Written by Ryan Lyons
Khiry Worrell, is a 24 year old photographer from West Philadelphia with a passion for shooting film. When we met up in Harlem, we connected over how similar my hometown of Baltimore is to his Philly, the value in sincere photography, and not just doing it for the gram. Peep our chat below and take a look at his tumblr here.
We spoke about the pictures you took of Freeway. Could you speak about that interaction and how you feel about him as an emcee and his influence on Philly rap?
A few days before the closing reception for my exhibit at Scribe Video/Media Center, I was walking down to the venue to meet my homie, so that he could view my works. As I’m strolling I look to my left and I see Freeway. I had to do a double take like ‘Oh shit, is that Free?’. It definitely was him. I introduced myself, told him I’m a photographer and that I’d like to photograph him and I did just that.
In my opinion, Freeway is not only a Philadelphia legend, but also a hip hop legend. From 2000-2004 Rocafella Records was everything. It was by far the biggest and most influential hip hop label at the time. When you think about it, 75% of the artists on Roc-a-Fella were from Philadelphia (State Property). Beans and Free contributed more to the label and to hip hop culture then they receive credit for. But you know, politics as usual (no pun intended).
You had your first gallery show recently in Philadelphia, can you tell us a little bit about it and how it felt?
Having my first show was mad nerve-racking. Honestly, my works are like my children. They are sacred to me. So to have strangers, family and friends come to view my work was an absolute honor. A week before the exhibit I went to the Imperfect Gallery in Germantown, Philadelphia to view photographer Henry Chalfant’s work. He is an extremely accomplished artist, mostly known for his works in the 80’s. He photographed many artists from that era such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. I introduced myself to him, informed him about my show the following week, and to my surprise he actually came. He even purchased one of my prints. To say I was humbled and honored would be an understatement.
How do you feel about Instagram?
I believe Instagram is a wonderful tool to get your work out to the public and directly to the people. But I also feel social networks are saturated with mediocre art, shit that does not come from the heart. You honestly can fuckin’ tell that it’s not coming from a place of sincerity. People just want to be seen, they don’t want to be felt. There’s a difference. Five years from now will you be proud of the work you put out? Will you even be doing photography? Five hundred years from now what impact would it have made on your people? What impact are you making? If the worth of your work is dependent on likes, then you shouldn’t be doing any medium, you should sit down and truly evaluate why you do what it is that you do. Facts.
Can you speak about what led you to photography and what an average day or week can be like shooting film?
About four years ago I was dealing with a woman in Brooklyn. She was a writer and painter, happened to have a brand new Nikon DSLR and gave it to me as a gift. From there on I took interest in the craft. I graduated to primarily shooting with film and here I am today. When I tell people I only work with film they usually chuckle or look at me as if I have eighteen eyes. But to me, film is so much more beautiful than digital. It has a certain connection with the subject(s) that digital could never grasp. I also really love the patience it takes to work with film. You can’t take a photograph and look down at the shot to see if it’s up to your “standards”. It truly takes practice, belief in yourself and dedication.
Is there any music you listen to while shooting or editing? If so, what’s a favorite track?
I never listen to anything while I am shooting, but I always listen to music while editing; it helps me to concentrate. I am a huge fan of instrumentals so I like to listen to FlyLo mostly while editing. I play some Fela Kuti if I’m in a particularly great mood, and also Little Dragon. I love Little Dragon and Spitta..mellow shit.