Adrian Octavius Walker Is A Mixed-Media Artist On A Mission

Oakland-based mixed media artist, Adrian Octavius Walker, grew up in St.Louis, Missouri where he embraced his curiosity about the world and developed a love for storytelling of the African-American experience. Here Adrian details his photographic voice, the influence of Oakland on his creativity, the importance of being in a creative community and how he’s challenging the American socialization of Black men.

Can you describe your career path leading up to now?

Things really kicked off for me when it came to thinking about a career path back during my Sophomore year in college. This is when I discovered I could make an income based off of being my own creative self. With that being said, staying on top of being a consistent networker and staying close and true to the communities I’ve been around, those few things got me to where I am now.  

Growing up, was creativity a part of your childhood or was it something that was encouraged?

Growing up for me was actually just being a kid. I did the typical kid things like play outside, kickball, and catching bugs. One thing about me that stood out the most was my curiosity. I craved more when it came down to exploring things. Earlier I said I was into catching bugs, but I was also interested in seeing what was inside them, so my father bought me a microscope. So, I  wouldn’t say I was encouraged. A lot of my doings were because of my interest in things.

I learned to believe in myself, even when shit was tough. Always believe in yourself first. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?”

Adrian Octavius Walker’s new body of work explores Black American beauty traditions among Black men. The intimacy that Walker depicts in each photograph erases the possibility of threat often assigned to black men, and instead pushes the viewer to see the power of kinship within the Black community. titled, We Matter, Walker seeks to expand notions of blackness by challenging the American socialization of black men.

What unique opportunities have you had as a result of your choice to pursue photography as a career?

I wouldn’t say it was unique, but I would say it was an accomplishment and that’s when I was apart of my first group exhibition back in 2010. This was a big year for me period because I graduated from undergrad Dec 2010 (Dean’s List). Not only was I apart of the group exhibition but I actually sold 2 pieces during the opening. That was when the light bulb appeared over my head and I was like “damn this shit is possible”.  

Has there ever been a point when you’ve decided to take a big risk to move forward?

October 2013 I left my job working at Pepsi to join Stalley of Maybach Music (at the time) as his tour photographer for being the supporting artist for Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth preview tour. We were on the road for 45 days traveling throughout 35 cities. This was by far one of the greatest decisions I made, not knowing it would allow many more doors to open up for me.

Have you had any mentors throughout your career?

I’ve had several mentors that helped me get to where I am today. Each played a different role, that helped me get from point A to B; and that’s on the spiritual, emotional, and physical notion of things.

What kind of personal projects are you focusing on now?

My most recent work explores Black American beauty traditions among Black men. The intimacy that I depict in each photograph of this most recent series erases the possibility of threat often assigned to black men and instead pushes the viewer to see the power of kinship within the Black community. Tentatively titled, We Matter, I’m seeking to expand notions of blackness by challenging the American socialization of black men.

How would you describe your photographic voice?

Honest, curious and expressive.

How does living in Oakland influence your creativity?

I, amongst many, complain about the cost of living in the Bay, but one thing that is keeping me here is the creative community in Oakland. The friends that I have made here influence me every second. Regardless if you are a writer, filmmaker, performance artist or you just work in a bar and you have a cool ass story. The community here is strong and it feels good to have those in your corner.

Is it important for you to be apart of a creative community of people?

It’s very important to me. I almost feel like it’s like having a secret power or having extra lives in a video game. Think about how many connections your peers have and how that love could be shared amongst the both of you.

The luxury durags featured in Adrian's photo exhibition are by Los Angeles based brand OJI ROYALE / www.ojiroyale.store

What do you think are the roles and responsibilities that we as creators of color hold to the community?

Continuing to share and build around the narratives of the black experience. Each one of our experiences differs from another which is why it makes things more interesting. We have a deep history but we are all connected in one shape or form. Sharing your experience can easily influence another creator to build off of that, helping them find out who they are and where they came from.

What are the three biggest things you’ve learned about yourself throughout your career?

I do well when it comes to connecting with like-minded creatives and connecting the dots with others who can learn/benefit from one another.

Numbers don’t mean shit. Elaborating on that, I’m speaking on allowing IG/twitter count get the best of you. As long as you are putting out great work and centering it around those that can help you maximize it you will be ok.

I learned to believe in myself, even when shit was tough. Always believe in yourself first. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?

What’s your favorite VSCO filter?

A6, duh! HAHA.

Is post-production editing therapeutic for you?

Use to be. I don’t know, it’s one of those things that I have a love/hate relationship with. I guess it depends on the project I’m working on at the time. The goal is to one day hire an editor. 

Photographed on location at VSCO in Oakland, California.

What music are you listening to right now?

My favorite rap album right now is Key! & Kenny Beats 777. I love extra hood shit, like Bloc Boy JB and Lil Baby. I’m religiously listening to anything Anderson Paak, Smino (hometown hero), Kamasi Washington, Amy Winehouse, Jorja Smith, and my girl Queens D. Light “Flavor of Green”.

What is the hardest lesson that took you the longest to learn?

My father used to always tell me, “It’s not always about you.” I wouldn’t say this was a hard lesson but growing up I really didn’t think about what he really meant by that because I never asked for much as a child. But after a few life experiences, and putting others before myself, I thought about how much I related to what he was saying.

Do you feel a responsibility to contribute something bigger than yourself?

EMORY ONYX WALKER (my daughter) enough said.

What is the legacy that you hope to leave behind?

I want my family and friends to say that I was a great connector on top of being skilled in knowing how to create intimate portraits based on my studies of human interactions. I want my daughter to say my wife and I taught her the value of being present in a space and owning the shit out of it! And to my own self, that I do this for the black boys and girls that look like me, grew up where I grew up, and got the same education as me that they will be better than me at whatever they wish to pursue.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION

FOOTNOTES

Author Info


Kedrick Walker .

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