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Myles Loftin on Refusing to Compromise His Value for Anyone

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Giant Artists photographer Myles Loftin speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway about growing up surrounded by Black excellence, making his break in the industry and the importance of genuine, impactful activism

Myles Loftin on Refusing to Compromise His Value for Anyone


“I definitely knew for as long as I can remember that I was going to grow up and make art for a living,” says Giant Artists photographer, creative and storyteller Myles Loftin. Now known for his intimate and playful visual creativity - which has led him to collaborate with the likes of Calvin Klein, Converse and Nike - Myles showed signs of a creative desire and passion from a young age. “I was always very creative. I used to draw a lot and kept several sketchbooks filled with drawings of characters I would come up with. For a long time, I wanted to illustrate cartoons… I was in an art club, I did a bit of theatre, and I played soccer. Also, I’ve always been really into music and when I was in high school I used to make mixes on SoundCloud for my friends.”

Growing up in Prince George’s County, Maryland - a predominantly Black community - Myles found himself being inspired by the people surrounding him, which also provided a sense of identity. “Most of my teachers were Black and most of the people I grew up around were as well. I think growing up in that sort of environment gave me a lot of pride and confidence in my identity. I never found myself aspiring towards whiteness because I had so many amazing examples of Black excellence surrounding me in my day to day life.” 


 

Sitting somewhere between an introvert and extrovert, Myles’ friends are the lucky few who get to see past his quiet and reserved exterior, whereas most acquaintances and strangers are likely to mistake his “down to earth and overall chill demeanour” for shyness. The relaxed photographer moved from New York back to his Maryland home for two months during the pandemic, amidst the anxiety and uncertainty of what the future would hold. This period allowed him to de-stress and go back to basics, working on a lot of self-portraits and rediscovering inspiration in the small things - as well as collaborating on a few branded projects.

To begin his creative journey, Myles graduated from the Parsons School of Design with a BFA in photography, describing it as a “great experience” where he learned about the history of photography and how to use it as a tool for communicating ideas. Outside of school, the photographer has always shared his work on social media, building an audience that would eventually include members of the industry that were interested in collaborating and networking. These connections formed the foundation of Myles’ professional career, creating opportunities and relationships that would open doors after his move to New York.

His first professional commission was during his first week at Parsons, an editorial shoot for NYC magazine The Fader. “I went back to my hometown Maryland to photograph this football player named Euguene Monroe. I also shot portraits of my friends in New York for another section of the same issue. It was really cool to be working with a magazine that I really respected, and had hoped to work with one day. It felt like my dreams were beginning to turn into reality.” During the same year at college, Myles produced ‘HOODED’, a series of portraits and a short video featuring young Black men in brightly coloured hoodies to address the media portrayal and public narrative of Black men in America. “The project went viral on Twitter and was later featured on BET, Buzzfeed and several other publications. It opened the door for me to do more commercial work, and even do a few speaking engagements relating to the project.” 



Expressing his view of the world is clearly an important aspect of Myles’ career fulfilment, sharing a lesson that he discovered when starting out, “I learned that it’s important for me not to compromise my value for anyone.” In fact, what he enjoys most about his vocation is the freedom he has to have fun while working and show people how he sees the world. Using this vision, he hopes to offer a form of representation and validation through his art, describing it as, “work that makes people feel seen, authentically, and shows them that there is so much potential in their futures.”

A true product of the digital and online age, Myles can always be found on the internet,  where he comes across new inspirations and stays up to date with his contemporaries. This ever-evolving cycle of new technology has also more directly impacted his photography in recent times. He says, “Last year I was commissioned to do a social campaign for Prada, shooting virtual street portraits of different influencers they were working with. I shot it all on Zoom due to the pandemic and it was interesting to figure out how to make photos in that way.”



Looking at the broader industry, Myles is excited by the increasing number of “creatives from a multitude of backgrounds getting opportunities that were not as readily available to use in the past,” however he explains that this element of the industry can be Janus-faced. Continuing this thought, he highlights “performative activism and diversity” as two frustrating developments in half-hearted industry DEI movements. “It’s disingenuous and an attempt to cash in on something that appears to be trendy,” he says, suggesting that companies should “put their money where their mouth is and stop saying they’re going to make impactful change” without following through with action.

Someone in the industry that he admires and has worked to improve diversity and representation is fellow photographer Joshua Kissi. “He’s really talented,” says Myles, “And he’s one person who I’ve seen that uses his platform as a successful image maker to provide opportunities for other black creatives.” To further give a platform to and celebrate “Black image-makers” like Joshua Kissi, pre-pandemic, Myles contributed his photography to a book and exhibit titled ‘The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion’, curated by critic Antwaun Sargent and “highlighting the current renaissance of Black image-makers.” 



Away from work, the young creative enjoys music - his “second greatest interest behind photography” - and goes to DJ sets with friends to be exposed to new tracks and artists, as well as enjoying the unique sound and accompanying visuals of a personal favourite: FKA Twigs. Not to mention, the countless hours of free time spent searching in photography books and magazines for rare and forgotten images that you can’t find online. 

In addition to contributing to the renaissance of Black image-makers and helping to improve the representation and diversity within the industry, what Myles can isolate as his true driving passion for his work is the freedom and independence that his creativity can experience when producing his art. “I think what drives and motivates me is the fact that I get to create my own world and create the path that I choose to follow.”


All photography courtesy of Myles Loftin

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Giant Artists, Wed, 23 Mar 2022 18:34:00 GMT