by Kya Lou

"My primary intention is to contribute to the expansion of visual vocabulary used to define Black communities. Y’know, we internalize the images we see and it is important we see ourselves in those images. I don’t think there are enough images that convey all of our narratives either. There are so many stories to be told because Black folk have not always had access to the same creative vehicles as others. We still don’t have access to a lot of resources and platforms. But we’ve also stopped asking for permission to use some of those things and have developed our own that adhere to our demands. I aim to convey the power we demonstrate through the embrace and construction of things that are distinctly ours. With image making, I choose to focus on how we occupy spaces and assert our identities which is a reflection of that great power. It’s also my intention to act as a sponge and absorb everything around me. My work conveys everything that I see but from my perspective."

Men dancing with smoke (2017)

This photo was made with a Polaroid Automatic 210 Land Camera. The camera used to be my grandfathers and I just started to experiment with it more often. I’ve really enjoyed the images I have been able to make with it and how using an old school camera in public spaces commands a certain kind of reaction from folks.

Kamil (2017)

This is another image made with my Polaroid Land Camera. It’s of my friend Kamil, who’ve I known since my freshmen year of college. We were supposed to be roommates, but for some reason the housing system didn’t pair us together despite our request. We often joke that it’s a good thing we didn’t get paired together cause we would’ve taken our dorm by storm.

Somewhere near Imperial Ave., San Diego, California (2017)

I made this portrait while walking around my hometown. There was a lot happening on this block from brothers playing chess to kids playing with a water hose. I was observing other folk when this man commanded my attention and asked for a photograph.

Hiptoss (2017) 

I see Hiptoss every time I go to Leimert Park. Each time, I take his photograph. The first time I met him was some time in January 2017. He was chilling near the fountain wearing a orange Kangol hat and African garment to match. It was the flyest outfit I had ever seen.

Cousi (2017) 

Like many of my photographs, this was taken on a Sunday afternoon in the Leimert Park Village. I was walking throughout the park and saw this woman sitting in her car. I caught her attention and asked her to take her photo. I did not ask her to do anything but pose. Her name is Cousi and she is really sweet. I’ve seen her a few times after I took her photo and she always gives me a hug.

Sista on the train (2017) 


I met Miesha while boarding the Gold Metro Line. We almost got on different carts and something told me to ask her to take her photograph. But for some reason I was nervous. I’m glad I followed my intuition and asked.

Aunt Ida and Uncle Clarence (2017)

This photograph was taken at Aunt Ida’s 70th Birthday Celebration. There were so many couples present and I could feel the love in the room. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

DAPS episode 002 (2016)

This project began in Los Angeles when I asked two friends to take a photograph of them giving each other daps. With this project I wanted to study how the dap acts as a symbol of unity in Black and Brown communities. I also aimed to showcase the dap as an act of performance art. DAPS episode 002 was shot in my hometown. It features friends and random folk in Southeast San Diego and Barrio Logan. The music featured was made by my close friend Gabriel Rhodes (IG:@geerhodes) who is also from San Diego. Every now and then he’ll send me beats to use in my videos and mixes. I admire this project so much because it was a collaborative effort. It was also a part of my first solo exhibition.

Kya Lou is an artist working the photographic medium from San Diego, California. At the time of her birth, Kya’s grandparents owned an art gallery where her parents also worked part-time. The photographers earliest years were spent running a muck and entertaining visitors. She likes to think that specific environment was the catalyst for her artistic career. Right now she is in her senior year at the University of California, Los Angeles where she studies Fine Art and African-American Studies. Kya has been practicing photography for ten years and has developed a body of work that is concerned with communities of the African diaspora. Over the past year, she has completed two solo exhibitions DAPS: ode to the art and history of handshakes and what do you do ‘fore it’s gone? . Her work has also appeared in group shows organized by the Afrikan Arts Ensemble and various entities at UCLA.

"Before photography, I dreamt that I would direct movies. In the fourth grade I dressed as a director for Halloween and was very serious about it. From that point on I knew I wanted to be an artist for the rest of my life. My parents were extremely supportive of my aspirations and did everything they could to make sure I had the tools necessary to create. That supportive environment triggered me to express myself through creative mediums and resulted in the artist I am today."

on marginalized voices: Our voices matter therefore they ought to be amplified. As long as marginalized communities occupy space, our voices should be heard and told from truthful perspectives. But not everybody believes our voices matter so we create our own platforms that amplify our voices. That’s an act of collective and cultural preservation. Things like that are critical because our platforms act as a core and major conduit in building community with folk. Community is what makes the the world worth living.

a word

●  Do not ask for permission to create what you want.

●  Don’t spend too much time trying to find balance. Do the work and balance will find you.

●  Get some rest. Prioritize your health just as much as the work.

●  Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. It takes a village.

●  Drain your resources and share them until there is nothing left. Do not be stingy because it will get you nowhere worth being.

on neglected topics in marginalized communities: I think communities should talk more about our passions and talk about how we can help one another make our dreams a reality. I think pride can get in the way of our success sometimes. There have been times I did not want to look weak cause I needed help. But my fear of asking is what actually made me weak. I don’t think any success worth having can be achieved alone. I am a strong advocate for collective powers. Work produced out of a collective effort is more impactful. It’s important you surround yourself with like-minded folk who believe in what you’re doing and will push you to be your absolute best. I rather cultivate a garden with others than just myself. It can be stressful sometimes but in my experience I have found it to be worth it in the end. I know this from experience and because my family also believed in it. My grandparents art gallery wouldn’t have existed or had an impact without the collective effort of my family and community that supported it. My family instilled preached “ If you want to go fast, go alone; but i f you want to go far, go together.” I hold that African proverb very dear to my heart now that I am older.

on reframing the stereotypical identity: I believe that individually and collectively we must commit ourselves to producing work that defies stereotypical identities. We can do that on our own and with others. I do not think we can rid everything that promotes stereotypical identities. But, we can outnumber such negative work with positive work that does our experiences justice. That is how we can reframe the ways we are acknowledged and portrayed by others.

on self-care and vulnerability: I was not able to fully engage with my own self-care until I understood that what works for someone else may not work for me. You have to be vulnerable with yourself to figure out your own self-care regimens. In that vulnerable state you should feel uncomfortable. Once you recognize and acknowledge that lack of comfort I think that’s how you find ways to produce comfort. There are some days where I am okay with being vulnerable and there are times where I am not. It’s an everlasting journey and you just have to find things to keep you motivated. For me, music is a essential to my self-preservation. I do everything along to the beat or melody of something. I also use music to help convey a particular mood in a photograph. Sounds are essential in the production of my aesthetic. I want my photography to feel like music. Lately I’ve been referring to the O’Jays, Maze & Frankie Beverly, Eddie Kendricks, Ashford & Simpson, Nina Simone, Luther Vandross, Isaac Hayes and many others to help produce the warmth embraced in my photos. I also practice self-care is through writing. Since December of last year I’ve carried a small journal everywhere I go. I’ve lost a few while traveling but I still have some and it’s interesting to go back and see where I have been mentally and emotionally. Everyone should build an archive of themselves. It is important you give yourself something to look back on. I also listen to a lot of podcasts. Some of my favorites are Black Girl in Om and Gettin’ Grown .                                                


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