We had the good fortune of connecting with Adrian White and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Adrian, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
There’s a Frederick Douglass quote that I’ve carried with me on my journey for years. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” That quote has helped me get through some of the obstacles I’ve had to endure. It pushes me through. It gets me to the other side. It always helps me see my mission through the end. In the 19th Century Frederick Douglass was one of the most photographed people of his time in our country. Of course now he no longer holds that distinction. Those words to me have been important. It tells me I have to fight for what I believe in. We all do. Recently, more emphasis is placed on his words than ever before. 2020 has been a smorgasbord of disaster and fear as we all try to navigate what is next. Over the past year, I’ve documented the protests in Los Angeles as I thought about the generations of those who struggled before me while contemplating what’s next for me as a visual artist and ultimately what’s next for our country. With the protests setting the stage as the backdrop, another one of my heroes, John Lewis silently died and left the next generation an important message. “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.” I do my part. I stay in my lane, but it is my part. I know photography. Art starts conversations.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Finding your path ain’t always the easiest. Many events and trails brought me to where I am right now. I was one of the last photographer’s mates in the United States Navy and it would be easy for me to start there, but that ain’t really the beginning. I grew up in a small town in Stantonsburg, North Carolina. Stantonsburg was a town so small we had two stop lights and lots of space. We had space to run and jump, play in the woods, wrestle with my brothers and to play football and do things kids do when they ain’t got nothing else to do. We always looked out for each other. Me and my brothers and my sister and our friends. We never told on each other. When I was growing up I was not allowed to use words like “lie.” We replaced that word with story. We learned to tell stories. As I became a teenager and went on to become an adult and my path became more obvious I used my camera and the pen to help create the story. When I tell my story, I tell my people’s story. It wasn’t until I was at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina where I was able to create some experiences to tell folk about. I started a tv show with one of my brothers from Trinidad & Tobago🇹🇹 and we learned from each other. I remember reading somewhere that HBCUs are the mecca of blackness. There are all different shades and colors and cultures. And there is a kind of unexplainable beauty in that. I had never seen anything like it. To be honest, I didn’t take the school part as seriously as I should have. I did create memories though. And I don’t think I’d change a thing about it. I am now able to look back on that time and put it in perspective. That seems so long ago. My experiences, my memories recently have been a spark for my storytelling.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d say something involving firing the grill up slapping some marinated meat on it or running over to Leimert Park and taking in the sights and sounds. The culture there definitely stands out in the City of Angels. I’ve been here for about a year now and it seems the majority of that time has been during the pandemic. Sometimes the happiest stuff is the simplest stuff. I’d probably bust his head playing spades and thinking about old times.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
During the pandemic a group of my colleagues and I from Parsons School of Design created two organizations to support the work of artists. The Pandemic Archive & Copper Magazine https://www.instagram.com/the.pandemic.archive/ https://www.instagram.com/copper_magazine/ https://www.iamcopper.com/