Future Prairie Radio Season Three Episode One: To See All Those People with Kayla Brock
My name is Kayla Brock, and I'm 25 years old. I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago before I moved to Portland, Oregon, and I studied overseas in London and then from London, spent a lot of time traveling to different countries. I've been to over 24 countries now. That's what I enjoy the most: traveling.
In terms of photography, what I enjoy doing is called "lifestyle". I do portraits, and then I started dabbling a little more in events. I take a wide variety of different photographs. I love working in magazines. Most of my jobs have been in magazines or some type of publishing, so I've always kind of had the dream of either doing photography for a magazine, I would love to see my photos on covers one day or to maybe even create my own scene. Those are my long term goals.
Right now, I’m doing brand photography. Working with different brands around Portland, especially local brands, if they're Black-owned or POC brands, I would love to work closely with those organizations and provide for them. I can provide photography for their online services or for their own personal websites and pages. that's also a great way to just get to know the community more and be more in the city, helping them to grow their businesses. Those are my dreams and goals, as of now.
I have a background in journalism. That's where I spend most of my full-time work, actually. Moving here, I never expected to live in Portland. I always had this idea that I want to live on the west coast, but I wasn't quite sure where. I didn't know much about Portland. When I started living here, I learned that it was considered one of the whitest states in the US, and it had a big KKK group. But personally, I have never experienced any outright outbursts of racism. But I worked in a TV station, I did hear about it a lot. It was sad. A lot of parents, especially, would email us into the TV station, and they would tell us that my kid got called the N-word on the playground, or that someone put something in someone's locker that was kind of racist. It was definitely sad to hear. I know those experiences do exist. But that's also a good reminder. Racism is taught. Many kids will learn racist things from adults and start doing similar things at a young age.
Oregon needs to talk about its history and recognize its history. I know they're working on housing for the generations of kids whose ancestors got pushed out of the east side of Portland. They're trying to reconcile that. But there are still many discussions that need to be had.
I attended one of the protests, and they were doing a march from Southeast to Pioneer Square. I ended up actually meeting them at Pioneer Square. That was such an experience. When we got there, I went with a couple of friends, there was already a little group gathering, they have a truck, and they had mics, and people were just sharing their stories: being mixed, being a Black man or a Black woman, etc. That was powerful. Then what ended up happening was people who walked across from Southeast, who did the Burnside bridge. They laid down on the Burnside bridge for eight minutes for George Floyd, they came into the Pioneer Square, and everyone just met together at once and filled up this entire space.
It was a peaceful protest. People were making sure of that. A couple people were trying to entice the crowd, but they were all so focused. We were all so focused on being peaceful. To see all those people sitting down in the square —they could all fully fit in the square, which was just amazing. We're all dealing with a pandemic right now. People are so scared about the Coronavirus, and still, all those people showed up in one spot, just to show that Black Lives Matter and to create change. That's history in itself.
In photographing protests, I wanted it to look authentic. I didn't want to try to put too much thought behind it. I'm free-spirited; I capture what I feel. For me, it was all about kind of getting the crowd and having this look of solidarity; more focus on the overall aspect.
This time right now is for us, Black people. This is a year, this is a month that will go down in history books, it will be spoken about. If people have the strength to do it, because this time is mentally taxing, people might not have the power to go out into these protests and capture what's going on. But this is a time for us to show our work, show our perspective, think about our own experiences. You know, I went to that one protest, and I hope to go to more, but just being at one alone is a breath of fresh air. It lifted a weight off of my shoulder to see all these people supporting me primarily, supporting this movement. It helps to get through all the pain that we're feeling and all the hurt we've been dealing with for years.
Exercise your right and don't put pressure on yourself. If you want to go to the protests only to be at the rally, do it. If you're going to be there to photograph, do it. You know, just don't feel you have to capture what this is. You can also just be in the moment.
To White artists: it's your role to support Black artists. You know, be conscious about what you're doing, and don't try to profit off of what's going on. I've seen a lot of White artists who are actually donating their money to Black organizations. Still, it's also, you know, that we want to be able to trust you and hold accountability and know that you're actually doing what you're saying. If you're going to write on Instagram saying that you're selling these prints and that they're going to be donating to this organization, it would be nice to have that kind of proof for that transparency that you actually did what you said. You know, I feel people are just hurt if white artists are trying to use this for their own personal gain. I think the only way to reconcile that is to show that there's a screenshot, here's the proof that you can trust what I've said. Transparency is probably the most significant thing you can do right now as being a white artist.
My background is in journalism, so one of the tangible things that I do is, you know when I'm feeling overwhelmed, or I have too strong emotions, I tend to write them down, just write down my thoughts, quick bullets, or even turn it into a little poem. I find that I tend to use a lot of those thoughts and turn them into a creative photography idea to fully release what I need to let go of.
In terms of the protests and what's happening now, your mindset should just be looking at something, looking at it differently. it's good to just kind of be outside, walk around and just kind of make a mental list of "Oh, what can I do with this that's unique, fun and that I would enjoy?" that's also important, is thinking about what you would enjoy to first before thinking about, can I sell this? Or what will someone else think about this, it's it should always be about what you enjoy.
The advice I would give that I have thought about and just I would tell other artists that the best thing you can do for your work is to one, explore your mind. it's essential to not let other people tell you how you have to hone into one form of multimedia. You know, it's good to be kind of, I don't think you so what other people say "Oh, you're just a photographer," you can also paint, you can also be a poet at the same time. I suppose you should use your art as a way for you to escape and to capture reality, and how you're portraying different situations. If you're doing events or if you're doing social justice work or activism work, it's just important to stay close to the reality of what's happening and just be authentic.
Art is a way to showcase what can't be said or what can't be written. It's such a great tool and documenting what future generations will see and how they will feel about what's going on in this world right now. it's an excellent way for people to come together.
In downtown Portland, there's a mural where people are doing artwork against the boards that have boarded up the Apple Store. It has George Floyd's face on it, and that's such a collaborative way to express what people are feeling. Different people can come up and write on it, draw on it, leave things by the doors. That right there in itself is an image of the future and of the role that art plays. I don't think it's ever something that will die down. In times of crisis and turmoil, art has been the biggest thing that has brought people through it and brought people together.