards, sharing delicious food with warm people, engaging in a creative project, and maybe dancing to a live DJ set.
Lastly, are you working on any projects? Where can we follow you!
I’m currently a resident artist for UKAI Projects’ Ferment AI residency, focused on algorithmic culture and artificial intelligence. I’m about to dive into the production phase of my project so I’ll be sharing my progress occasionally on Twitter and Tumblr.
Thank you Kadrah for sharing! Follow her journey through the links above.