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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Photographer E. Mackey uses camera lens as a weapon for racial justice
Artist-in-residence at the Gantt Center
 
Published Friday, June 4, 2021 5:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | HARVEY B. GANTT CENTER
Photographer E. Mackey is artist-in-residence at the Harvey B. Gantt Center.

E. Mackey always wanted to create and play baseball.


Today the Atlanta resident is playing organized baseball for the first time since 2016. He pitches in an adult league, but the game that drove him to attend college took a backseat compared to his creative pursuits. Mackey is the current artist-in-residence at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, with a solo show opening there on June 4.


“Choose Your Weapon: Views from the Front Lines of the War for Black Lives” runs through Oct. 3. Mackey spent three months traveling to 11 cities, chronicling the fight for racial justice with his camera. The 37-year-old’s journey started May 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia, the home of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while jogging. He saw the power in his work through the way it reached people.


The news of Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky, followed by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota as Mackey prepared to head back out. He felt called to go to Minneapolis, knowing he had enough money to spent two days there. Followers, who saw him uploading content daily and going live on site, began sending unsolicited donations. He decided to stay until the money ran out, but it never did.


Mackey’s journey took him to Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Tallahassee, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Mackey chose Aug. 28, 2020 as his final leg of the trip, because he knew it culminated with the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington when Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“The original reason why I wanted to go out in the first place was based on feeling helpless,” Mackey said. “There has to be something I can do to contribute to moving society forward, or to just do something about just making life better for Black people, or at least less dangerous. I realized I had a camera, and at least I could go out and photograph, document and share what things are like from a Black perspective. The whole vision was about raising awareness and spreading the word.”


The journey culminated in a photojournalism book titled “Lift Every Voice.” Works in “Lift Every Voice” will be featured in “Choose Your Weapon,” located in the Gantt’s Hewitt Gallery, on the second floor. Mackey wants people to feel what it was like to be on the ground during these protests, but he also wants to encourage them to use their gifts to create change.

“I want you to feel the emotions of what it feels like to be there,” Mackey said. “I want you to kind of feel that tension and some of that anxiety, that you feel when you are there. I want to inspire people to choose whatever weapon it is that they have that could be used to move things forward.”


Mackey’s work with the Gantt also included a six-week artist residency pilot with Marie G. Davis Middle School entitled “EnVision Me.”

Mackey, who grew up between Miami and Monticello, Florida, is also an entrepreneur, musician and fashion designer. His work has been featured in outlets such as CNN and The Washington Post. His work has been used commercially by Doritos, Hennessy, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Twitter, Google, eBay, Amazon and Pfizer.

Mackey also launched Blvck Spades, a lifestyle brand, in 2019, which grew from a deck of playing cards to clothing, household items, electronics and accessories. He also established a publishing company, Black Creator Collective. Mackey also founded Dope Heart Media, a creative agency providing creative services such as graphic design, photography and video production in 2012. He spent time documenting Miami’s homeless in 2011.

Mackey experienced five-six months of being homeless between 2007-08 while he pursued an associate’s degree from Tallahassee Community College. Mackey initially attended Albany State University in Georgia on a baseball scholarship. While he intended to transfer his journey with baseball ended prematurely when he broke his jaw. Mackey likes to joke about having his jaw wired shut at the same time as Kanye West, who recorded “Through the Wire” with his jaw wired shut due to a car accident.

Baseball no longer offered a means of financing his education, and he could not rely on his family for financial support. He also could not rely on federal financial aid without a parent’s signature. His father was incarcerated, and his mother did not support him.

Mackey worked at a supermarket, but that did not provide enough to cover school and rent. While his aunt said he could always stay with her, he knew he had to make it work on his own. He never had to sleep in his car, and would crash with friends, some one of whom knew his situation. Others thought he was too tired to drive home.


Mackey’s music and fashion design involvement led him to a new home. Mackey made hand-painted shirts for a radio station in Tallahassee. T-Pain was doing a concert there, and Mackey’s radio contact wanted to gift the rapper a shirt. Other people at the station saw and wanted one, too. When someone from the station came to pick up the order, she realized

Mackey did not have a place to live, and offered him the use of her second apartment.

“She had known me for all of 15 minutes, and to this day, she is one of my best friends,” Mackey said.

Mackey would go on to earn multiple degrees.

“It took me like five years to graduate from TCC, because I was struggling,” he said. “Without having [financial aid] for like X amount of years and taking a class at a time or two classes, it took me years to get that one.”


Mackey graduated in 2008, and transferred to Florida State University. where he graduated a semester early in 2010 with a degree in clothing textiles and merchandizing, launching a homecoming fashion show at FSU. He went on to earn a master of fine arts from Full Sail University in 2018.

Comments

Very intriguing article about your.. life struggles.. misfortunes.. your season of despair, etc what life meant for EVIL God turned it for your GOOD! ..
Your life thru Gods lens!!! Remarkably seasoned
Posted on June 7, 2021
 

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