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Portfolio Review: Martin Brown’s ‘Peng’ Celebrates 90s-Inspired Black Beauty
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We’re closing out Black History Month with a special portfolio review, featuring another creative of color creating impactful work inspired by the world and culture around us.
This week, Brooklyn-based photographer Martin Brown presents “PENG”: a love letter to some of the iconic black beauty trends that dominated the ’90s. We sat down with the 32-year-old to get to know his work and hear what’s in store for 2021.
Read more below to get to know Martin’s work and see the editorial shot exclusively for Neu Neu Digital.
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Where are you from?
I am originally from NYC but am a military kid. You know how that goes!
In your own words, describe what you do.
I am a photographer and a creative. I am sort of a one-man-band.
What’s your sign and what trait from that sign describes you most?
I am a Sagittarius, with a Leo moon and a Leo rising. I think the trait that describes me most is my optimism and spontaneity.
Home is something that cannot be translated into words. It is that feeling of wholeness, complete peace. Home can be a place or a person. I would love to say that I have seen home in people before.
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Where does the title for this series “PENG” come from?
It is London slang for attractive. Like how in the US we have “fine” or “bae” in some cases. I got this title from this amazing musical artist, ENNY, and her song “Peng Black Girls”. I felt it beautifully encompassed my feeling about this story.
What inspired you to create this series? Tell me more about the team and process that went into creating these photos.
Honestly, it was a moment in where I wanted to create a love letter to black women. My life has been filled with amazing black women, from my mother, and my aunts, to my friends I have. They all are multi-faceted humans with more to offer than what they have been given. With the team, I stuck with one of my favorite hairstylists, Mideyah Parker. I wanted her to be the one to create these hair silhouettes that were so strong and impactful in our culture. Then I enlisted the collaboration with the rest of the team, and told them to do essentially what they felt. I love when I create photos with other creatives, because I can have an opportunity to really collaborate, instead of working with a bunch of “yes men”, and this team is FAR from that, and their level of creativity is beyond!
What does diversity in fashion look like to you?
I think that we are getting there, but not there at all yet. Diversity in fashion looks like an equal representation across the board, from all creative realms, and not just the select few to represent a whole conglomerate.
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What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being in this industry?That tough skin is key, and not everyone is going to like your work. I had to learn that, and still am learning that. Like Erykah Badu said, “Keep in that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit.”
How do you find joy in such a trying time?
It varies on my mood, but under the trend of spontaneity: one day it can be as simple as walking or going to the gym, the next day I could want to go roam the city.
What does community look like to you?
It’s a level of trust that you don’t get with any person you meet. I have, in 2021, definitely, held on to people that I have that level of trust with. It’s like a coat, you feel warm when you’re with them.
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What do you want viewers to take away from your work?
My work is a conversation of all that has influenced me in my life, specifically the high gloss of fashion. For this series, I want viewers to see a moment in time, and how rich our culture is.
How do you keep evolving?
Keeping myself in check, and taking inspiration from my life, and people I have encountered. Evolution happens on so many levels now.
If one song could describe your goals for 2021, which song would you choose?
Simple, “Good Days” by SZA.