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For photojournalist Alexi Rosenfeld, New York has never been more alive

For every time you’ve heard, “New York is dead,” photojournalist Alexi Rosenfeld has an image that proves otherwise. As his photos were featured on The New York Times, SNL, and Vogue – to name a few – he reminded the world of NYC’s magic.

At the epicenter of life and culture, photographers have a field day when capturing New York City. However, becoming the epicenter for COVID, creatives were presented with new challenges on how to capture NYC’s new form.

Alexi Rosenfeld - New York photojournalist
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 22 (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

In 2020, Rosenfeld became of the city. Through his lens, he photographed everything from daily life to major events throughout NYC. As travel was restricted, Rosenfeld’s images offered the world authentic insight into the new New York.

Alexi Rosenfeld - New York photojournalist
Photojournalist Alexi Rosenfeld. (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

This week, I had the pleasure of learning how Rosenfeld’s unique creative process and cultural background impact his work.

In conversation with Alexi Rosenfeld

Kulture Hub (KH): What led you to pursue photojournalism as your major photography outlet?

Alexi Rosenfeld: My background and much of what I do nowadays is in politics, news, and entertainment. As a photojournalist, I love being able to capture what is going on at a particular event, place, or moment in time.

“It isn’t something staged and usually can never be re-created which provides me with constant challenges and allows me to have a new outlook on even the most mundane things a person may see every day, like riding the subway.”

Alexi Rosenfeld, 2021
alexi rosenfeld
An MTA contractor wearing a mask mops a subway car near a passenger as the city enters Phase 4 of re-opening (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

As [mediums,] photography [and photojournalism have] the power to impact change, unite differences, [and] change the world.

Think about [this past] year, photographs of the coronavirus, the killing of George Floyd, and the insurrection. All lasting moments of photos (and videos) that will stand the test of time and be part of world history forever.

“As a photojournalist, I love being able to capture [the world’s] range of joyous to difficult times… There is a quote that says, ‘news is the first rough draft of history.’ And in that light, I wake up every morning excited to capture moments that end up becoming part of history.”

Alexi Rosenfeld, 2021

The more the city changed, the more it stayed the same

KH: Arguably most of New York City’s “personality” derives from New Yorkers and events within the city. Considering that those were gone, how did you find meaning within NYC? 

AR: The city was the same, it was just empty and often eerie. [Daily] routines changed but the familiar places of our city were still there.

[As] the seriousness of the pandemic was evident, it became about [those] affected, the healthcare workers, and the essential workers who were on the front lines every day. Those heroes never left the city. Many of the healthcare workers flew in from other [areas] to help out[, becoming] part of the “New York personalities.”

Alexi Rosenfeld - New York photojournalist
A medical worker and a firefighter embrace outside of NYU Langone Health hospital during the nightly ‘Clap Because We Care’ cheer for medical staff and essential workers in New York City. (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

Eventually, [people started coming] out of their homes onto the street and even from their windows and balconies to applaud the healthcare workers. It became a daily ritual at 7 PM and it was always a touching moment [to see] people [coming together and showing] their appreciation.

New York City photojournalism
A woman standing under a heart leans out of her window applauding the healthcare workers during the 7 PM nightly ‘Clap Because We Care’ cheer (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld). 

“I went out every night to capture [and share these moments]. This gave people hope and showed our community spirit.”

Alexi Rosenfeld, 2021

Accepting a new reality

KH: How did your creative process and subjects adapt to the times? 

AR: As New Yorkers accepted this new reality…their identities [were] seen in the masks they [wore]. For some, these masks told their own unique stories. Some were fashion statements. Some were political and some were just fun and colorful.

New York City photojournalism
The many masks of NYC (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

This extra layer added to what I paid attention to. [I] looked for these stories to continue to show the faces, the city, and its people.

I started to look for more subtle ways to tell the story of what the world was going [through]. For instance, [I sought] lines of buildings or shadows, [empty] streets, parks, transit hubs etc.

I also looked for what stood out as New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic for so long. I’m always trying to look for new angles and ways to approach the things that I cover.

Capturing protests and sweeping movements in NYC

KH: 2020 saw a significant wave of social justice movements around the United States. What were your experiences like capturing moments from BLM and Pride events throughout NYC?

AR: As a photojournalist, first and foremost my job is to cover what I see and what is going on. I capture these moments and try to tell a story.

“My goal is to make people feel like they are part of what is happening by looking at a photograph. Being able to do this is both rewarding and connects me to history as events such as these unfold.”

Alexi Rosenfeld, 2021
New York City photojournalism
Singer Mila Jam poses in a jumpsuit that reads, “Stop killing us” at the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives & Against Police Brutality (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

One of the more powerful moments was watching protestors encounter ‘counter protestors’ and how they dealt with them. In one case, a woman leading a crowd of people stood her ground until the heckler was dealt with, and then began crying, only to be comforted by her friends.

Another memorable moment included the day Joe Biden won the presidency and people flooded into the streets to celebrate.

A diverse background eliciting a unique eye

KH: How have you incorporated your international background into your photography practices today?

AR: Growing up with two Australian parents, a grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor, and living in multiple countries, speaking several languages, [have influenced] how I take photos and how I see an image.

What makes every photographer unique [is the background and experiences] they bring to the scene [they cover. I don’t think I consciously account for my experiences when photographing, but] my international background allows me to look at a story [from multiple] angles, no pun intended.

alexi rosenfeld - NYC photojournalist
People without masks play double dutch while people watch from above in Domino Park in Williamsburg as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

Advice for aspiring NYC photojournalists

KH: Do you have any advice for individuals trying to pursue photojournalism in NYC?

AR: Never stop reading, never stop learning, and never stop finding people that influence how you work and inspire you… I have a long list of photographers that I look up to [that] inspire me every day….

alexi rosenfeld
People sit in social distancing circles in Domino Park in Williamsburg with a view of the Manhattan Skyline amid the coronavirus pandemic (Cred: Alexi Rosenfeld).

Follow your passion. I’ve been holding a camera since almost before I could walk and with a lot of hard work and dedication have managed to make a career out of it.

[As] simple as it may sound, I never leave home without a camera because you never know, especially in New York, what you may find or what may inspire you just by looking around.

Who are the food photographers getting tasteful with their photos?

While you may not think deeply about food photography as an art, you probably have experience as a food photographer. Since the improvement of smartphone cameras and the growth of social media, taking pictures of food has become second nature to many people.

Since the birth of photography in the 19th century, individuals have been capturing images of food. However, over the last hundred years, food photography experienced a rich evolution as an experimental and commercial art form.

Food photographers dazzle with flavor and ingenuity

Most commercial food photography aims to promote the marketability of food by making it look attractive, but experimental approaches look at it rather differently.

Experimental photographers throughout history have used food as props to achieve creative visions. Some notable food photographers who have defined the art include Irving Penn, Harold Edgerton, and Ronny Jaques.

food photographers
“Lusty Pleasures,” by Irving Penn for Vogue (Cred: Vogue).
harold edgerton
“Milk Drop Coronet,” by Harold Edgerton (Cred: Time). 

Today’s food photography is thought-provoking, entertaining, and alluring thanks to the artists behind the camera. So without further ado, here are some iconic food photographers to watch!

Nicole McLaughlin

In the world of design, few people embody as much ingenuity as Nicole McLaughlin. As a sustainable artist, McLaughlin asserts her artistic signature onto her designs through upcycling clothing, packaged goods, food, and more.

