Shawn Theodore : Street Portraits tell a story
Shawn Theodore also known xST is an artist based in Philadelphia USA.
Shawn’s is well known for his street portraits.
Along with taking the time to meet and speak to strangers on the street Shawn express that everyone is unique and have their own story. With his choice of color, texture, and architecture his work is worth the time to check out.
What does the name xst conceptually mean to you?
It’s short for “exist”, short for “existentialism”, specifically Black existentialism or 'Africana critical theory' is a school of thought that "critiques domination and affirms the empowerment of Black people in the world". It's at the core of my work and my thinking around my images.
"Both the people and the neighborhood are important to my project. I seek out the tension, the unease, the worry, the smiles, and the joy within the community and culture."
Was photography something you were always interested in?
Actually, no. My original intentions in the arts was through my studies in fine art, and my desire to be a painter. I became interested in collage, and that lead to my interest in photography. My mother gave me her camera at a young age, and I started shooting only a little bit through the 80's and 90's. My only regret is that I didn't take it as seriously then as I do now.
As a street photographer, what is it you feel you are capturing in your photographs?
My ongoing concept has been to photograph African Diasporan people who live in shrinking, traditionally African American neighborhoods. Typically, there’s no plan of action other than to find the photo that speaks to me the most in that day of shooting. Both the people and the neighborhood are important to my project. I seek out the tension, the unease, the worry, the smiles, and the joy within the community and culture.
The work you did on Church of Broken Pieces is what caught my eye on Instagram, what was the concept behind that body of work?
Church of Broken Pieces is an homage to an ever-changing, ever-moving Diaspora, an introduction to a new mythology: Black Reality. They represent a new zodiac within a mythology, one that takes place not in a distant future or past, but today. There are no broken pieces here, everything is whole, black, and unique, separated from the invisible, separated from the incorrect construct of the ‘black monolith’ label incorrectly associated with African American identity.
What was the best piece of advice given to you that you can pass to another person?
Be good to the people you encounter, street photography has made me a more empathetic person, a better person for it. Date you camera, and marry your lenses. Shoot every day, and make time for family and friends.