Elementor #3011

What You Don't See: An Interview with Kreshonna Keane

Written by: Laurel Newnham

Interviewer: Alexander Babatunde

July 6th, 2020

Kreshonna Keane is a New York based photographer and creative director. Despite all that has been going on with COVID-19, Kreshonna continues to raise the bar in her creative career. In this Q&A, she shares her love for art, inspiration behind her photography,  and her most recent milestones.

Alex: Hey Kreshonna, thank you for taking the time to speak with me this evening. How are you doing with everything happening during Corona?

Kreshonna: Yeah, it’s been crazy. I’m really just over the whole thing, over being in the house.

Alex: I know, but I’ve seen you’ve been busy during this time especially with the FaceTime shoots. Tell me about that, what inspired you to start that?

Kreshonna: Well, you know, I can’t give you too much. The inspiration truthfully was just like a spark, just out of nowhere. I saw that Bella Hadid did it with Vogue and I wasn’t really interested in them at the time. My cousin reached out to me and wanted to do one. She’s super shy and she’s so beautiful but doesn’t like to be photographed. So, it was a really rare moment that I wanted to take advantage of.

At the time, I was still kind of learning it. I didn’t really have a flow or a consistent process of how to do things. But I tried it, and it worked. When I posted it on Twitter, and it [the post] went viral. I thought to myself I need to start charging for this, because I was actually doing it for free at first. I realized that the demand was there.

Alex: Do you think after corona and you’ll still continue to do something like the FaceTime shoots?

Kreshonna: It’s not something that I wouldn’t want to do forever. The quality is really hard to adjust to, especially because I’m used to shooting with a DSLR. You have this impeccable quality and I can’t really control that all the way with FaceTime. So, I probably would continue with it for the people who I can’t access physically, people all over the world, like you said. I did a shoot with one girl in Australia and God knows, I don’t know when I would ever be able to go to Australia, so I feel it’s given me an advantage there.

Alex: Okay, so, speaking of the DSLR. Where did you start with your creative journey?

Kreshonna: Art has been my first love.  Art was always my favorite subject in school and I majored in studio art in college. And with that major, I got the chance to explore all different mediums of art. I did 2D, graphic design, all that great stuff. So, I’m well-rounded there. I also paint. Painting was my first love and it’s so funny because I find they all kind of connect in a way. What I do with photos in Photoshop is very similar to what I do with a canvas and paint, you know, they’re even similar with my blends of colors. I ended up picking up a camera at about 15 and I haven’t put it down. I really love photography; I love the essence of capturing the moments and being able to savor those memories.

Alex: I will say that the colors in your photos are on point. And when looking at your photos, it’s like you’re in the 80s or 90s. What helped you discover your style?

Kreshonna: You know, for a long time, I wasn’t able to see that. I love when other people tell me their perspectives of my work because you see something I don’t. I couldn’t give you a real description of what my style is. Stylistically, that 80s and 90s feel came from watching movies and looking at old family photos. I’m really big on 80s and 90s movies and also watch a lot of films from the 50s and 60s. So I think that trickles into my work a little bit. And then in terms of color, I feel color is an important tool for me. I’m really big on color and how color makes people feel, the relationships that colors have, and what colors can do to a subject in an environment.

Alex: So, as someone who’s collecting black art, what makes that important to you? Why does it matter to you? Are you doing that as a way to support the artists, to push the movement, or more so just strictly as a part of your identity?

Rachel: I would say both. Your original question was why should we? Why do we collect black art? Or why should we support? I can’t say that loud enough like art is healing. Art is everything, art speaks. If I want to change the house around, I could take all the paintings down and then put new ones up, new ones that were somewhere else in the house. It feels like a whole new house, a whole new thing to look at. 

Art appreciation is so necessary because I think it builds character. Art is beautiful. And then if you want to buy art, you need to buy black art because we’re black art period point there’s no extra nothing else needs to be said about that. Right? And so, of course I’m supporting black artists because ultimately that’s what I want to do. But also, their art is feeding into me and I’m taking their art and enjoying it. But definitely it’s about supporting black artists.

Alex: Would you say there are online places to buy black art?

Rachel: There’s no online shops where you would go and find our art, other than Instagram. Or BlackartinAmerica.com, that’s the number one place for fine art. It’s not classic art but you’re going to find old school black artists who are still very popular because we know their names. But Instagram is where you go to get the art from pop artists and contemporary artists. Other than that, I don’t know where to get art.

Alex: Cool, especially as you said that your tastes have changed. You’re probably working with more established artists that have been making and selling for a while. There have been a couple studies on this, but the majority of the art industry is made up pretty much the same as we see in any other industry or workplace. Where we’re about 8% or less so it makes it much harder for us as black people to find that art. 

Do you feel there is a lack of black and minority artists in the industry? Where can people find a large amount of work by black artists and representing black people in the personal ways you have?

Rachel: It’s hard because now you’ve got to find art on Instagram or by word of mouth. It’s hard for Black people to get out there. But it’s also if you don’t get put on. And when I say put on, it’s not how well you can paint. Look at Nina Chanel: she put squares and circles on the back of canvas and it’s like $50,000. It’s not how well can you paint but who do you know who could put you on? I think that is what people are struggling to do is to get put on. I’m thinking about black artists who are put on and I know people who can paint circles around them. And it’s not because they’re so talented, but they are so talented. They have a style and a skill and you know, something that makes them talented. I was like, come on.

Alex: You brought up a point earlier about back in the day, when you didn’t have a house. You know, you were balling on a budget. A majority of our patrons are balling on the budget. What tips would you give on starting your art collection? 

Rachel: I would say to start by buying what you like at first. Because hot stuff will drop and I’m like, “I don’t even like that.” And then save till you can buy [both] what you need and what you want. If you’re going to have art, there’s something you just need, right? I have a friend circle and when new prints drop, it’s something we just know everyone has to get. So, I would say buy what you like first. Keep in mind [what you want and] save money, then start saving money to buy nicer things.

As a Chicago native, Rachel Crouch was immediately immersed into the world of art as a child and had no choice but to develop that natural born aptitude. She produces work in varied media using color, texture, movement, and flow. Her pieces are about the impossible and the discovery of promise.

Graduating with a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, Rachel is also an experienced Principal with a demonstrated history of working in the education industry. Skilled in School Leadership, School Culture, STEM, Lesson Planning, and Visual Arts. Under Rachel’s leadership, her school (Perry Street Prep Public Charter School) received a Tier 1 rating from the Public Charter School Board (2018/2019).