McLaughlin’s work reminds us that clothing and accessories don’t need to be brand-new or brand-name to turn heads.

Her success has also been seen through features on Vogue and Highsnobiety, to name a few. While interviewing for Hype Beast, McLaughlin discussed her creative sustainable process.

Henry Hargreaves

As a former fashion model and food industry employee, Henry Hargreaves marries his creative experiences into his food photography. Most notably, the New Zealand artist brings his pieces to life by tapping into the personality of his food subjects.

food photographers
“FALLOUT OF THE FOOD SYSTEM” (Cred: Henry Hargreaves)

Hargreaves’ images vary across experimental and commercial compositions. He’s photographed for some of the hottest names in food like Flour Shop’s Amirah Kassem and Jack Wife Freda’s Maya and Dean Jankelowitz.

henry hargreaves
“The Power of Sprinkles” (Cred: Henry Hargreaves).

When asked about his creative process, Hargreaves’ wrote:

I create visuals that appeal to me. Ideas can come from anyplace and usually if it makes me laugh or keeps coming back to my mind without writing it down I feel I should try to make it. Once I decide to execute something the only hurdle is my own motivation.

(Cred: Henry Hargreaves)

Gab Bois

Multi-disciplinary artist Gab Bois’s work showcases elements of everyday life with a unique twist. She translates her criticism and comments on culture through intricate symbols in her photographs.

In an interview with VSCO, Bois grants audiences insight into her creative process. By finding inspiration in objects and her environment, her creative extents truly are limitless.

Bois’s fascination with objects is evident in her art as she photographs objects in ways untraditional to their nature. This is mainly seen in her image compositions that swap everyday objects with items that have similar shapes or colors to the original.

Studio Furious

Thomas Weil and Quentin Weisbuch are the creative geniuses behind Paris-based creative studio, Studio Furious.

Through Furious, Weil and Weisbuch have made names for themselves in both experimental and commercial photography.

The artists use inventive means to create advertisements for luxury designers, consumer packaged goods, and food brands. Studio Furious’s images use digital design to create food images that are as delicious looking as they are visually engaging.

Levi Brown

NYC-based photographer Levi Brown produces stop motion and still-life photography to give his subjects new meanings through his art. Common themes in his work include uniformity, deconstruction, and movement.

levi brown
“SOLAR SYSTEM 7” (Cred: Levi Brown).
food photographers
“BLUE FOOD” (Cred: Levi Brown).

Brown pays homage to some of the greatest names in food photography history through his work. For instance, his image “FROZEN TETRIS” highly reminisces photographs by the late Irving Penn – perhaps the most revolutionary food photographer throughout history.

Michael Harlan Turkell

Some of the many ways Brooklyn-based artist Michael Harlan Turkell explores food is through photography, podcast hosting, and recipe writing. He explores the idea of eating with your eyes by photographing food throughout the process of its preparation.

food photographers
(Cred: MHT).

To create his 2017 book “ACID TRIP: Travel’s in the world of Vinegar,” Turkell photographed and interviewed professionals throughout North America, France, Italy, Austria, and Japan. His passion for capturing food translates through his international and multimedia approach to his art!

abrams books
(Cred: AbramsBooks).

Colors Collective

On brand with their title, the artists behind the Colors Collective play with hues, contrast, and fascinating composition in their photographs. The geniuses behind the studio are industrial designers and photographers Alexis Jesup and Max Hoffman.

The Colors Collective creates still lives and stop motion media that embody fresh and light-hearted feelings within their work. Many of their pieces are commercially produced, yet their work is so engaging and appealing it’s easy to forget they’re trying to sell you on a product.

Brandon Voges

As a creative at Bruton Stroube Studios, Brandon Voges photographs commercial food images for some of the most well-known American brands.

Manipulating depth and color in his images, Voges captures food as an editorial photographer would capture a fashion model.

food photographers
Bruton Stroube for Hellman (Cred: BrutonStruobe).

Voges‘ client list ranges across Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Nintendo, to name a few. He is particularly crafty in his creative approach to food photography, as seen in his team’s use of colored construction paper in his Fanta rebrand project.

food photographers
Bruton Stroube for Fanta (Cred: BrutonStruobe).
food photographers
Bruton Stroube for Fanta (Cred: BrutonStruobe).

Food photographers set the standard for tastefulness in our lives

Whether abstract or just plain inviting, these food photographers make our mouths and imaginations water.

Photographers of all crafts must be innovative. Still, there is something specific about the way a food photographer captures their subject.

In this case, when the subject is food, food photographers shine brightly. Make sure to follow all of these talented artists’ work going forward.

What is food photography? Feast your eyes on these tips

Did you know that many chefs have adjusted their cooking process to account for the amount of time people spend taking pictures of their meals? Nowadays, everyone dabbles in food photography, but not enough people know the tips of the trade. What’s more, is not enough people know about the art’s rich and complex history.

No one wants to be caught on Influencers In the Wild dramatically taking pictures of their food. But it can be hard to resist snapping an image when your food looks so delicious or fun.

The history of food photography

Food has played a key role in photography since the medium’s start. While you’d expect the main goal of food photography to be making the subject look tasty, many artists use food as props for a multitude of reasons.

Scholars believe food photography began with the daguerreotype “A Fruit Piece” in 1845. Unfortunately, the earliest images were irreplaceable and heavy, giving them significant visual limitations.

fruit piece
“A Fruit Piece” by William Henry Fox Talbot, 1845 (Cred: ArtNet).

As a result, chromolithographs (multicolored prints) displayed images of food for advertisements and decorative purposes.

food lithograph
“Artistic Luncheon Dishes”, Chromolithograph published by L. Upcott Gill in 1890. (Cred: WordPress).

Commercial food photography 

Staging food to look appealing and desirable was largely seen in early commercial food photography. Through cookbooks and magazines in the 1940s, food was manipulated and photographed in more inventive ways than ever before.

Also during this time, food companies like Crisco and Aunt Jemima expanded their advertising by offering free cook booklets with their products. These booklets changed American cooking as it was known to incorporate vibrant photos of what the finished food result was expected to look like.

commercial food photography tips
Crisco cookbooklet page from the 20th century (Cred: Pinterest).

There was a creative explosion in food photos upon the popularization of Gourmet Magazine. Gourmet was an American magazine that ran from 1941 to 2009, that offered insight on global cuisines through fascinating recipes and images.

Some of their more iconic covers include:

gourmet magazine food
 Gourmet Magazine cover: Hand Holding Cotton Candy on Coney Island (Cred: Condé Nast.)
gourmet magazine food
Gourmet Magazine cover: Blueberries on Silver Spoon.
(Cred: Condé Nast.)

Using tasty treats as props

In the 1920s, many artists began using food in their images as props to achieve particular creative visions. American photographer Edward Steichen was well known for creating fabric prints through images of sugar cubes.

sugar cubes photography
Edward Steichen manipulating light and shadows on sugar cubes, 1920s (Cred: Pinterest).

Since then, photographers began artfully manipulating food’s properties for their images. Through this experimental approach, the creative flair of food photography began to take shape.

high speed flash photography
Harold Edgerton’s experimentation with high speed flash photography in the 1960s. (Cred: NewPaltz).

One of the most notable names in eccentric food photography is Irving Penn. The American photographer was a well-known editorial photographer at Vogue from 1943 up until 2009.

