THE SHADES PROJECT
The Shades Project is a series of positive portraits of black men and their unique stories. We talk with creator Travis Geter about the motivation behind creating the project, first crushes and the beauty of the the color blue.
“Shades refers to international background, profession, age, sexuality, physical build, and personal identity.”
YOUTH and ROLEMODELS
Did you have a role model growing up that ignited your passion for photography or is this a new passion project?
Photography is actually pretty new for me. I picked up my first camera a little over two years ago. It’s always been my favorite art form, but never in a million years would I have thought I’d be a photographer in LA and actually booking work. It’s actually pretty crazy to me, but I love every second of it. The photographer I admire most is Gordon Parks. I have one of his famous quotes on my vision / goal board:
“At first I wasn’t sure that I had the talent, but I did know I had a fear of failure, and that fear compelled me to fight off anything that might abet it.”
Do you remember your first crush?
I fell in love with my best friend when I was 12. It happened out of nowhere. We went to the same school, had most of the same classes and then one day I was head over heels. Our friendship grew into this really weird space that I didn’t understand at the time, but looking back – we were pretty much dating. He was straight. I was “straight,” but we spent tons of time together. We told each other everything. We spent hours on the phone after school everyday. It was pretty fucking gay. Honestly, I thought I was gonna lose my virginity to him at 14. We ended up falling out at the end of 8th grade. Glad I dodged that bullet. Lol.
What advice would you give to your adolescent self?
I was a fat kid, so I’d definitely say be more active. Also, say NO to fast food.
Aside from photography where else do you draw your inspiration from?
I love interior design. I also used to be a visual merchandising manager for a long time so I draw a lot from that. I always try make sure I’m balancing out textures and playing with color (or lack of color) in some kind of way. Merchandising definitely helped me a lot with composition. Playing with mannequins and fixtures all those years really paid off!
“I think the color blue itself is super complex. Not many colors can run the gamut of emotions and feelings as blue can.”
THE SHADES PROJECT
What was the motivation for creating The Shades Project?
The Shades Project is a portrait series that I began earlier this year. Basically, I just wanted to show positive images of black men and tell a little of their story. It was my artistic response to all of the injustices that many black men face on a daily basis. But mostly because of the many innocent black lives that were taken last year by police officers. I read a quote a little while ago, “create the art you want to see.” So that’s what I’ve been doing.
Can you tell us about the works you create for The Shades Project?
The project has evolved slightly and I’m sure will continue to evolve. I started out just doing simple portraits of my subjects, but now it’s become a little more creative. I love to take the subject’s career or interests and kinda exploit that for the project. For example, I shot a florist wearing a blue flower mask, a designer wearing a blue dress, a musician with his blue guitar, etc… I really just want to tell the subject’s story in a creative way with just a few shots.
Why the color blue? Is it symbolic or purely for aesthetic purposes?
It’s funny how you can find inspiration almost anywhere. I was listening to some music one day and the album artwork was a blue color palette. Then a lightbulb went off. Long story short, I eventually came to the idea of comparing the different shades of blue to the complexities and different ‘shades’ of the black man. Shades refers to international background, profession, age, sexuality, physical build, and personal identity. I think the color blue itself is super complex. Not many colors can run the gamut of emotions and feelings as blue can. It just felt so right.
If you could collab with three queer black men who would they be and why?
I’ve been dying to collab with the guys from the Tenth Magazine. Their magazine is black, queer, artsy and totally matches my aesthetic. I think the three founders are all incredibly talented and hoping I could make something happen with them one of these days.
Some creatives say their best ideas come to them whilst they’re running or exercising, do you experience this?
Yes! I hate doing cardio, so I usually just put on a playlist and kinda zone out whenever I can. In that space is when I usually come up with really good ideas. I just have to remember to stop for a sec and jot it down or I will definitely forget it.
“It was my artistic response to all of the injustices that many black men face on a daily basis.”
What have you learnt about yourself this year?
That I am an artist and I have a voice. I don’t think Ive felt this way before this year. I’ve gotten so much positive feedback about The Shades Project and other works, so I know I’m doing something right. I just wanna keep the momentum going into the new year and keep making art that speaks to social issues and create conversations.
Are there any young creatives that excite or inspire you for the future?
I recently came across an article showing the top artists we should be following on Instagram. One guy’s work stood out to me. His name is Mark Jason Weston. Mark does these amazing images combining photography and digital art – really dope stuff!
Fitness goals for 2018?
My goal is to be an Instagram thot for 2018 lol. So I’m currently looking for a trainer. Kinda joking, but not really. Honestly, my goal is to be in the best shape of my life so far.
Do you have any future projects for The Shades Project that you can tell us about?
The goal for The Shades Project has always been for it to be a portrait book. The book will be released on my birthday in June! But for now, I’m working to make ‘Shades’ bigger. I want people to talk about it. I want to continue to seek out men with interesting stories and capture them. This is just the beginning. There will be different volumes. Maybe explore different colors.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
“Travis was here ”… I’m not trying to be famous, but I do want to leave a mark. I want people to know that I was here and I stood for something.