Creativity across borders with Exceptional Alien, Myles Loftin

Creativity across borders with Exceptional Alien, Myles Loftin

Myles Loftin is one of the world's most in demand, undergrad photographers. His prolific work ranges from themes like the representation of people of color and marginalized individuals, to gallery exhibitions or collaborations with Urban Outfitters, Converse and Under Armour to name a few. A student at Parsons School of Design, New York, Myles packed his bags for London six months ago to study abroad at iconic UK college UAL: London College of Communication. We spoke to Myles about landing in the UK, getting to know the city and a warm welcome in London.

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ON WHERE YOU’RE FROM

I’m originally from southern Maryland, and moved to New York about 2.5 years ago to go to School. Then six months ago I left New York to come to London. 

ON STUDYING IN LONDON 

In New York I’m still enrolled at Parsons School of Design in my third year. I’m living in London to study at London College of Communication, part of University of the Arts, London, for the next semester abroad. In London I’m familiarising myself with something I’ve seen a lot of, but haven’t experienced personally yet. I’m exploring a lot and looking to find a sense of community in London.

ON WINDOW SEAT OR AISLE

I’m definitely window seat. As a photographer I like looking out the window and seeing my surroundings. In planes I love looking out, seeing all the little buildings and getting a sense of the whole area when you fly into a city. I also find it relaxing to just sit and look out the window and think.

ON LANDING IN LONDON CULTURE

I’ve noticed a lot of people are super welcoming in London, and have been interested in making sure I have a good experience here – from people I’m going to college with or people I’ve met outside of college, introducing me to their friends, telling me about cool things that are going on. People are definitely very caring in supporting new people and making cool work. When people find out I’m not from London or the UK, they’re interested in how I’m adjusting and how my experience has been, which might not happen in New York as much.

New York to London. Above: Manhattan skyline by Thomas Habr. Below: Flight into London by Paul Green.

ON MEETING LONDONERS 

So far I feel like Londoners are more open to speaking to people they don’t know. I went to this party the other day which is hosted by the Queer Collective called PXSSY Palace, which is a really fun event. I went on my own, which isn’t something I would usually do in New York. I ended up meeting so many people just being in the same space, which is more common here than in New York. 

ON WHAT’S HAPPENING AT COLLEGE 

Right now we’ve just transitioned to what is called the Symposium, which is a 15 week course working on a long term project. A lot of lectures, theory based, and we also have inspiring guest speakers come in, a lot of cool photographers like Juno Calypso who came in to speak to us a few weeks ago. I haven’t really got into the project yet but I’m thinking and planning for it.

You realize that creative ideas today have the potential to be global instantly. 

ON INTERCONNECTED CITIES 

I’ve been fortunate that social media has actually helped my moves to both New York and London. When I first moved from Maryland to New York, the only reason I knew people in New York was because I had a pretty big presence in social media. I could use that to meet people in a different city, so my transition from Maryland was not as difficult. The same thing has happened moving to London, I knew a few people from here, and once I arrived they helped me meet others. It’s been crazy meeting people who follow my work on social media in London – you realize that creative ideas today have the potential to be global instantly. 

ON LONDON INSPIRATION 

I went to a really nice show at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, they had a show that Kay Watson put together, really interesting work worth checking out there. I find a lot of inspiration walking around and people watching in Brixton, checking out the African and Caribbean culture there. The shops are all super colourful. It’s also the area closest to me that has black hair products.

Above: Myles’ photography project featuring black people with dyed hair. Featured above, Sebastian, a model from New York. Below: Portrait by Myles Loftin of his Grandmother in the USA.

ON RECENT PROJECTS FROM NEW YORK TO LONDON 

I’ve been working on a portrait project in New York, documenting black people with dyed hair. I started shooting in New York and now I’m continuing the project here in London, adding more people. It’s really interesting having the opportunity to include people in a whole different city, to make it a bigger and more diverse project.

I’m also working on a collaboration with a magazine called Crush Fanzine, doing a monthly instalment with them. The editors send me different words, and I shoot photographs based on the words they send me. They just sent me three words which I’m taking a photo based on in London. I’m shooting that pretty much throughout my whole time here.