While Penn’s fashion photography was exquisite, his food photography was revolutionary. Using food as props, Penn captured many still live images of food and other props that told a story through their compositions, like “Scoop Dreams.” 

ice cream photo
“Scoop Dreams” by Irving Penn for Vogue, August 2004. (Cred: Vogue).
flash food photography
“Iced Soups: Flash Foods” by Irving Penn for Vogue, July 1977. (Cred: Vogue).

Modern renditions of the art

Today’s prominent food photographers continue to diverge into more experimental and commercial visions for their subjects.

As the number of smartphones and social media users grows, more people are encouraged to pick up a camera and engage in the art. But more importantly, the wealth of information and art online drives unprecedented inspiration.

Quentin Bacon has been one of the more notable food photographers of our age. He has taken images for cookbooks by Michelle Obama, Gordon Ramsay, and more:

modern food photography
(Cred: Quentin Bacon).

Another contemporary artist who has solidified a spot in food photo history is the incredible Carl Warner. Warner pursued an education in illustration but quickly found passion in capturing food.

His imagination and illustrative sense shine through his sensationally creative work. Upon close inspection, it becomes evident that his work is completely comprised of food.

“Garlicshire” by Carl Warner (Cred: Carl Warner).
creative food photography tips
“Taj Mahal” by Carl Warner (Cred: Carl Warner).

Tips and tricks for your food photography needs

Next time you justify overpaying for a meal because of how aesthetically appealing it looks, consider these food photography tips to help you best capture its image!

I had the pleasure of taking Michael Harlan Turkell’s food photography course this semester and gathered some advice that’s undoubtedly elevated my pictures.

food photography tips
The process of creating a bagel and lox by Michael Harlan Turkell. (Cred: MHT).

There are three angles you should use when capturing a food image: The chef’s angle, 90°; the diner’s angle, 45°; and the photographer’s angle 0°.

From these angles, your camera should approach your subject from north, south, east, or west perspectives.

Making Uncle Ben’s Ads with Carl Warner.

If you have the choice, try and avoid using flash and opt to take your image in natural light during peak hours of daylight.

Also, if cooking a meal, make sure to select your ingredients and subjects based on their shape and appearance. A fruit or vegetable with an interesting dent or figure may be more fascinating and engaging to the eye.

And of course, try not to be this guy:

These music videos combat climate change one bar at a time

We’ve come a long way since the eco-friendly song “Send it On” occupied every Disney Channel commercial break. As climate change and other ecological issues put our planet at risk, popular artists do their part to promote environmental consciousness through songs and music videos.

My personal earliest memory of music videos on the climate crisis.

In popular music, meaningful lyrics are often overshadowed by lively beats and vocals. However, through music videos, artists are better able to anchor their messages through thought-provoking visuals.

With climate change, visuals have a profound effect by forcing audiences to view our crumbling planet rather than simply read headlines about it. Musicians in this space bring forth esteemed visual artists to create content that’s equally enchanting as it is pervasive.

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite songs and music videos shedding light on climate change and environmental consciousness.

Lil Dicky – Earth

Over two years, Lil Dicky collaborated with 30 of the biggest names in music for his song “Earth.” These artists widely range across genres yet their sound flowed harmoniously through a shared devotion to the cause.

100 percent of the song’s proceeds are directed towards various environmental charities. The only nonmusician featured in the song is Leonardo DiCaprio, who fits in perfectly as a prominent climate change awareness activist.

The gorgeous animated music video displays all artists as animals and plants, except Lil Dicky and Kanye West who play themselves. Directors Federico Heller and Nigel W. Tierney are largely responsible for bringing the magic of this video to life.

Heller is a visual artist and co-founder of 3DAR, a production company that uses animation and VFX to tell stories across a variety of industries. Then, Tierney is head of content at RYOT, an Emmy award-winning immersive media studio.

Childish Gambino – Feels Like Summer

Despite the relaxed and whimsical tone of the song, the subject of “Feels Like Summer” is striking.

Childish Gambino is known to impart his beliefs through his art, as seen through the iconic lyrics and video of “This is America.”

This song’s lyrics express Gambino’s discontent with the lack of concern exhibited by corporations who pollute the air without repercussion. This is also followed by expressions relating to climate change and the negative environmental effects faced by bees.

The music video further instills this sense of worry by displaying a concerned animated Gambino walking through the streets of an unseemly neighborhood as the bolting sun behind him intensifies.

Alongside Gambino, Ivan Dixon and Greg Sharp co-directed the video. Dixon is an animation director, illustrator, and designer who typically uses pixel art style. Sharp is the creative director of TRUBA, an Australian-based animation studio.

Ultimately, “Feels Like Summer” is a music video that makes listeners think deeply about climate change, even if subconsciously.

Xiuhtezcatl feat. Jaden Smith – Boombox Warfare

Rapper Xiuhtezcatl has devoted much of his music career to highlighting climate change. Jaden Smith has also been a prominent climate crisis awareness advocate for years, as seen through co-hosting Ted Talk’s environmental Countdown Sessions.

Smith and Xiuhtezcatl impart a sense of urgency and agency in this song and other activism projects. They devote equal time to outline the servility of our global circumstance as they do encourage listeners to take action.

The gorgeous video used distinct prints and a vibrant color palette to animate Smith and Xiuhtezcatl and their surroundings. Sound Visual Club’s John Hwang, Tina Kim, Jasmine Ung, and Stella Cho are credited with the creative & art direction, illustration, and design & animation for the lively video.

Billie Eilish – all the good girls go to hell

Both the music and also the video of “all the good girls go to hell” are incredibly fitting in Billie Eilish’s nightmare-esque masterpiece 2019 album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

However, this video varies from other ones from this album for its disturbing environmental graphics. We see Eilish as a fallen angel land in a tar pit, then emerge in a disfigured state. As she sings the chorus lines, “hills burn in California,” her background bursts into flames — eventually catching her wings on fire.

While she rarely tweets herself, Eilish used her platform to advocate for the 2019 climate strike shortly after the music video was posted.

This video was directed by Rich Lee, a major American music video director, and visual artist. His work in CGI and life-long fascination for designing monsters thus shines through the artistry of this video.

Lana Del Rey – Fuck it I love you / The greatest

“The Greatest[‘s]” lyrics and music video have less hopeful commentary on climate change. While disheartening, its approach is significantly more realistic when compared to other songs on this list.

The song is about loss and ends with explicit notes on global warming’s effects on California and Hawaii. Rich Lee also directed this music video and approached the videography with a sense of realism that’s also exhibited in the song.

Rather than using animation or other VFX, this music video simply follows Del Rey through industrial and natural scenery.

Juxtaposing scenes of Lana walking near harsh geometric shapes in industrial zones with free-flowing shots of her by oceans represents humanity’s shift in focus from preserving natural landscapes; extremely fitting in this song’s theme of loss.

Bon Iver – Jelmore

Bon Iver’s “Jelmore” also strays closer to a pessimistic and realistic interpretation of our climate crisis. With lyrics referencing humanity’s impending doom, the song outlines the severe results of neglecting recent environmental disturbances.

The song mainly states commentary, but near its end asks, “How long will you disregard the heat?” This highlights the sentiment of environmental activists doing the most to have their concerns heard by policymakers.

The music video was directed by Aaron Anderson, a Brooklyn-based artist. It follows a dancer, walking through empty, natural spaces — manipulating her body with each step. Towards the end, wide shots paint the scene and a black square creatively covers the sun.

Reaching your dream career through community + more from Here2Help!

2020 offered anything but a 20/20 vision into the immediate future. However, thanks to Fana Yohannes, founder and mentor at Here2Help, recent graduates and those whose careers were affected by COVID are feeling significantly less hopeless!

