By Kim Jackson
“I’m looking through my shots and I’m getting chills cause I remember every moment,” Chelsey Sinceŕray said as she scrolled through her Instagram feed. She showed me photos of hers that were included in a mural at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Center on Chicago’s Southside. The photographer will have turned twenty-four by the time this feature piece goes live, making it eight years since she began taking pictures. She may not have known it at sixteen while she was learning how to use a 35mm film camera in a high school class, but she was making big moves by showcasing her own art and the art of others.
“I took a picture of some blueberries. Yo, that shot was raw; I still got the print at home!” Chelsey Sinceŕray laughed at the memory of trying to capture photos for the course she took at Columbia College while she was still enrolled at De La Salle High School. I can recall similar excursions through my own neighborhood for an attempt at an edgy shot of the crooked street sign glowing under the harsh orange lamppost on my block. I took Ms. Tyska’s class for fun (and to fulfill those senior year credits), but Chelsey saw something in herself and wanted to explore it. She enjoyed it to the point that she bought her first camera, a 35mm Canon film camera sometime after completing the course. Coming from the thrift store, the camera definitely needed some work done to it. Chelsey was excited nonetheless, “People can view something in the way that I view something.”
As she grew as a photographer, Chelsey really zoned in on her personal style. If you scroll through her artist Instagram page 215imgs, you’ll immediately notice that none of the images are in color, “My signature through my photos is through black and white.” She also learned what kinds of things she liked to take pictures of, citing both street and documentary style photography as her favorite methods of expression. Of street style photography, she said it was simply taking pictures of the goings on of the world: “Cityscape, look up in the sky & take a picture of the Sears tower—boom you got street photography. You can walk across State Street and capture the stuff going on in the middle of the street—boom that’s street photography.” It’s the group of pedestrians on the corner waiting for the signal to walk, or an automobile standstill during rush hour. She enjoys the work of local photographer trashhand, whose street style is both gritty and beautiful.
Documentary style is much more sentimental. It involves “capturing the reality & emotions of someone and still documenting the happening of the picture.” Chelsey brings up the work of Gordon Parks as an example of this style of photography. Parks was a Black photographer and filmmaker whose pictures depict the many facets of Black life during the 1960s. The Black Arts Movement, an artistic and cultural wave that occurred during that time, is another source of inspiration for her. She admired the way those artists showcased unapologetic blackness unapologetically. They showed “who we are without any filters,” as Chelsey put it. She also named Spike Lee, Sam Greenlee, and Lorna Simpson as artists who inspire her.
During the summer of 2016, Chelsey launched what she calls an “artist movement” through INVISIBLE. The platform aims to provide resources, knowledge, and insight to other artists, while also giving these creatives the platform to be themselves. The project began with a docu-series which profiled a few artists of different crafts from Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The premiere was positively received, and we can expect a whole new lineup of artists in season two very soon. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, INVISIBLE also boasts a monthly podcast you can find on Soundcloud. We meet some of the artists profiled in the doc-series for another round of interviews and in-depth conversation with the podcast’s hosts Demi Christi and Timiro Elizabeth. DJ Cymba Bridges comes through with the music bumping throughout the show. Along with Angel Primate Renteria as the audio engineer and Chelsey executive director and producer, they are a small team of dope ass people who truly believe in INVISIBLE and want the world to do the same. Chelsey has goals of a broader audience, “We will be an international artist movement.”
Artists are storytellers. The neophytes and the aged masters, those covered in graphite and others who write rhymes during the wee hours of the night, the poets, the painters, the rappers, the photographers—they are all telling a story through their craft. I’ve heard many artists state that the goal of their art is to share narratives, realities, and emotions. Through the stroke of a paintbrush, the calculated pressure put on a spray can nozzle, or a trained finger pressing the shutter release at the right moment, stories are captured and told in a creative way. “I want folks to walk away exposed to something new, learn and be inspired to teach others from my artistry and work created.”