Article Submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by DJ Pangburn.
At only 19 years old, photographer Myles Loftin’s work has already appeared in publications like Dazed and Confused, V Magazine, Nylon Japan, and The Fader, as well as in various art space around the world. It’s a pretty impressive resume any way you slice it. The early success is good, but what Loftin is really interested in is the intersection point of race, fashion, beauty and the photographic image. So, in a way, it’s only appropriate that Loftin would continue to explore these issues, as well as others like gender, while also digging deeper into the history of photography through Ryan McGinley’s #NewOriginals project in collaboration with us. This project marks Loftin’s first time exclusively using a Polaroid camera for an assignment.
The young photographer traces his interest in the medium to the summer before his 9th grade year, when he borrowed his uncle’s DSLR for a trip to Italy. As he recalls, he didn’t just take photographs of Italy, but document his experience there. Later that year, Loftin received a camera as a Christmas gift.
Through his coursework at Parsons School of Design, Loftin has been able to dive into an amalgamation of topics—specifically, how race influences fashion, as well as ideals of beauty in American culture. He’s very into the idea of how dress, or fashion, can become a form of power. And this theoretical foundation is currently colliding with Loftin’s work in a black and white and digital photography courses, as well as one on the history of the technology and medium.
Loftin was originally scouted by one of McGinely’s casting directors at Afropunk Festival. Several months later, McGinley photographed Loftin for Yearbook.
“It’s probably why I’m here today,” Loftin explains. “Through him photographing me and then following me on Instagram, he saw my work. When I first got the project, the first thing I did is look up the work Ryan was doing with the Polaroid camera to get some inspiration and see what direction he went in as far as photographing people,” he adds. “Then I looked at my work to see how I could kind of tie in what I do with the project, and put my style into it.”
After settling on an aesthetic that worked for the Polaroid OneStep 2, Loftin began thinking of the people he wanted to use as models. He wanted to find really interesting personalities that could translate well on Polaroid. Many of the people Loftin already knew, but he browsed their Instagram accounts to see what aspects of their style and personality could be effectively pulled for The #NewOriginals project.
Loftin also dug into some Polaroid history for his prep work. He turned to Andy Warhol’s well-known work with his instant analog work with Polaroid pictures, often taken with the flash on. Beyond Warhol, Loftin looked to Antonio Lopez, known for his Polaroid photographs depicting muses like actress Jessica Lange and musician and model Grace Jones, in glamorous or occasionally rather kinky scenarios.
“I was kind of taking inspiration from them but also tying in my own personal voice as a photographer,” says Loftin, who used Parsons interiors for several of his backdrops. “Basically, I would say [to the models] that I’m interested in capturing your personality. They had free reign to dress how they wanted to.”
For some shots, Loftin intervened. When shooting his friend and fellow photographer Quil Lemons, for instance, Loftin emphasized the color yellow and used lemons as props.
“Then there are the banana photos with my friend Chella, who is non-binary and has been transitioning over the last five or six months,” says Loftin. “I incorporated the banana as a nod to Andy Warhol and to have some sense of humor in the work, and slightly talk about how Chella is slowly coming to terms with his body, body dysphoria, and really embracing these new masculine features.”
This openness to experimentation with the photos of Lemons and Chella is, as Myles believes, something that young photographers should explore. As he sees it, young photographers should try to do many different things.
“Try to figure out what you want your work to do and say, and put your work out into the world,” says Loftin. “Another huge piece of advice that I’m still struggling with following is to try your best to not compare your success or your work to others because everyone excels at their own pace.”
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