Fana Yohannes is a Public Relations extraordinaire and a Consumer Communications Manager at Instagram where she shares stories behind the moments influencing culture on IG. Her devotion to community and empowerment shine through her initiative, @Here2Help.

What is Here2Help?

Here2Help is Yohannes’s Instagram-based mentorship initiative that pairs professionals who are unemployed due to COVID and 2020 – 2021 graduates with mentors across a variety of industries. These mentors volunteer their time and offer stellar career advice.

She created Here2Help at a crucial time for the country as the U.S. is down nearly 10 million jobs. The unemployment rate for recent grads increased from 8.4% to 24.4% between spring 2019 to spring 2020 and continues to yield concerning statistics.

Here’s how it works: Every other Sunday, Here2Help posts IG stories of mentors that list their fields of expertise and professional experience – their DM’s are open for 24 hours for mentees to reach out. Yohannes even goes a step further by providing detailed descriptions on how to best present yourself when networking.

If you’d like to get involved as either a mentor or mentee, simply follow @Here2Help on Instagram and look out for those Sunday stories!

I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Yohannes and getting her personal takes on the dream for Here2Help and all the incredible things it has offered so far:

Kulture Hub (KH): What is the story of Here2Help and what does Here2Help mean to you?

Fana Yohannes: We’ve seen recessions come and go [but what’s] unique about this time is that we have social media.

What this means to me is, is everything. [I] didn’t intend to start this program, [it started] kind of on accident. 

Fana Yohannes, 2021

Last year, [I] attended a career panel with some of my [communications] idols like Yvette Noel-Schure (Beyonce’s publicist) and Vanessa Anderson (Issa Rae’s publicist)… My takeaway was you really have the position of privilege to help others no matter who you are.

This time is [a] great equalizer because everyone from top CEOs to interns are all at home. So I posted on my Instagram that I’m opening up my DMs to help five people. I drafted a decline note for people [who reached out past the 5], but the thing that I’m proudest of is that I’ve never had to send that decline out [as so many people volunteered to mentor].

We’ve grown to over 200 mentors and helped host about 2500 one on one mentee mentor sessions. 

Fana Yohannes, 2021

KH: How would you describe Here2Help’s mentors?

Fana Yohannes: Here2Help is powered by 200+ volunteer mentors who’ve discovered the program by word of mouth.

We’ve been lucky to recruit great mentors, from [top] companies like Apple, Netflix, Google, Facebook, Instagram, and everywhere in between [as well as some] amazing startups. A lot of people in the mentor seat are looking for ways to give back.

People just want to help! I’ve been blown away by the response at how many people are willing to raise their hands and open their DMS to help other people.

Fana Yohannes, 2021

We’ve had mentors who were unemployed during the 2008 recession and want to share their learnings [with] people who now are going through similar things. We have mentors who are first-generation college students who want to look out for other first-gen professionals.

My influence on the mentor side of things is very small, I just [help] connect the dots and create [a] community where people can connect…. Each of the mentors run their own program and [share] their own expertise and advice. It’s created an awesome ecosystem in itself!

I just wanted to remind people that there is a community out there if they need it, because, it’s a really lonely and tough time.

Fana Yohannes, 2021

KH: How has social media shaped the career landscape? 

Fana Yohannes: [Here2Help is] intentional about [being] on Instagram. LinkedIn…is a great job searching tool. However, mentors aren’t always checking LinkedIn, because if they already have a job, [I find that] they’re less inclined to [be on the site].

Instagram works well because in today’s landscape of social media… mentors who are active on Instagram are plugging their projects, [but more than that, DM’s are so accessible].

A lot of people don’t think about reaching out to potential mentors on Instagram, because they get a bit intimidated [and assume they should use] LinkedIn. 

Fana Yohannes, 2021

Instagram… makes it easier for people to connect….and it’s more casual, it takes the pressure off of having to be introduced to somebody. [Mentorship] can have a multi-faceted approach and [doesn’t always need] to be formal.

“I’m really fascinated by drop culture and sneaker culture. So, with Here2Help you have 24 hours to [contact mentors], because [our stories only last 24 hours]. You only have a very short window of time to shoot your shot, which is what encourages the dynamics of this program to work so well!”

Fana Yohannes, 2021

There’s no one size fits all approach anymore to networking on social media apps, because there are so many different avenues of possibilities. 

KH: Do you have any specific networking advice?

Fana Yohannes: Always do your research! Know who the person is, read articles about them, read a couple of their social posts, and [try to understand] who this person is before you meet with them.

Pay attention to where your audience is. If you have a mentor that’s active on Twitter, and not on Instagram or LinkedIn, send them a DM!

When reaching out to somebody [by] sending a cold message, be specific about what your ask is. It’s hard for mentors to cover all bases in a 30-minute chat. After research, figure out one or two questions that you want to ask this person. When you send your note to them, be concise, be direct and:

Have a call to action of what you hope to accomplish on a call with them!

Fana Yohannes, 2021

Your mentor doesn’t need to be one person, [think of your mentors] as a board of directors. You want someone with creative insights, [someone with a role that you want in the future], someone who’s a realist, [etc.]

Delegating different questions to different people is great because that helps you create goals for your conversations. [This way], you’re not exhausting all options with one mentor.

KH: What are some of your favorite Here2Help success stories?

Fana Yohannes: The Here2Help effect is definitely real! One of our first mentees [was a 2020 graduate who had] interned at [almost] every music label. She [was wondering if she should] take another…assistant gig at [a] label or [try out for] an entry-level position. [Through mentorship and community networking] she [pivoted to a music coordinator role at] Tik Tok.

Another mentee [I’m thinking of was] furloughed [when] she found us. She pivoted and mentored her way [to] be an operations specialist at Spotify. We’ve even helped entrepreneurs who were impacted by the COVID market connect with executives!

KH: What do you think the power of community is, right now?

Fana Yohannes: Community [helps] people know they’re not alone in a time that’s so isolating. We pride on [accepting] anyone who’s qualified [for Here2Help] right away. This program is as much the community’s as it is mine.

So I think the element of community here is the proof of concept of inspiration.

Fana Yohannes, 2021

Community is the foundation of how this program works because you get what you put into it. If you’re engaged [and] willing to learn… [you’re met with] hundreds of people who are open and willing to help you.

In the last year… we’ve seen a lot of racial injustice happening in black communities and Asian communities… I’m grateful for this community [offering] grounding for the people who need it most right now.

I hope that when people look back on this time, they can see that compassion and community are actually what got us through. 

Fana Yohannes, 2021

How to get involved!

If you’d like to get involved as either a mentor or mentee, simply follow @Here2Help on Instagram, DM the page, and keep an eye out for those Sunday stories!

With Here2Help, the power lies within the people. Thanks to Fana Yohannes, the strength of community has cleared the smoke of loneliness and confusion around career searching. In the words of Here2Help’s motto: we can’t wait to see what you do next!

Karen Zusman highlights the beauty and passion of the youth

As 2021’s Women’s History Month nears its end, we continue to admire incredible contributions made by women. The work and creativity of Karen Zusman, winner of this year’s Leica Women Foto Project Award, is certainly no exception. 

The Leica Women Foto Project Award began honoring female photographers in 2019 by spotlighting & elevating their perspectives and impact on visual storytelling. Zusman is one of three 2021 winners of the prestigious award, sharing the recognition with Matika Wilbur and Anna Boyiazis.

