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Prêt-À-Poundo: Style Guide - Photographer Rae Maxwell

This is an interview with photographer Rae Maxwell and her associate Corey Lima about her work, company and collaboration with Okayafrica and Okayplayer.

*All pictures by Rae Maxwell


Being a good photographer is definitely not easy. It's not just about the your material and how much you spent onyour high-techcamera. Of course, a photographer is nothing without good equipment but we don't subscribe to the prejudices that anyone can do photography. Put your smartphones back in your purses and pockets, a filter on your photographs won't make you a professional photographer. A good photo comprises many elements: colour coordination, perception, composition and timing plays a major role. Photographer Rae Maxwell is one-of-a-kind type of artistic person with a deep sense of perfection. We could do a film featuring how she works — observing spaces and objects prior to shooting. It's really interesting to know how she is constantly working in order to have a better understanding and appreciate the beauty and deepness of her photographs. We collaborated with Maxwell on our first series of Style Guide fashion editorials and she delivered an impressive work. She tells a clear story beyond words and explanations on every shot and is always pursuing 'that' beauty. We are not talking about the easy aesthetic that we are use to, but how Maxwell reminds us how beauty surrounds us. She took a fashion editorial and made it art photography featuring fashion. A real challenge for your eyes and mind, you want to take a deeper look at Maxwell's photographs in a gallery. Her works are simply breathtaking. Below, we talked with her and her associate Corey Lima.

Poundo: Tell me a little about Rae Maxwell. What's your educational background? What are your general professional and non-professional interests?

Rae: I didn't formally get any post secondary education for what I do now but I grew up with polaroids, disposables, SLR's, the huge hunky video cameras — it was a hobby for me for as long as I can remember so those were some quality lessons. Professionally, I'm interested in making my clients happy. Personally, I am interested in regular things like avoiding the plague.

Poundo: When did you start considering photography?

Rae: 5 years ago when my best friend asked me why I wasn't making photography into a career, so I made myself a website that day.

Poundo: Did you study photography and if yes, where?

Rae: I took courses at CCNY (City College of New York) to learn how to develop my own film.

Poundo: You founded a company. How long has it existed? What are its functions and goals?

Corey: We started up Rae Maxwell Inc. about 6 months ago. Some people call it New Media, some people call it Multi-Media. We specialize in photography, videography editing, and website design. We take pride in our professional approach and hold ourselves to a high standard - our main goal is to make sure our clients are satisfied.

Poundo: How would you describe Rae Maxwell's signature in one sentence?

Corey: Rae's work tends to be dark and personal.

Poundo: Where have we seen Rae's work?

Corey: Rae has exhibited her work in Canada and the US. She's had numerous gallery shows in New York in the past 2 years, her first was at The Chelsea Hotel. Rae's work will be featured at Two Moons Gallery in Brooklyn from June 1st-June 22 with a weekly outdoor party every Saturday.

Poundo: What is Rae's masterpiece? The one that represents your work the most.

Corey: Rae doesn't like talking about her own work as a "masterpiece" but I think her "Smoking Girls" portrait is just that.

Poundo: What camera and lenses do you use?

Rae: I shoot with various film cameras but most often with my Canon 5D Mark II. I'm not much for lenses. A lot of photographers might say that's blasphemy, but I mostly only shoot with my 105mm kit.

Poundo: I love the composition in your photos. Do you decide the composition before you work with a model or do you adjust the composition after?

Rae: I always have a pretty clear vision of what I want the image to come out as before I take it or I won't take it. Often there are pleasant surprises in the unknown specifically when it comes to shooting fashion, but otherwise I'm quite determined on photographing the image in my head. In terms of post production, while today we have more technologically advanced versions of the same techniques photographers used to execute manually, it's a bit oversaturated these days so I make an effort to not rely on the luxuries of 2013 photographic methods which go something like 'take any random picture and edit it to make it look amazing'.

Poundo: If you could go back in time and teach yourself something that would have made your career as a photographer easier, what would it be?

Rae: If I could go back in time PERIOD my career would be easier. It's laughable that I'm trying to be a financially successful photographer in 2013.

Poundo: What does fashion mean to you?

Rae: Nothing. I could come up with something honest, but it doesn't come naturally.

Poundo: How would you describe your personal style?

Rae: I don't know if I have a style specifically. I tend to shoot in the dark, I wear all my clothes and shoes, there's always music on, it's otherwise very quiet. I often hear the word "uncomfortable". This pertains to my personal work. When I'm shooting commercially I just go with whatever the space is.

Poundo: What do you consider the most important facets of the fashion industry?

Rae: I like it when designers make a point of what is wrong with the fashion industry and use it to their advantage. While clothing and accessories play an important role in cultures and help make people feel good, which is lovely, ultimately what goes on before the clothes end up on the 100lb body in the mainstream almost always gets lost. So perhaps what I'm saying is noted superficiality is an important facet of the fashion industry.

*Model Maja Szymkiewicz - Americana Models (Prêt-À-Poundo - Style Guide)

Poundo: Which African singer or band would you like to work with?

Corey: K'naan and Tumi Molekane.

Rae: Wake up Miriam Makeba.

Poundo: Stylistically, what is your favorite movie?

Corey: I'm Gonna Get You Sucka.

Rae: Tough question. The Cell or The Fall maybe.

Poundo: How was your collaboration with Okayafrica and Okayplayer? How did you get approached?

Rae: Poundo of Pret-A-Poundo sat on my lap when I was Mrs. Clause and next thing I knew we were having a meeting at the OKA offices talking about doing a shoot to promote African designers. I was inspired by the fact that she was single-handedly assembling an artistic team of people of African descent to bring this project to life and ultimately spotlight deserving African designers.

Poundo: Are you happy with the work you accomplished with these editorials? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Rae: One of my weaknesses is not paying enough attention to the details of the clothing instead of how the entire image looks. I intend on mastering being equally focused on both at all times without fail. However I think I accomplished what I was brought on this project to do and ultimately, I hope people get on to these designers with the help of the images.

Poundo: How does it feel to be featured in Pret-A-Poundo?

Rae: Feels like Christmas again.

Poundo: Describe Rae Maxwell Inc. in one word.

Corey: Aware.

Rae: Reliable.

Poundo: A word about Okayafrica. Okayafrica is ...

Rae: Necessary.

Corey: Dope.

Tweet #raemaxwell if you want to talk about this incredible work.

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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