Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-1

Clifford Prince King

Work / Photography

Clifford Prince King looks to “express truth and realness” in his portraits of male black youth

“My eyes are always busy,” American documentary photographer Clifford Prince King tells It’s Nice That. “Whether it’s a dark skinned boy at the grocery store, or the shape of a wig my roommate placed on the counter, I take mental notes for potential images. I try to have my camera handy and capture whatever feels good to me.”

Growing up filming friends and family on his dad’s old VHS camcorder before being gifted “a small point and shoot” when he was in 5th grade, the storytelling quality of Clifford’s portrait work comes as no surprise. “I want the viewer to have questions,” he explains. “Who is this person? What is their life like?” It’s hard not to interact mentally with those he captures on film, be it a young black male legs spread in a leotard, combing their hair in the mirror or face down on an un-made bed, there’s a sense of narrative which makes the viewer want to know more, to delve into the scene, the subjects’ moment, their feeling.

There’s an intimacy to Clifford’s images, many of his friends and subjects in his portraits stare directly into the camera, begging a story to be shared, uncovered or told. How does he create this ease, engagement and closeness, we ask? “When I shoot, I refer to the process as ‘hanging out’,” he explains. “I want the people [I’m taking portraits of] to feel safe, comfortable and unaware of the camera.”

This important and poignant element of Clifford’s work can be seen in abundance in the portraits from his two-year-long series Clogs and Cornrows, “I reached out to people in person and online to build a story of male black youth that could represent the feelings I was feeling at the time,” he tells us. “I felt very unsure of who I was and wanted to put together a series that would help me feel a sense of community.”

Since beginning the series — which is soon to come to a close — Clifford has aimed to do just this wherever he goes. From Arizona, where he grew up, to Portland where he truly realised the potential of photography as an expressive medium to LA where he is now based. Each new environment keeps Clifford “inspired all the time”, ensuring he is consistently meeting new people to capture with his camera. “I met lots of people [when I moved to Portland] and took portraits of whoever was willing,” he says. “My surroundings impact my work majorly,” Clifford continues. “Part of the reason I moved to Los Angeles was because of the diversity, hustle and all the different areas.”

Although enamoured with finding, creating and capturing this sense of community amongst young black males wherever he goes, Clifford’s next step may well take him even closer to home. “I’d really love to spend more time in the south and photograph my family and experiences there.”

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-3

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-2

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-4

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-5

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-6

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-8

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-10

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-12

Clifford Prince King

Clifford-prince-king-itsnicethat-11

Clifford Prince King