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From The Super Power of Me series: “Kris, age 8, lives in Sheepshead Bay with his two brothers, mother, and stepfather.” (Cred: Karen Zusman).

Karen Zusman

Karen Zusman is a New York-based photographer whose work spotlights diversity, social justice, and the youth. Her background in poetry offers unparalleled inspiration both during image production and in constructing image descriptions. 

Zusman’s winning photographs at the Leica Women Foto Project highlight children’s reactions to the BLM protests this past year. We had the honor of interviewing her and learning about her creative process and intentions for the images in the Leica Women project.

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From The Super Power of Me series “Elena, age 9, lives in Harlem with her mother and grandmother.” (Cred: Karen Zusman).

An interview with Zusman, Leica Women Foto Project winner

Kulture Hub: Your work touches on children’s reactions to activism, an aspect so vital to social justice but often not center-focused. What were some notable themes or details you recognized in the reactions of children you showcased? 

Karen Zusman: I would say the notable details started with the children that inspired the series to begin with. It was the reactions of the children of color to our weekly BLM bicycle protest “Justice Rides.”

At the peak of our protesting we had nearly 15,000 cyclists snaking through these underserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx. So these kids were amazed, a line of bikes that took 15 minutes to pass, all chanting, “Black lives matter.”

I will never forget the one child, probably around 8 years old, who was so ecstatic, he joined in the chanting in such an enthusiastic way that our whole line of bicycles stopped so he could participate with us in the chant…. It was a remarkable thing to witness (and photograph). 

Other times, the children would just stop and fall to their knees, kneeling on the sidewalk, wide-eyed, unsure what to make of this recognition–trying to take in this chant that they understood on some level was for them. While I loved so much about these rides, it was truly the responses of the children that kept me involved for so long. 

The Leica Women Foto Project

KH: What motivated you to apply to the Leica Women Foto Project? What do you hope to accomplish with the award and platform that the contest has offered you? 

KZ: I first heard about the award in its inaugural year. I applied for it but obviously it took me this 2nd try to succeed. I think my project was a lot more defined this time around. And that’s a direct result of my involvement this past year with BLM. 

The social reckoning and reflection that has come out of the expansion of the movement since George Floyd’s death. And for me, to understand that systemic racism starts at birth. Therefore, the outcome of the protests and everything related to that reckoning stands to benefit these children that I’m trying to empower with this series. 

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Black Lives Matter protestors bike through the streets (Cred: Karen Zusman)

I’m hoping people will look at these super-powered kids rendered larger than life in an outdoor exhibit and be confronted with their visions of who these children are. It’s about showing the world their strength and grace before anyone tells them otherwise.

Karen Zusman

But most importantly, it’s about showing them, and all children who look like them, that they really are superheroes… I really believe these kids can do whatever they dream of doing. Once we as a society collectively tell them it is so.  

Additionally, with the added creative workshops I’m offering to them, we will work on their poem-captions so that they can be collaborators in the series. So that their voices are heard alongside their portraits. Because I’m not a person of color, this aspect of the project is essential I believe. Because the story of who they are truly belongs to them. 

Vision and intentionality in photography

KHDid you have a prior vision or intention for this piece? Did that vision mold during your creative execution? 

KZ: I had a loose vision that I wanted to photograph kids of color as a result of documenting their responses to BLM protest marches and rides… 

Early on, a father of some of the children whose picture I took, who was from Ghana, thanked me for giving his kids “the living proof that they were the superheroes that they imagined themselves to be.” 

Karen Zusman
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Kids ride in the back of a car through city streets (via Karen Zusman)

His words really struck me, and maybe it was in that moment, for the first time, that I really understood the value of what I was doing. The power a portrait has on a child to see their own strength. And with that, The Super Power of Me series was borne.  

And later, because the responses of all the parents and aunties was so favorable when I would share…what I had photographed, I began to realize the value of an exhibit–not just for me as the photographer–but also for them…

I offered a free creative workshop in Ft Green Park to the kids in my photos and to my delight almost every family showed up. That’s when I got the idea that I could bring in my MFA in poetry and help the kids write poems about who they imagine themselves to be, and we could work that into captions to accompany their portraits.

That’s when I really got excited. Because the missing piece for me was how to include them more in the process. How to integrate their vision of who they are–and show the world their take on that as well. 

Discovering a passion for photography

KHGrowing up, what inspired you about photography? And pursuing photography professionally, who are some photographers or artists who guide or influence you? 

KZ: I came to photography late in the game. I’m self-taught and my photography came from a direct need to document stories I was covering in Southeast Asia as a multimedia journalist.

I was in Burma as a Buddhist meditator [and] I had a desire to tell the story of what life was like [there] for ordinary citizens and from that I started uncovering human trafficking and forced labor stories. 

I was neither a photographer nor a journalist at the time, but I had an MFA in poetry–in other words, I could write–and so I jumped in with all I had. 

Karen Zusman

Following that, I co-founded a mobile education project to provide basic literacy skills to children who were compelled into forced servitude inside Burma. I bought myself a “real” camera so I could document our project….

The project attracted seasoned photojournalists who were passing through Yangon, and I received tips from them, and from friends back in NYC along the way. 

One of my closest friends is street photographer Richard Sandler, and I think I’ve picked up a lot in regards to photography from him… not to mention so many days and nights [I’d spent] pouring over his extensive home photography library. 

Subjects in photos

KHWhat are your favorite subjects to photograph and why? 

KZ: I love photographing people. I think it has to do with being a loner, and being quite introspective–as is the case for many writers and poets, not to mention meditators! But [when] I began documenting stories, and meeting more people … I realized how much I loved that interaction. 

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From The Super Power of Me series, Kris, age 8. (Cred: Karen Zusman)

Once I got a camera in my hands, that opened even more ways of connecting with people. And more ways to tell a story. It was intoxicating to me. 

Karen Zusman

I still travel a lot, almost always on my own. I’ve been to Cuba 21 times in 4 years and though at first I didn’t speak the language it was through the camera that I found my company. I connected immediately with those I was photographing. 

And then later, when I began to process the images, I saw so much in their eyes. Even more than what I had seen originally, which had moved me to take their picture. I always ended up wanting to know more. So I would return… And now I have a large body of work from there. 

And in a way, I can say the same thing about this Super Power of Me series, for which I received this award. I really care about these kids, I see so much in them. I can’t wait to do the workshops and learn more about who they are now and who they would like to be tomorrow. 

Perspective in the Leica Women Foto Project

KHWhat was your main reason for submitting the body of work that you did for the contest? What are some other notable works of yours that highlight your values and creative perspective? 

KZ: I submitted this project because I wanted the children of color and young immigrants that I photograph in the Super Power of Me project–and those that look like them–to see their strength now, before the world tells them otherwise. 

As a society dealing with a great social reckoning, there’s a lot of discourse–And I want us to not lose sight of who we are fighting for. 

Karen Zusman

[After] I began documenting stories of human trafficking and forced labor in Southeast Asia without having any journalism or photography training… I was incredibly gratified that PBS and NPR decided to feature [my work]. 

Two days after my story aired on PBS, five Malaysian immigration officials were arrested on human trafficking charges. To me, that was an incredible validation that the stories we choose to tell make a difference. 

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“Bubba and his nephew, William. Ages 9 and 3. Bubba lives in Brownsville with his mother, sister, and 3-year-old brother, Legacy.” (Cred: Karen Zusman).

I was awarded a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grant to continue that coverage. Shortly thereafter I co-founded a nonprofit free education program for child laborers. 

