Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Lowry.
Courtney, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was young, I wrote short stories about a fictional character’s first day of school or a small-town neighborhood mystery. Reading was significant in my household growing up. My grandma collected over 500 books and has read every one of them.
On hot summer days, we’d sit in our backyard and read until the sun went down. She’d follow Oprah’s Book Club closely and consistently encouraged me to continue to seek information and gain knowledge, even when it appeared that there was nothing to find. Throughout middle school and into high school, I kept penning the stories in my head. Instagram (and photography) wasn’t really a thing until late ninth grade.
But junior year in high school, I was introduced to photography, and I learned that photography was a new way of telling stories. Writing wasn’t the only form of self-expression. The darkroom was my first taste of photography. My high school had a really nice darkroom and provided small-format cameras and 35mm film (which I then accepted that college does not provide free cameras and film).
I wasn’t in love with the film immediately, yet, I was enamored with the concept of freezing a moment in time forever. I spent day after day in the darkroom, the smell of developer forever in my clothes. My senior year, I decided to take the second-level photography class my school offered.
That same year, I received my first digital camera and was the head photographer for the school’s yearbook. I recreated Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, calling it Humans of Catonsville–which is where I’m from. I interviewed around twenty students for the page, and it was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had.
Both my friends and strangers opened up to me about their mental health, school, and family life. I’d seen a new, unexpected side to the students of Catonsville High. I began college in the fall of 2015 at SCAD Savannah. On the brink of the Black Lives Matter movement, I knew my calling was to create work depicting the black experience. I was a senior in high school during the Freddie Gray riots.
Baltimore City, one I wasn’t too fond of but appreciated, was shaken to its core as we realized that police brutality could happen anywhere. I was enraged by the injustices Freddie Gray faced, but I couldn’t sit back and let it fester. So, I turned my anger into art.
Over the four years of studying at SCAD, I’ve created various bodies of work depicting my viewpoint of racism, colorism, sexism, and mental health. Last semester, I created a women’s empowerment project entitled “Her Red Hands”/Becoming Her.”
Each of the girls photographed allowed me into their homes, where we spoke about the taboo behind periods and what it meant to be a woman. I even crafted a documentary, and everything is a little bit more real on video. (I think that’s why YouTube heavily influences our lives.)
From there, I am currently working on a project solely about black men, studying their form and the similarities found in various black men. I am excited for this project as it is my first time only working with men. But I find it interesting in looking at the make-up of a black man. I don’t think we give black men enough credit for all that they endure.
My project analyzes masculinity and identity by creating a typology of close-ups of the most intimate parts of a black man. This work will be exhibited in Atlanta as my final senior show, and I’m optimistic for my future as I continue to create work that shares the stories of the silenced.
Has it been a smooth road?
It hasn’t been a smooth road, but life never is.
List of struggles:
-The cost of printing paper
-Always having ideas in photography and other studio class (at the same time)
-Models. Finding the right ones, you can vibe with AND get the perfect shot. It’s rare to find both.
-Never using the same lighting twice
-Balancing friends, mental health, and school life. SCAD has relatively dominated my life for four years. I look forward to graduation, and then I can finally put myself first.
-Realizing that mental and physical health doesn’t stop for anything. As someone with psoriatic arthritis, I learned this the hard way
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
Portraiture that depicts the black experience. I am proud of how far I’ve come since I was a freshman.
What sets me apart are my different takes on life. We can talk about chronic health. We can talk about mental health. We can talk about colorism. We can talk about how hard, but rewarding it is to be a black woman.
I am a little bit of everything.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I love Atlanta. I transferred here from the Savannah campus in 2017, left for Hong Kong, transferred back, and was stationed back in Savannah for way too long.
Atlanta is where my heart is, and will always be. Atlanta brings so much promise, particularly for the black community. I would recommend anyone in the art field to start in Atlanta, particularly if you are interested in film/television and photography.
I go to the CNN Center downtown just to dream. I imagine what life would be like if I worked there, with aspirations of actually working there. Atlanta has brought me so much life and taught me what it means to be human.
Atlanta has said, “Yes, you matter. Yes, you are valid. Your gifts are appreciated.” It’s a certain type of love I’ve never felt from any other city.
- Prints: 8.5 x 11 in. = $25 | 11 x 17: $35 | 13 x 19: $50
- Shoots: $100/hr (contact for prints and edits)
- Website: courtneylowryphotography.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtneyllowry