Trending: Kennedi Carter Photographs the Black American Cowboy...and 2020

By David Schonauer   Thursday January 14, 2021

Kennedi Carter is only 21 and she’s already made history.”

So noted Interview magazine recently, after Carter photographed Beyoncé for British Vogue (becoming the youngest person to ever photograph the cover), Erykah Badu and Summer Walker for Rolling Stone, and Dan Levy for Bustle.

Carter is still a student — she majors in African-American studies at North Carolina A&T and, added Interview, she only recently began to see photography as a viable career path last year. “I had gone to college for it a little bit and I was there for two years and then I took a gap year last year,” Carter said. “Then I just focused on my photo work. I ended up liking it a lot and just tried to figure out how to navigate it. It ended up going pretty well.”

Carter was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, and she credits up upbringing there for helping to shape her photographic eye. “I’ve grown up in the South my whole life,” she says. “So those are the stories that I gravitate towards,” she told Interview, which featured her latest series, “Ridin’ Sucka Free.” The work focuses on Black cowboys in the South and the connection between horsemanship and agriculture. Shot in New Orleans, the project is part of Google Pixel and LENS’ Creator Labs, an artistic incubator program that highlights emerging artists.

““[‘Ridin’ Sucka Free’] is a project I started probably a year or two ago. It’s a continuation of me finding different places where Black cowboys are, shooting with them, and showing the face of cowboy culture as we know it in contemporary Americana is not a monolith,” Carter noted. “There are Black people present. That’s pretty much what the idea behind it was, and I just enjoyed it a lot. I just went and I found people. I found this one boy, his name is Alfred and he reached out to me because he saw me tweeting about it. I needed some help with casting and finding some folks out there and he helped me.”

“Something I’m trying to do now is meet up with my subjects more often. So I’ll just keep shooting with them more and I keep returning to them until they become familiar with me. I don’t become a stranger anymore,” she told Interview. “The one thing I’ll do when I’m doing shoots if my editor is like, ‘Oh, they need to smile,’ I’ll make them say their favorite cereal in a sexy voice.”

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair, too, took notice of Carter as 2020 drew to a close, asking her to curate a collection of her favorite work from the year (below).

“How would I describe [my photography style]? Intimate. I just like to make work that makes people feel good,” Carter told Interview. “I feel like that’s very open-ended, but that’s kind of just where I’m at with it. I feel like I’ve achieved that.”


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