Working to document that population–to empower them rather than show their victimhood–was something I always strived for. I’m sure that experience helped lead me to who I am as a photographer today. 

Karen Zusman

Progress for women in photography

KHWhat is an example of progress you hope to see for women in the world of photography? Is there some notable progress you know of that women in photography have made that you are proud of? 

KZ: As with almost all areas, I feel women have not been given the same opportunity as men. In photography this is definitely the [case]. Although I think that is rapidly changing with awards like this one and others. 

My first image to be exhibited was with Gulnara Samoilova’s Women Street Photographers group (@womenstreetphotographers), which she has grown to quite an impressive collective with a large following. In fact, she just published a book to showcase the work of 100 female street photographers.

Recently, some of my work was exhibited in the ICP Museum and The Museum for the City of New York, and I believe they are taking steps to show more women, as well. 

Iris Photo Collective is a group of male photographers of color based in Miami and founded by photojournalist, Carl Juste. And in the last few years… they have worked hard to show and host female photographers, as well. 

The Leica Women‘s Foto Project award is my first major recognition in photography, and I’m super proud that it is for a project that was selected for its distinctively female point of view. And super proud as well, that it is from such an esteemed institution such as Leica, with an esteemed list of female jurors. 

Advice for aspiring photographers

KHDo you have any advice for upcoming photographers? Have you heard any words of wisdom that have particularly affected your take on photography and art in general? 

KZ: I make my living as a freelance advertising copywriter and so my advice stems from my own personal trajectory…

I always tell younger people, [regardless of the] type of artist they want to be that it’s not a bad idea to cultivate a skill set that may be outside or tangential to your art, in order to support yourself. 

Karen Zusman

Especially if it’s a skill that you can do as a freelancer. In this way, you can start your projects when you want, funding them yourself. Not waiting around to get the recognition or the reward. Let that come in time. 

But in the meantime, you can earn your living for several months of the year, and then take off and pursue the projects that really ignite you. That is what I did. I’m getting this recognition rather late in life–I’m in my fifties now. 

But I started documenting about 15 years ago, without the necessary professional degrees or titles, but solely because I felt compelled to. And as a freelancer, I could carve out the time and the means to do it and [learn] along the way. 

[While] there’s a ton of beautiful quotes I could list for inspiration [about] following one’s dream, I think the best advice is to simply stay curious–and be as open as one can possibly and safely be. Let the world touch you. It has so much to offer you, as do you have to offer it.

Why you should read every social media’s terms and agreements

In early 2020, The Social Dilemma opened at Sundance. The film exposed interviews from former high-ranking employees of different social media companies and explored why everyone should read the terms and agreements when signing up for social media.

The interviews also outlined severe psychological and sociological problems that these companies consciously create.

Former employees shared their discontents with how social media platforms are designed to be as addictive as possible.

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”

Edward Tufte

And yet, when these employees told their bosses about their ethical concerns, they were completely ignored.

The attention economy

Psychologist and economist Herbert A. Simon suggested that a person’s attention is finite and incredibly valuable. But, with one billion active monthly users, Instagram has molded the possibilities of the attention economy.

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert A. Simon, 2020

More entertainment and information are available at our fingertips than ever before. And, this makes the attention economy a highly competitive space.

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Basically all you see at concerts, nowadays. (Cred: NBCNews).

More than that, social media has been successful at persuading users to maximize their time online.

How your data gets exploited

When people swipe to the end of the Terms and Agreements page, they allow these platforms to data-mine their information. And many are not aware of this.

Such information is used to personalize notifications and advertisements. This not only generates revenue but, obsession within users. So, each feed will be structured differently to match personal social media habits.

Just think, how many times have you said something in conversation only to have it pop up on your feed minutes later?

social media terms and agreements
(Cred: KruseContol).

Social media platforms use this data to exploit human desires for connective validation. They use personalized notifications and feed-algorithms to deliver pleasure.

Social media has done incredible things for social justice, global connectivity, and education. However, as these companies recognized means to monetize their platforms, concern for the well-being of users was discarded.

Your data is the most valuable resource on earth – pay attention to the terms and agreements on social media

In fact, the information that seems personal is no more than a corporate strategy. It is also important to remember that we can’t equate reality with social media. We are nothing more than numbers to them. After all, since 2017, user data surpassed became the world’s most valuable resource.

Social media is relatively a new medium. They haven’t been around long enough to have extensive regulations. Yet, we have made them very wealthy and powerful. So, they may end up buying their ways through any sort of inhibitory regulation.

Remember when Facebook invaded the privacy of 87 million users? They used their data to help Cambridge Analytica – a company that claimed to have 5,000 data points on every American. Not only did they sold their users but also swayed multitudes of American voters.

After the Federal Trade Commission found them guilty they paid a mere $5bn fine and had some regulations imposed.

For reference, Facebook is valued at $279 billion. So, to imagine that this fine will force them to be moral is naive. Watch The Great Hack on Netflix to learn more about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Staying blind to parasocial relationships 

Celebrities and rising macro-influencers on social media have monetized themselves through parasocial relationships. These are one-sided relationships in which one party (the user) invests their interest into a second party (the celebrity or macro-influencer).

Such celebrities and macro-influencers operate in similar ways as these companies. Both make their advertisements seem as personal as possible. But, every time we watch a Kardashian on Instagram, it deepens the illusion of a relationship between the viewer and celebrity.

(Cred: Allure).

These celebrities and macro-influencers falsley seem to be getting paid to be themselves. When in reality, they’re getting paid to push users to spend time and capital on brands they’ve partnered with.

Psychological and sociological consequences of not paying attention to social media terms and agreements

Because of the addictive nature of social media, the influencer’s presence can’t be ignored.

Social media accounts are nothing more than highlight reels of users’ lives. And it’s difficult to not compare yourself. More than ever, young people are internalizing insecurities formed through comparing themselves to others.

For example, the popularization of lip-fillers by macro-influencers like Kylie Jenner. The number of people to have gotten lip fillers since Kylie got hers is massive. To the point, that plastic surgeons even coined the phrase “The Kylie Jenner Effect” to describe the alarming number of people seeking to look like her.

And mental health has become an increasingly worrisome subject too. According to psychologists on The Social Dilemma, between 2011 and 2013 depression and anxiety were up 189% in preteens. This has a direct correlation to social media use.

(Cred: MedVisit).

Further studies suggest that increased Instagram use associates with a greater tendency towards certain eating disorders. While celebrities and influencers are not to blame for these, the data emphasize how deeply young people may be affected by comparing themselves.

What can you do?

More than anything else, it’s vital that users remain mindful when using social media. These apps can offer a lot in terms of creative inspiration and entertainment. But, don’t forget that these platforms are structured in ways that keep your focus forever.

Netflix documentaries, such as The Social Dilemma, or The Great Hack, are important to learn from. They outline the deficits of such apps and how much stress they add to people’s lives.

I’m sure you’re well aware of the many problems that these documentaries share. But still, they serve as healthy reminders of social media’s deep flaws.

Quarantine has forced us to confined ourselves online. But don’t forget that the life that matters most is outside the internet.

Harry Styles’ style and men revolutionizing the way males dress

It’s so exciting to see men on red carpets wearing something other than a standard suit. Many male celebrities like Harry Styles are taking risks in their style by avoiding typical designs, colors, and accessories, and thus, are affecting the way males across the world dress.

Harry Styles’ Grammys performance was a refreshing and exhilarating way to start the show. However, his red-carpet outfit was odd at best.

