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An Interview with Francis Shad: On Changing the Face of Photography

October 31, 2019

Francis Shad is a junior at Georgetown University whose love for photography has allowed him to grow his following and convey the stories of those who are not typically given a platform for expression. He has made a name for himself around Georgetown, D.C., and New York City as well as by being featured in exhibits such as “Beyond Borders.” I sat down with Francis to learn more about how he got his start in photography, why the mode is so meaningful to him, and what he hopes to convey through his work.

 

How did you first get into photography and what do you enjoy most about it?

 

I first got into photography at a very young age. My dad had a digital camera that I used to play with and take pictures with at family events, but I didn’t start taking it seriously and professionally until Summer 2018. What I enjoy most about it is being able to capture a moment with a frame that you can always look back on and remember distinct emotions.

 

What inspires you to create the projects that you do?

 

I am inspired by the people around me that are brave enough to be their authentic selves.

 

What photographers or other artists help to inspire you?

 

I can’t think of any specific people, but I can think of specific images and objects that I’ve seen on like NPR or other publications about identity which inspired me to create my first project called “Flower Boy”. There was a project called “Limitless” that focused on being queer African and I think that coming from that background, I never really saw queer Africans so that was just very interesting to me.

 

Are there any themes that you like to focus your photos around?

 

[“Limitless”] inspired me to [create “Flower Boy”] on the idea of black masculinity because I didn’t know too many queer Africans growing up. It is definitely something that I want to do in the future because of the simple fact that a lot of the themes that I shoot and tackle in my photography projects focus on queer identity and masculinity because that is part of my identity. It really can’t be erased, so it is reflected in my art.

 

What messages do you hope to convey through your photography?

 

It is kind of challenging to answer because when I’m shooting, I have themes in my head. In my first project, I was talking about black masculinity, but I don’t really strive to control how people perceive it, so I don’t really have a message that I hope to convey. I think that everyone experiences [art] differently. I know it sounds cliché, but I hope to convey themes of authenticity and acceptance through soft and contemporary art because that is where I have been leaning with my work rather than artificial beauty. I think the messages that I hope people can get out of my work is acceptance, being okay with being soft, your authentic self, and being proud of your identity and who you are.

 

What has been your favorite project of yours to date and why?

 

My favorite project to date has been one of my recent projects named “The Way They Feel” which is a photo-narrative on embracing and expressing the way you feel and existing as an LGBTQ+ person. I wanted it to be an appreciation for both masculine and feminine traits and expressions. I just loved working on it because it came so naturally. I had two friends, one is nonbinary and one identifies as gay, and I really wanted to highlight both of them because I feel like they were so comfortable in their skin and that it could really inspire people. So I wanted to capture that, and I think I executed that well.

 

How has photography helped you find a community at Georgetown? And have there been any other Georgetown students that have either helped in the process or been the subject of your photography?

 

I think that one of my favorite parts about being a photographer is being able to connect with other people, and I have been able, thankfully, to do it at Georgetown. The first project I ever did consisted of working with about 9 to 10 other black men at Georgetown, and it was called “Flower Boy” to deconstruct black masculinity in a positive light. I was able to connect and speak with people about things they struggle with, and that is kind of how I started doing photogra- phy at Georgetown. I think, generally, that one of my favorite things about photography is that it can be used as a medium to connect and network with people, and you are able to convey their stories through a photo, which I think is one of my favorite processes.

 

Do you have any projects in the works or any opportunities that you are excited about?

 

I want to stray away from less freelance work and go into more agency work, like shooting for digital magazines. My goal is to be financially stable enough to only create work that I am 100% passionate about, and I think I would best be able to do that if I was with an agency so that is my ultimate goal for photography. I think that most of my photography surrounds topics and themes like masculinity and queer identity so I think that I’m just going to continue that route and see where it takes me.

 

More information about Francis and his work can be found on his website francisshad.com.

Nicole Cortina

Photo Credits: Francis Shad

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