Photo exhibit and fundraiser Friday, March 13, 6-7:30 p.m., at Youth Radio, 1701 Broadway, Downtown Oakland: Help this young artist study in Egypt this summer
by POCC Minister of Information JR
The beautiful Ayesha “Esh” Walker is definitely one of the Bay Area’s rising stars. At 21 years old, this Richmond native has been making a name for herself in the field of photography, photographing the first Black president, rappers Trackademics and Do Dat, the Block Report Radio show and The Black Dot Artists Collective at the Oscar Grant Birthday Party on Feb. 27. She made a name for herself working for the non-profit Youth Radio, but her dope photography is not just limited to her 9 to 5. Make sure you check her out in her own words, as well as keep a lookout for her name because in the coming months she has a lot that you will be hearing about.
MOI JR: How long have you been doing photography and how did you get into photography?
Ayesha: I’ve been into photography much of my life. My dad always kept me with some piece of technology or another. He bought this cheap camera that I’d always take from him. He didn’t care; he always supplied me with film. And my mom always encouraged me to take pictures as much as I could because I’d appreciate them when I grow older.
When I was younger, my cousins and I would just make up stuff to do. I always wanted to take their picture. I used to have to beg them to be my models. I still have old school photographs from my very first photo shoot. There is one photograph that I will always remember. I took it when I was around 8 years old. I had three of my cousins pose on my grandparents’ porch. I gave one of my cousins a pair of purple shades and the other one an orange baseball bat. I told them how to pose and I’d just snap away. I snapped until my film was all gone.
It wasn’t until I started working for Youth Radio in 2005 that I realized I loved photography. I chose to work in the web department because I really, really wanted to learn HTML. It turned out that the highlight of my job was not learning HTML but taking photos for youthradio.org. I still didn’t call myself a photographer
I started calling myself a photographer after photographing Bay Area music artist and producer Trackademics. He worked for YR too. I remember one day he came into the web room and said, “I need my picture taken for this magazine.” There were only two of us in the room at the time: my boss Wilmer and me. I over-excitedly volunteered myself to do the job even though I think the question was directed to Wilmer. I remember walking around Downtown Oakland with him looking for the perfect location. Then we found this alley – it wasn’t really an alley; it was more like an outdoor hallway. I remember directing him as if I were some professional photographer.
We shot for about 30 minutes or so. When we got back to the office to look at the photos, I was blown away. I didn’t expect them to turn out that nice. It was that moment that I began calling myself a photographer.
The next thing I knew, my job title at Youth Radio changed to Photo Editor and Photographer.
MOI JR: What kind of things do you shoot?
Ayesha: I shoot people and events. I love people.
MOI JR: You are young to be an accomplished photographer. Can you talk about some of your accomplishments as a photographer?
Ayesha: Some of my accomplishments as a photographer include being the youngest member in history to serve on the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission as vice chair. I have photographed our current President Barack Obama and covered the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, as a photojournalist for Youth Radio. I have several pieces that are currently featured in Joyce Gordon Gallery between now and April 20. I was hired to teach a photojournalism course to high school students at Berkeley Academy of Technology with Dawn Williams. And since I took that first photograph of Trackademics, I started my very own photography company.
MOI JR: Who are some of the photographers that you look up to?
Ayesha: Chester Higgins Jr. and Gordon Parks are my all time favorites. Their images never fail to speak to the love in me and the hate in me, the fear in me and the confidence in me – sometimes all at once. When looking through their work, I feel them. I mean I really feel them. And I can understand what it is that they’re trying to tell me. I hear them when I look at the photo. I see who a person really is when I look through the eyes of a person photographed by one of these super conscious and powerful men.
MOI JR: How can people see your work? How can people get in contact with you?
Ayesha: To view my photographs you can Google me, baby. Or go to flickr.com/ayeshawalker. My work is also featured in the current exhibit at Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland. I also have a wall of photos at Youth Radio.
And this Friday the 13th, I will have a photo exhibit and fundraiser at Youth Radio, 1701 Broadway, Downtown Oakland, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. I am raising money so that I can study abroad in Egypt this summer.