His sense of fashion extends past norms within the field, and while I appreciate his untraditional approach at the Grammys, it ultimately distracts from his even more successful looks.

A few months ago, Styles posed for the cover of Vogue wearing a stunning Gucci dress. But, prominent conservative figures found great issue with this, as seen in Ben Shapiro’s Tweets claiming the cover deprived Styles’ of his masculinity.

Acknowledging these critiques, Styles’ posted a photo in a frilled blouse and baby blue suit with the caption “Bring back manly men.”

His contribution to fashion extends past gender norms – serving as aesthetic inspiration for both men and women – which makes Styles one of the most prominent figures in the industry.

A brief history of men revolutionizing the way males dress

This form of boundary-breaking rings too familiar to Kurt Cobain’s approach to fashion. Feeling marginalized by traditional norms for masculinity, Cobain prominently protested against homophobia and sexism in his art and life.

“Wearing a dress shows I can be as feminine as I want. I’m a heterosexual…big deal, but if I was a homosexual, it wouldn’t matter, either.”

Kurt Cobain (Cred: AZQuote).
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One of the many instances of Kurt Cobain making statements through his style (Cred: AnotherMag).

In Montage of Heck, an HBO documentary on Kurt Cobain’s life, audiences get a glimpse at the troubling effects masculinity-norms played in his life. He was a prominent advocate for breaking away from tradition and often used fashion as an extension of his beliefs.

Cobain was someone who simultaneously hated being the center of attention while being the world’s biggest rock star. His grunge aesthetic was dictated by personal preference and also characterized with mismatched prints, oversized layers, and torn fabric.

He is credited as an accidental fashion icon by putting the world onto a grunge aesthetic, as seen through these outfits that continue to affect fashion:

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The misprinted jeans and sunglasses have definitely made a comeback in pop culture (Cred: Tumblr).
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A careless aesthetic that kicked off decades of careful recreation (Cred: Pinterest).

Here are some other notable men making noble strides in fashion:

Young Thug

In a 2018 HypeBeast interview, Young Thug plainly said: “I am fashion.”

The rapper, singer, songwriter talks about sourcing inspiration from untraditional means. Watch below to see how a divers suit encouraged an outfit:

Young Thug’s sense of fashion doesn’t stop at his clothing though, as seen through his gold and diamond grills and changing hairstyles.

And like Harry Styles, one would be hard-pressed to name people on one hand that have a strong sense of style and have had more of an impact on the way males dress than Thugger Thugger.

Here are thus some of Young Thug’s most exciting looks:

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Young Thug at the iHeart Radio Music Awards in 2018 (Cred: GlobalGrind).
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Versace Pre-Fall 2019 runway show (Cred: GQ).
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Young Thug for Virgil Abloh (Cred: InterviewMag).

Timothée Chalamet

In a 2018 VMAN interview conducted by Frank Ocean, Chalamet declared himself a fashion fan-boy.

Chalamet was a rising household name through major roles in Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird. Yet still, he chose not to work with stylists, and let his own interest in fashion be his guide.

Since then, he’s been recognized by Vogue as the “Most Influential Man in Fashion.”

Chalamet’s experimental approach to styling has led him to mix prints, colors, and also textures foreign to what’s typically seen within the realms of men’s fashion.

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Timothée Chalamet at the 2019 Venice Film Festival (Cred: Vogue).
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Wearing S.R. Studio. LA. CA. in Busan, South Korea (Cred: Vogue).
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Wearing Haider Ackermann in 2019 (Cred: Vogue).

Tyler the Creator

Tyler the Creator’s rebellious approach to fashion is highly influential both on the red carpet and in retail. His clothing and lifestyle brand, Golf Wang, has affected culture and aesthetics across demographics since 2011.

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Golf Wang Fall 2020 collection (Cred: Reddit).

With iconic prints and pieces – like his vibrant teal & flames and Golf Le Fleur sneakers – Tyler the Creator has cemented his place as a streetwear legend. And like Harry Styles, as well as a man with style who has revolutionized the way males dress.

He also does more than most streetwear brands by actively participating in the culture he hopes to influence.

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Tyler frequently designs clothing for personal use (Cred: FastCompany).
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Fashion GOAT wearing a button-up thermal image of an atomic explosion at Lollapalooza in 2018 (Cred: Complex).
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Tyler at the 2020 Grammys with his outfit change in his suit case (Cred: PopSugar).

Applying Harry Styles and these other fashion GOATS’ styles to ourselves

If there’s one thing Tyler’s Grammys look tells us, it is to think outside the box. Through platforms like Pinterest and Tik Tok, it’s never been easier to research fashion and find aesthetics that best represent you.

Also, it’s never a bad time to think outside the box; just look at Harry Styles and how his style has changed over the years.

Through celebrities like the ones mentioned, we’re thus reminded of the possibilities and excitement associated with expressing ourselves through fashion. After all, the clothes we wear are individual extensions of ourselves.

10 initiatives helping creative women become their best selves

Happy Women’s History Month! Indeed, every month is a great month to highlight the contributions that women have made around the world. But today, we want to appreciate some initiatives for creative women, their influence, and their impact.

Recent years have shown an immense push towards inclusivity. Thus, these women’s initiatives are allowing underrepresented groups a greater range of voices to be heard across more industries than ever before.  

This has not only increased value in professional spaces, but inspires women because, after all:

“You can’t be what you can’t see,”

 Marian Wright Edelman, American civil rights activist

In light of all this, we’ve organized a list of initiatives for women in various fields to help support their many ventures:

Creative initiatives for women — Cannes Lions x Spotify

The Cannes Lions Initiative launched six years ago and has helped female creative leaders from around the world. This is a creative women initiative designed to promote inclusivity and interconnectivity.

This creative women’s initiative program supports women through exclusive mentoring sessions. And, throughout this influential network of industry experts, they coordinate events aiming to further educate these professionals.

Not to mention, the Cannes Lions initiative is also a great way to build a community of support between them.

Artivism for Gender Equality – UN Women

Likewise, UN Women launched a global call for original work. The initiative aims to encapsulate and celebrate strides towards gender equality.

In this manner, they have accepted mediums that include static art, gifs, animations, or short videos that embody the UN Women’s key messages. 15 – 20 creatives will be chosen to receive $500 each. Learn more on their site!

Netflix’s Creative Equity Fund

Moreover, Netflix recently announced a $20 million Creative Equity Fund aimed to invest in underrepresented storytellers!

Of that, the first $5 million dollars will go towards supporting women in the entertainment industry across the globe. More details on that here!

Barbara Demming Memorial Fund

Likewise, The Barbara Demming Memorial Fund honors the memory of Demming — a civil rights and women’s movement activist, poet, and writer.

Hence, the fund grants moral and financial support to creative feminists in art and writing by offering $500 to $1500 twice a year. 

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Winner of the 2020 Barbara Demming Memorial Fund, Daisy Patton’s gorgeous work (Cred: KContemporary & DemmingFund).

Anonymous Was A Woman

Finally, Susan Unterberg, an activist for female artists, leads this initiative by supporting women over 40 who are faced with adversity.

She offers $25,000 to help them enable their success and promote their further growth. Check that out here!

creative women initiatives
Winner of the 2020 Anonymous Was a Woman Award, Chitra Ganesh’s stunning art (Cred: ArtMatters & AnonymousWasAWoman).

Creative women initiatives in entrepreneurship — Amber Grant

On the other hand, Run by WomensNe is an organization to help women in business succeed. Once a month they award the Amber Grant.

