Rahim Fortune wants his work to provide “a sense of visibility or healing”
The Oklahoma-raised and New York-based photographer talks us through his portfolio – one that captures the “beauty and pain of daily life”.
- Ayla Angelos
- 20 July 2020
The work of Rahim Fortune is detailed and highly autobiographical. The 26-year-old documentary and fine art photographer is based between Brooklyn and Austin, and spent his childhood between Oklahoma and Texas. Much of his work is centred around his upbringing and the imagery that he saw both in his home and on television.
“A blending of a rural upbringing paired with early 2000s culture shaped my style and viewpoint on my surroundings,” Rahim tells It’s Nice That. What’s more is that Rahim has always been a fan of music, skateboarding and film – the three muses that eventually evolved into a love of photography, especially after he’d moved from Texas to New York to pursue it professionally. Now working in his chosen medium, the photographer turns a lens to the moments around him, producing an aesthetic that’s remarkably linked to his past.
On the topic of his stylistic choices, he explains that it’s a process of “looking for the beauty and pain of daily life but highlighting them using familiar visual language”. He often looks towards history and tradition to inspire and guide everything he photographs. “I aim to make work that is in conversation with the artist that came before me,” he adds, “while adding something that is particularly my own.”
Rahim draws inspiration from small and subtle moments in his life, from something he’s seen in a documentary film or noticed out of a car window while driving. “A lot of my ideas start with a feeling that I want to express, then referencing and studying images that evoke that emotion,” he says. It’s a two-way relationship between the inner workings of his mind and the exterior influences of the world, channeled through his camera and entwined into a narrative-driven photographic series.
When he isn’t taking pictures, you will find Rahim helping his family around the house or scanning film and taking “constant trips” to the post office. He’s set up his own darkroom in his house, enabling him to shoot whenever possible, as well as finish off the process through developing the negatives and scanning the film. These shoots could be anything from a New York Times commission to a photograph of his sister and her dog. “It’s pretty day-to-day,” he says. “Through shooting constantly, I have developed a good understanding of how my camera reacts in various lighting conditions.”
To gain a better understanding of his work, his recently self-published books titled Oklahoma and Fantasy speak to his ethos as a photographer. Oklahoma, for example, is his first photography publication and contains four years’ worth of work. The content sees pictures taken in Oklahoma – a place he’s spent many years and where his family history goes back many generations. “This project was my autobiography and my first major stride as a photographer,” he explains.
On the other hand, Fantasy sees a collection of photographs from an Atlanta Hair show, shot over February 2020 and marked as the last series of pictures taken before the pandemic. Documenting the tradition of the hair show, his subjects came together from southern states like Texas and Carolina to participate – a mix of spectators and competing hair stylists, each were given 45 minutes to prepare their models before being judged on the looks they’d put together. “Given the timing of the passing of Kobe Bryant, the Atlanta protest, and stay at home orders, the photos have taken on a new meaning to me; I see them as one of the last moments of prosperity pre-quarantine.”
Rahim’s work is intensely personal and is a medium that he uses as a means of making sense of the world. With future plans involving his second book and providing a space to champion the work of artists of colour, Rahim strives to broaden the conversation around the topic of contemporary documentary photography. “I hope that people who interact with my work, connect, learn or create discourse with the photographs,” he says. “I began making photos as a way to explore a complex world that offered very few answers – I hope people feel a sense of visibility or healing from my work.”
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.