Meet Nehemiah Brent, The Photographer Documenting Black Youth

Nehemiah Brent is a self-taught film and digital photographer based in New York. Originally from Liberia, but raised in Massachusetts, the creative first started taking photos throughout his childhood and young adolescence without giving it much thought. Fast forward to his college years, Nehemiah rediscovered his unwavering love for it while navigating the current digital world that merges fashion, music, and culture.

Unsurprisingly, telling Black stories and the emotions encompassed in those photos, whether it be using color to express feelings or composition to emphasize the pure glee across his portfolio. Among many talented creatives that the photographer immerses himself in, Brent has notably captured the likes of Ambré, Ahmad Cissé, Genesis Vega, and Trinity Fayth to name a few. “It’s important because we get to tell those stories and help out the next generation,” he tells us. “I want to be able to tell Black stories for the next generation of artists to show them they can do what I’m doing but even better.”

For our latest interview installment, Nehemiah Brent talks to us about his introduction to photography, what compels him to take photos, his dream photo shoot, and more. Read on for our conversation.

For starters, how did you start getting into photography?

I started to get into photography during my junior year of college. It was during a time when I was unsure of what I wanted to major in college. During this time, I switched my major from electrical engineering to Kinesiology. I knew I needed to do something creative to balance all the school work. Originally, I wanted to become a stylist but that didn’t stick. 

Then, one day I thought about doing photography because it gave me a chance to connect with people, and gave me a whole new perspective on life. I started out shooting events for this student-run organization at my school. Over time I gradually moved on to doing more portraits. Towards the end of my undergrad, I realized how much I actually enjoyed photography so I decided that I would pursue it long-term.

In what ways does your upbringing inform your unique approach to photography?

I don’t think I’m the only one this applies to, but I think when it comes to growing up in certain immigrant families there’s this expectation for what you choose. I think I was expected to work in the medical field or be some type of engineer. It just never clicked for me. At first, I knew I was following a certain path to please my family, but then in college, I came to the realization that I needed to choose something that made me happy. I will always be appreciative for my family for putting me in a place where I can thrive, but I knew deep down I didn’t want to go down the scholarly path.

I am happy that I chose to do photography because I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the family who has chosen the path of a creative. I think it’s important because I know I have younger relatives who will grow up who will also want to be creative. I want to be there for them if they have any questions about choosing a career as a creative. 

How would you describe the recurring themes in your work? Are there any stories that feel compelled to tell when you pick up your camera?

At first, I tried not to have recurring themes in my work because I thought that you should do something new every time you create something. Then I realized that I didn’t have to do that. My approach when it comes to recurring themes in my work is that if I use the same theme then it has to be better than last time. For example, I did a cowboy-themed photoshoot with my friend Ikenna one time. Then, a year later I did a shoot with my friend Genesis and it so happened that the theme was cowboy related.

When it comes to telling stories when I pick up the camera, I feel like I’m compelled to tell the stories of people of color. I feel that I’m able to capture people on a deeper level, and  I’m honored when people come to me and want me to capture their stories. It’s just very intimate for me because you really have that much faith in me.

Ambré, Genesis Vega, and Mal Sounds are among some of the familiar faces to step in front of your lens. How do you approach the subjects you work with?

When it comes to the subjects I work with, I’ll just hit them up on social media because I think they could fit the vision I’m going for. My subjects also hit me up to shoot too. I like shooting people from all different platforms. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to capture moments with amazing people as well as building a connection.

Out of curiosity, what have been some of your favorite shoots that you’ve done over the years?

I did one with my friend CJ Hart earlier this year and I called it “Unhinged.” The way it came together so well, I like it because when I really took my time with it. I think it took two months for me to perfect it before I shot it. 

My other favorite shoot was with my friend Asia Rivera. She’s definitely my favorite model I’ve worked with this year. We just have amazing chemistry, and so the whole shoot came out so nicely. Every photo had me in awe afterward. I’ll definitely keep working with her as time goes on.

Tell us about your dream shoot—are there any people, brands, or places you’d like to shoot in the near future if you had the chance to?

There are two people I’d really love to shoot. I would absolutely love to shoot with Anderson Paak. His personality paired up with mine would just be a fun time. I’m a big fan of his because his music just hits differently. Also, he’s just so positive and happy. I’d love to be around that energy.

The other person I would love to shoot is the model Adut Bior. She’s currently my favorite model in the game. I always see her shoots and I’m in awe every single time. She’s so beautiful and so talented. I think if we did a shoot it’d break the internet haha.

Using all of the knowledge that you have now, what advice would you give to young creatives in regard to chasing your dream?

When it comes to chasing your dream, definitely think about if you really want to do it. Make sure it’s not an impulse and understand what it is that you want to do and why you want to do it. If you’re willing to put yourself in that space, try to find like-minded people who are tryna be on the same platform as you. Build those relationships and just collaborate.

I’d definitely say this: for people who are artists, collab with your friends because sometimes your friends are the best people you can work with. Just 100% believe in yourself and if worse comes to worst if you fail then at least you tried. You don’t want to go through this life and not try shit because you’re scared.

Lastly, can you expand on why it’s important to capture Black stories within your photos?

We don’t really get that opportunity a lot. It’s important because we get to tell those stories and help out the next generation. We get to show them that it is possible and come into these spaces and show them that they can do the same thing we’re doing. I want to be able to tell Black stories and show the younger generation that they can do what I’m doing but even better.

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