There is a photograph on Micaiah Carter’s Instagram that users, including us, can’t help returning to. The image, shot for Vogue, features the back of a girls head. Her hair is braided and covered in nostalgia-inducing hair grips in the shape of horses, butterflies and giant bows. The image, actually a shot of musician Adeline, sums up Micaiah’s work in one neat frame; he can always craft a brilliant photograph which embodies personality, culture and connects with the viewer, even, in this case, if it’s the back of someone’s head.
Of this style, Micaiah puts his view down to simply focusing “on what I wanted to photograph,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Growing up I had a particular way I liked to see the world; I usually found beauty in the mundane and I love that with photography I’m able to express myself, without saying anything.” Micaiah speaks his photographic tone of voice first through the soft hue of each image, but also the subjects he’s chosen to shoot. This developed from learning about his family history, particularly “those who came before me,” he explains. “It really put me in perspective of where my work is in the current day and how important it is to have a visual representation of different cultures not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well.”
Growing up in California, the photographer first had this realisation when he moved to New York City. “I come from a very small desert city in Southern California, so New York for me was an eye-opener,” he says. “It was also a different step for my family, because for the first time it seemed like photography could be something sustainable.” And sustainable it proved to be. In recent months alone, Micaiah’s photographed Ciara for the cover of King Kong, Duckie Thot for Wonderland, Afropunk portraits for Vogue, and a new Nike campaign for Kendrick Lamar’s shoe, Cortez Kenny IV.
Despite his portfolio mixing editorial, personal and commercial work, one element Micaiah’s adamant an image of his should have narrative. During a period where photographers are at an all-time high due to platforms such as Instagram, Micaiah instead wants to slow the pace of his work down, in order to allow “people to sit a bit with my work,” he describes. Inspiration and influence comes into play for the photographer here, noting his dad’s scrapbook from the 70s during his time overseas as a Vietnam veteran. “I think something that stood out to me is how the Black Power movement carried itself overseas,” the photographer explains. “The photos were warm and unique, especially with the styling and mindset. During the 70s black positivity was at an all-time high and the confidence that excluded from that still remains to this day. I was really inspired by that movement, and wanted to include that within my work.”
Described as already having a “breathtakingly clear sense of purpose for someone still early in his career,” Micaiah mixes a wealth of influences from the work of photographers Alasdair McLellan and Viviane Sassen to the art of Carrie Mae Weems and echoing the Black Power movement in his photographs. It is no wonder therefore that his clients are already reaching a long list including The New York Times, Pepsi, Warner Bros and Teen Vogue, and it’s a list that is certainly only going to get longer.
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