Myles Loftin enacts social change with his stunning photos

At just 21 years old, Myles Loftin has created work that is a canvas for change when it comes to social inequalities.

“Over the years, I’ve really come to realize the actual power that images have,” the Brooklyn-based artist told In The Know. “They shape our ideas of importance and beauty. That’s why I’m so drawn to capturing people who aren’t often seen — I recognize the responsibility I have to do something about that.”

The up-and-coming photographer has shot campaigns for brands including Adidas and Converse, but his passion project, “Hooded,” aims to dispel stereotypes surrounding young Black men.

“Society’s standards placed against Black males need to be erased because they are extremely harmful and divisive,” the project’s website explains. “It contributes to the reason Black males are targeted more by police, why we receive longer jail sentences than our white counterparts and the discrimination that we receive. This project seeks to understand where these negative portrayals come from, and how we can change them for a better future.”

Loftin told In The Know that the inspiration behind “Hooded” stemmed from the disparity in Google Image results for search terms “Black teenagers” and “white teenagers,” which he discovered as a freshman in college.

“The photos of white teenagers were really happy and positive, and the images of Black teenagers were really dark and criminal,” he said. “So, I decided that I wanted to reverse this negative imagery and negative light that’s always been shown on us and really affects the way that we’re perceived in society.”

Loftin created a series of images showcasing Black teenagers and men smiling and wearing colorful hoodies, which ended up going viral.

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For my final project in Time I created a multimedia project that humanizes and decriminalizes the societal image of black boys and black men dressed in hoodies. The media has always put a negative light on black men in hoodies and even when you google “black boy hoodie” you get images of criminals while the search “white boy hoodie” produces cookie cutter stock photos of white teenagers smiling. I photographed four black teens/men and portrayed them in a positive light that is in direct contrast of the media representation that has oppressed us. The final product is a series of photographs, screenshots and a film that attempts to shift perception. Society’s standards placed against black males need to be erased because they are extremely harmful and divisive. It contributes to the reason black males are targeted more by police, why we receive longer jail sentences than our white counterparts and the discrimination that we receive. This project seeks to understand where these negative portrayals come from, and how we can change them for a better future. Also, by reversing the portrayals of black and white males this project seeks to understand how the perception of both will change depending on how they are depicted. The project consists of a series of photographs, screenshots and a short video. The photographs and video were done in studio. I used color as a way to show positivity and negativity, also to amplify the contrast between the images created, and those disseminated by the media. For the photographs and video footage I use vibrant colors (pink, blue, yellow, red). The screenshots included are of google image search results for the terms black teen in hoodie, white teen in hoodie, four black teens, and four white teens. In the film I directed I combined moving images with found audio from videos on the internet of politicians, news reports and other sources regarding black males, and black hooded males.

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“It was like, completely unexpected,” Loftin noted of the attention the photos received, which spurred him to join Tumblr, where he found his infatuation with fashion photography.

“I just loved the way that the photos made me feel, they could take me to a different space or make me feel happy or make me want to be the person in that photograph,” he said.

Loftin incorporated certain elements of fashion photography, including bright colors and lighting, into his work in order to create an aesthetic that made people who looked at his photos feel uplifted.

“I like people to have a positive experience when they looked through my work and feel light and happy,” he explained. “I try to bring that to the photographs that I make because when I see images like that, they jump out to me and they make me feel good.”

The young photographer’s latest project, done in collaboration with Google’s Creative Lab, centers on masculine body image in both queer and Black people.

“There is a sense of isolation and nonacceptance, so I wanted to address that through images,” he explained.

Young people have historically been the catalysts for social change, which Loftin credits to his generation being “unapologetic in the way we take up space.”

“I think that’s why we have been able to make so much change in such a short amount of time,” he said. “We’re not asking anybody for permission, we’re just doing things.”

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