During the first week of every month, a winner is announced to receive $10,000 for their business. And, at the end of the year, one winner receives an additional $25,000 grant. Learn more on their site!

Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI)

Furthermore, WEI is an Atlanta-based organization designed to promote business growth and sustainability.

So, through this initiative, WEI will support female entrepreneurs by offering them an innovative workspace, refinement of their business plans, a network of experts, and much more!

Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

Not to mention, The Tory Burch Foundation exists to empower and showcase female entrepreneurs through a range of programs. They regularly host small-business webinars and outline resources for female innovators.

Their annual fellow’s program grants 50 women-run, early-stage, businesses $5,000 to be used towards business education, a one-year Tory Burch Fellowship, and a free 5-day trip to Tory Burch Offices in New York. Find out more here!

Women Founders Network

The Women’s Founders Network exists to mentor and supports female business owners.

Following two Shark Tank-style pitches & voting, five female business founders compete for more than $30,000 in cash prizes and over $50,000 in professional services. Check out their site!

Women Who Tech

(Cred: WomenWhoTech).

Women Who Tech is the world’s leading network of female-driven investors, start-ups, and allies for diversity in technology.

The initiative offers female lead tech start-ups funding and recognition based on annual changing themes. The grant offers $15,000 for the first prize winner and $5,000 for the second. Learn more here!

The conversation around mental health is in a better place due to cartoons

It almost seems inappropriate to discuss serious themes through a cartoon series. After all, an over-generalized view of animation regards the medium as one for children. Yet through its cartoon nature, BoJack Horseman tells one of the most inspiring and responsible stories on mental health to date.

At first glance, BoJack Horseman could be mistaken for a children’s show; the initial appeals of the series lay in its psychedelic artistic style, niche pop-culture references, and clever humor.


While these appeals remain at the forefront of the series, as the show progresses it takes on narratives surrounding a variety of mental illnesses, severe life events, and the human condition.

The subject of mental illness should not be taken lightly when explored through media, cartoon or otherwise. That’s not to say the subject should be avoided, rather just addressed responsibly.

BoJack Horseman proves that the endless creative depth offered by animation makes it an extremely useful tool to tell such stories.

BoJack basics

At its core, the series tells the story of BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) trying to overcome his demons. We watch him endure peaks of euphoria and depths of depression. He struggles with severe anxiety, addiction, and troubled relationships.


While the series revolves around him, audiences also get an in-depth look at the psyches of many other characters. Some mental illnesses explored during the series include, but are surely not limited to, depression, trauma, and dementia.

In perhaps the most untraditional means, BoJack Horseman’s wacky visuals provide a level of psychological depth to some of the sad truths these illnesses embody.

While a good chunk of the humor is dark, every episode’s script is almost entirely comprised of wordplay. This wordplay is generally comprised of puns, alliteration, and rhymes.

“Wait, you’re telling me your dumb drone downed a tower and drowned Downtown Julie Brown’s dummy drum-y dum-dum-dum-dum, dousing her newly-found goose-down hand-me-down gown? … I’ll be right down.”

Amy Sedaris as Princess Carolyn, “A Horse Walks into Rehab”

As a cartoon, BoJack Horseman prompts a level of distance between its highly sensitive themes. The show’s playful creative nature dissociates its grim circumstances from reality, making the subjects easier to swallow.

Visual advantages of cartoons

BoJack Horseman is praised for being one of the most visually captivating and accurate depictions of mental health on television. The Netflix series is set in a fictional representation of Hollywood where animals share human characteristics.

Using animals as main characters establishes a subtle child-like wonder that makes learning about their harsh lives significantly more palatable. If it were not for these more-lively aspects of the show, I truly believe BoJack Horseman would be too difficult to watch. 

The series illustrates the absurd through vibrant color palates and creative depictions of animal life.

This is best seen in “Fish Out of Water,” a mostly-dialogue-free episode about a film festival that takes place completely underwater. Not many shows can rely on visual storytelling to completely carry the weight of a narrative.

A change of course

It’s hard to think of BoJack Horseman as separate from its psychological themes.

But the cartoon actually didn’t start with a deep focus on mental health.

BoJack’s struggles are evident from the start, but the shift to such morbid themes was surprising; even the series’ cast admits to having no idea that the show would get so dark.

Since The Sopranos reshaped standards for television through Tony Soprano – the most notorious antihero of our time – audiences began to prefer flawed characters over unrealistically perfect ones.

Such faulty characters seem significantly more human and are a lot easier to relate to.

BoJack is clearly an antihero from the show’s start. And his course of action only deepen his flawed nature, further enticing viewers.

Considering all the things BoJack Horseman initially had going for it, it was an exceptionally bold move to shift the cartoon show’s focus onto mental illness.

After all, doing so runs the risks of 1. being so specific about particular illnesses that general populations can’t follow or 2. being insensitive by not depicting mental illnesses in responsible ways.

(Cred: Reddit).

Our deep relationships with characters

The cartoon aspect of BoJack Horseman grants audiences a unique perspective into mental health and the human psyche. Many episodes don’t just give examples of mental illness. They use evocative visuals to walk us through what goes on in the minds of struggling characters.

Any show could define a character by their reprehensible behaviors. But BoJack Horseman challenges that by reminding us that people are products of their environment.

cartoon mental health
An in depth look at BoJack’s mind (Cred: Pinterest)

BoJack Horseman‘s in-depth perspectives of characters reveal their thought processes and the traumas that led them to where they are.

This doesn’t excuse disgraceful behaviors that characters commit, rather it explains a potential course of action for mental illness and severe life events. 

A key example of this is seen through episodes revolving around BoJack’s mother, Beatrice (Wendie Malick) who suffers from dementia in her old age.

Initially getting to know her, Beatrice is extremely unpleasant and rude. However, in the episode “Time’s Arrow” her condition worsens and we see clips of her internal state.

The access to her psyche is reflective of the types of memories and cognitive distortions that an individual with dementia would experience.

“We had a lot of conversations about how to represent the mind of someone who’s going through dementia and is having painful memories, and what the combination of those things looks like visually.”

Kate Purdy, BoJack Horseman writer. (Cred: Vulture).

Responsible depictions of mental health in cartoons and other entertainment

Over its six-season run, BoJack Horseman depicts the realities of living with mental illnesses in ways that are both extremely informative and creatively thought-provoking.

At many points in the series, characters seek different modes of help, which grounds the show in morality and reality.


Now, more than ever, it’s become easier to responsibly explore mental health through media.

Many prominent public resources outline basic techniques on how to safely discuss mental illness. Yet highly-funded entertainment still often irresponsibly depict mental illnesses.

This not only promotes stigma, but leaves individuals in the dark about how to seek help.

BoJack Horseman reminds audiences that mental illness can not only affect anyone but can manifest in a multitude of internal and external ways. There isn’t a blueprint on how internal struggles are supposed to look and be treated. 

The psychology behind entertainment and mental health

Comedy has been studied by psychology as a means of intervention when treating anxiety. The nature of humor often involves relaying surprising information that contradicts the expectations of an audience, thus catching them off guard and prompting laughter.

cartoon mental health
(Cred: Giphy).

BoJack Horseman effectively does this through its animation. It stuffs so much humor into visual settings that even in dark moments you can find several puns in the background.

The show is inspiring for appropriately informing audiences on mental health at the intersection of humor and art. I finished watching it with refreshing perspectives on mental illness and my own internal states

I could only hope that BoJack Horseman instigates a wave of articulate discussion on mental health in media through such beautiful visual lenses.

If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for you, a friend, or a family member.