ON THE MOTIVATION BEHIND YOUR HAIR PROJECT

For many people in the black community, hair is an integral part of self expression, confidence and cultural identification. Our relationships to, and the ideas we have about our hair are molded by our experiences, wether they be trips to the braiding salon, the barbershop, conversations with friends and family, or experiences with media. These ideas have been passed down through generations, and have seen change through different trends within pop culture, politics or both. Like the shift from the afro to the high top fade, or the asymmetrical to finger waves and even the major natural hair movement that is going on right now. Change is always happening.

Within the past few years I’ve noticed a new trend among black hair expression, and that is colorful hair. Several black teens and 20- somethings (including me) have made the decision to tint their kinks and curls various shades of red, green, blue, pink, and even combinations of these and other colors of the rainbow. I think that for a long time, colorful hair was written off as a ‘white thing’, something only for alternative white kids. Now, that idea has been destroyed by a generation of young people that continue to reject norms, and express their identity unapologetically.

With this project, I was particularly interested in documenting young black people who have made the decision to add color to their hair either through braid extensions, dye, wigs, or weave. Each subject is photographed on a plain white backdrop to emphasize the color and texture of their hair, and the style of the portraits I shot was inspired by the classic barbershop hair charts I grew up seeing in every black barbershop. With each portrait session, I interviewed the subject asking about their relationship to their hair, and the story of their decision to add color to their hair.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are super welcoming in London, and have been interested in making sure I have a good experience here – from people I’m going to College with or people I’ve met outside of college. 

ON CONTINUING YOUR HAIR PROJECT FROM NEW YORK TO LONDON

Being able to continue this project in the UK has been a blessing because now I’m able to include even more people. It also shows that this trend I’m exploring is something that’s not only happening in the United States it has made its way overseas as well. Finding people to photograph here has been really interesting, and its been a great way for me to meet new people and expand my network of friends out here.

ON AN EVENT TO CHECK OUT 

I’m not sure how often these parties are on, but the one worth checking out that I went to recently is called PXSSY Palace which is a huge group of queer people of colour who come together and host different events. The party I went to was also a fundraiser for a trans guy who was trying to raise money for top surgery, and it was amazing to see this huge community come together to support this one person who needed help for medical purposes. 

A lot of friends recommended I check these events out because it’s where they met a lot of their own friends, and a lot of the creative community in London attends their events. So definitely something I would recommend.

Above left: Portrait of Elizabeth aka ‘Elheist’, a South London based singer and rapper. Below: Riding scooters in Paris by Myles Loftin.

ON GOOD FOOD

There’s a lot of great markets in London, Borough Market is worth checking out, the fish and chips and pastas there are great. Pop Brixton is also really good. They’re both spots where you can get really good food, local culture and just hang out. 

ON A DIVERSE CREATIVE FUTURE 

I hope ‘diversity’ will go way beyond just putting people of different races in campaigns, thinking that’s diversity. Diversity is a bit more complex than people like to think it is. It’s something that needs to be intersectional, just because you have five different models in a campaign, or your companies board of directors is made of five people who are different races doesn’t necessarily mean it’s diverse. They could all be from the same financial background, skills and abilities. I think actual diversity means diversity in all categories like ability, race, gender, everything. I can see that that’s where we’re going and I hope that that trajectory continues. 

ON LONDON IN ONE WORD

Welcoming.

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Nuggets in this interview

events

PXSSY Palace, London

"PXSSY Palace is a huge group of queer people of colour who come together and host different events..a lot of the creative community in London attends their events".

–Myles Loftin

events

Pop Brixton, London

"Pop Brixton is also really good..food, local culture and just hang out".

–Myles Loftin

inspiration

Juno Calypso

"A lot of cool photographers like Juno Calypso who came in to speak to us a few weeks ago".

–Myles Loftin

industry

University of the Arts, London

"I’m living in London to study at London College of Communication, part of Central Saint Martins, for the next semester abroad".

–Myles Loftin

food and drink

Borough Market, London

"There’s a lot of great markets in London, Borough Markets is worth checking out, the fish and chips and pastas there are great".

–Myles Loftin

inspiration

Serpentine Galleries, London

"I went to a really nice show at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens.. really interesting work worth checking out there".

–Myles Loftin

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