Latesha Bryant + HERstory
Latesha Bryant, founder of HERstory Photography Studio is a mother with a determination to make a difference. With the goal of giving children of color a platform to be seen in the fashion industry, Latesha has built a business on shooting her daughter and friends in brands they love with the hopes of bringing about more diversity in the range of models used. With a focus on body positivity and self love, Latesha is giving young girls in Louisiana and throughout the country, the opportunity to see themselves represented in an industry where ethnic diversity is so often lacking. We admire the work Latesha is doing so much that we wanted to sit down and find out a little more about this amazing woman, her family and the way this incredible venture came about.
You live in beautiful Louisiana. A place we admittedly don’t know much about! What can you tell us about your home state? What do you love about living in here and can you ever see yourself living somewhere else?
Louisiana. I was born and raised here. If you were to visit, you'd immediately fall in love with the food and the southern hospitality and charm! We treat everyone like a big family here and it's one of the things that I absolutely love about my home state. At heart, I'm a west coast or Pacific Northwest girl. I love Los Angeles so much and every time I visit, I can see myself living there more and more. The Pacific Northwest (Oregon or Washington) are both so beautiful. The scenery would draw any creative in, I think. I can see myself just being comfortable there and at peace.
You started your photography career as a birth photographer. How did the transition to the work you do now come about?
I first picked up my camera when my now 5-year-old daughter Olivia was born. The more I shot, the more I fell in love. It was actually something that I never expected. Fast forward to January 2018. I had spent many years practicing, and just teaching myself the basic fundamentals of photography. In August of 2018, I started shooting Olivia with her friends and cousins (Ava, Felicity, & Hailey). It was the beginning of black girl magic and also the beginning of me knowing my purpose. I later added Mckenna and Mya to my line-up of girls and knew that was my team. I started getting paid bookings which really encouraged me. I knew that I wanted change in what our girls see in the media. They need positivity and encouraging words OFTEN! I knew that through them, and my work is how I would have to make a statement and an impact. I do believe that an impact has been made but I want to make it on a larger scale, and I believe I can do that.
As mother to three children as well as having a full time corporate job, how do you maintain a good balance between work and family? What types of things do you do together as a family and what does down time look like for you?
I honestly have no earthly idea how I do all of what I do! As a wife and mother of 3 that also works 40hours per week I don't know how I do it but I know it gets done! We love to travel together as a family and board games are life! We play games often as a means of normalcy away from the craziness that is life. My husband has a rigorous work schedule and now that the kids are back in school, setting a day aside to have family night is what we have to do. Downtime for us is everybody in bed, reading, watching tv and making an easy dinner.
Most of your photographs feature your daughter and her friends. We would imagine most of the girls would be old enough to understand the work you are doing. It sounds like you have become somewhat of a mentor to these girls. Do you speak to them about your desire to change representation of children of color in the fashion industry? How much or little do they know about your motivations for the business and what do they think about the representation of children of color in the media?
All of the girls I work with are between four and five years old. I'd say in some ways I have become a mentor. I've talked to them about their hair and why they should love it. I’ve talked to them about their skin and how it’s beautiful no matter what anyone says! The most important thing that I do for them is try to make them feel beautiful! It is so important to start building self-esteem at a young age! They don't know much about my movement because I've focused so much on them understanding that the physical part of them is beautiful. There used to be a time where some of the girls would cry about wearing their afro. They don't cry anymore, and I think it’s because every time they wore it, they were reminded of how beautiful they are. I intend to delve deeper into that subject with them.
You’ve stated that it’s your passion to help brown girls be seen in an industry where they are largely underrepresented. Do you have any plans to expand this mission to include other marginalised groups?
I currently have two Asian models and two Mexican models! It is definitely my plan to expand to include more marginalized groups including brown children with disabilities as well.
It looks like the girls have a lot of fun shooting with you! What does a typical shoot look like? Do the girls have preferences about what they wear and how you style them? What methods do you use to ensure they feel comfortable in front of the camera?
The girls always have a blast at shoots! As for styling, I pick out all of their outfits. I try to teach them to be happy and make the best of whatever pieces they get to shoot. A typical shoot consists of no more than 3 outfit changes though in some instances, we have shot five outfits! I try to make the shoots fun and interactive. The parents are extremely helpful and will help get them dressed and keep them on track during the shoots making sure I have their attention. I sometimes give the girls prompts but a lot of the time I just capture them being their normal selves, which to me is gold. I believe just allowing the girls to be themselves, helps them be comfortable in front of the camera. When I first started working with Mckenna she was really shy and quiet but the energy from the other girls really lifted her up and she now feels comfortable in front of the camera just being herself.
On that note, you work with a wide range of brands with a variety of different styles and varying price points. Does your personal style preference come into play when selecting brands to work with?
My personal style does not affect the shops that I will work with. I want brown girls to be seen in a variety of styles! Other little girls of color need to see this! They need to see brown girls in high end brands as well as low end brands. This is important to me and it’s my mission.
What drives you to get up every day and do what you do? What would you like your legacy to be?
Knowing that mentally/emotionally the brown women in my community are struggling because of what society tells them about themselves, that is reason enough for me to get up every morning and work on my purpose. I believe this mental and emotional preparation for greatness should start early! Build them up when they are young and that's exactly what I'm trying to do. I want other little girls to see Olivia, Felicity, Ava, Hailey, McKenna & Mya and say " That brown girl is doing it and so can I".
Photography by Latesha Bryant