Photo Duo AB + DM on the Launch of Black Fashion Fair Magazine
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Since forming a partnership four years ago, Atlanta natives Ahmad Barber and Donte Maurice — known as AB + DM — have shot up through the ranks of fashion and celebrity photography. In their work, the duo merges the traditions of couture fashion with the future of where high fashion is heading toward: sociocultural inclusivity and freedom of artistic definition.
Known for their mastery in enlivening varied complexions and giving subjects an approachable regality, they’ve lensed Zendaya and Viola Davis for InStyle, Cardi B for Billboard, and Naomi Osaka for Vogue Hong Kong, and shot Lady Gaga’s House of Gucci cover for The Hollywood Reporter.
Recently, the two have branched out into working on a fashion magazine themselves, as directors of art and photography for Black Fashion Fair. The Black-operated print publication, which debuted in February and quickly sold out, is the latest venture from the website of the same name, founded by stylist and consultant Antoine Gregory in 2020 to showcase Black fashion designers.
“Being a part of establishing something that meant so much to us felt amazing. We hope [it] will benefit the generations after us,” says Maurice of working on the magazine and shooting two of its three covers. “Everyone on the team wanted to help expand the ideas of what’s possible for Black creatives.”
As for how they nail their shots, Barber shares: “One thing we learned early on is while being professional on set is needed, don’t forget to bring your true self as well. A lot of the people appreciate how we have the ability to get the work done but bring an easiness to set.”
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with AB + DM about their biggest milestones, shooting Zendaya, and how their culture has enlightened their photography ambitions.
How has the journey been, of being Black tastemakers, and how has that shaped your worldview on the spheres of fashion, art, and design?
Donte Maurice: We came into this world with not much knowledge except our own research and experience in our city of Atlanta so it felt like we are starting over. The best way to describe it would be making new meals on an old skillet. We were able to add our flavor to these new opportunities.
Ahmad Barber: I agree with Donte. To extend, I would also say this journey has made us understand the importance and impact of our presence even more also. It has made us sharpen our perspective and truly shoot how we want to shoot.
What specifically infatuated you with the craft of photography and creative direction?
AB: I think for me it’s just about having a hand in crafting a visual product. From inspiration research to lighting diagrams, to clothing boards, to angle preferences, to toning, to image selection, to retouching and arriving at that final product.
DM: What drew me to all of this was that it was a form of expression for me. I may not speak much especially on issues, emotions, etc, but I can express those things through this art form and it still is a release.
Tell me more about your local backgrounds and the inspiration that pushed you both to form a duo.
AB: Our partnership and brotherhood stem from the community. We of course had two different aesthetics as solo photographers but our mentality was always that of wanting to build that creative community.
DM: Ahmad said it perfectly! We inspire each other so we’re able to use that and propel forward. Feels like a 1+1=2 scenario … We’ve found that we do so much better together than it would feel different alone. It feels so amazing to see how two minds are able to merge into one. It tends to keep everything fresher.
During the pandemic, I saw AB+DM studio take the lead in curating some of fashion’s most extraordinary covers with InStyle consistently, The Hollywood Reporter, Essence and more. You realize the traditional and the future of fashion and execute these refreshingly original portraits. How was working through the pandemic and navigating change on production sets?
AB: To be honest, it was very unforeseen. We just had to let go and let God. At some point, we had to release the idea of what we expected to happen or what we thought would happen and just let what happens, happen. Then, of course, when those opportunities came to us, we had to do our due diligence and step up to the plate.
DM: Agreed completely. Every single set during the pandemic and still now is very, very difficult. You really never know what can happen when it comes to testing, talent, etc. Like Ahmad said. we really just had to let go and let God. Depending on the wisdom of God to help us through these waters we’ve never navigated before. It’s helped us tremendously!
I love the longstanding trusting partnerships you have developed with iconic Black talent, I see that you repeatedly will shoot stars like Viola Davis, Cardi B, and I think your most frequent, Zendaya. To piggyback off of this sentiment, how have you been able to find community in such elite spaces of fashion?
DM: Yes! Being yourself is extremely important. How we are with our friends and family is what we bring to set as well. Everything we do is a collaboration so we open the floor for everyone to express in their respective ways and make sure everyone is heard and accounted for because that’s what we’d like reciprocated. Everyone has been so great and welcoming of us into their worlds. We’ve been so grateful!
AB: Yes, you will get a thorough deck and schedule while also having a full-on dance party — social distanced of course. A part of the professionalism and relationship building is also truly learning and being detailed with some talent’s preferences and building a strong foundation to evolve with as shoots continue.
What career-collaborative milestones were your favorite in 2020 and 2021?
AB: 2020 would, of course, be our September Instyle cover to begin. We are forever grateful for Law [Roach] for thinking of us. And also Laura Brown, Rina Stone, Lizzy Oppenheimer, and Lucy Fox from the InStyle team for trusting us and really giving us a platform of that magnitude. In 2021, I think ending the year with Lady Gaga was a truly mind-blowing experience. She is someone you look at and do not think that you are gonna have the option to work with and the experience of working with her was truly one we would never forget. We thank our Hollywood Reporter family, Ash Barhamand and Kayla Landrum, for that opportunity.
You both are the directors of art and photography for the first of its kind, Black-operated magazine highlighting Black designers and influence in fashion. How was establishing Black Fashion Fair’s first print issue?
AB: We owe the start and vision to Antoine Gregory. We first worked with Antoine in 2020 to launch the platform with a story we shot in Atlanta featuring Pyer Moss. The relationship of course continued from there. When he mentioned this project to us in 2021, we were immediately down. I think we knew we had something to say, there were things we wanted to see from ourselves, there were creatives we wanted to collaborate with and highlight. It was just humbling to be given that opportunity from BFF and Warby Parker, an opportunity to create freely, an opportunity to give our peers opportunities, an opportunity to leave some lasting images for archives of generations to come.
DM: We’ve grown to be completely in love with fashion and as that love grew so did our knowledge of designers, glam artists, etc. Almost everyone’s goal in life is to make a difference and this was nothing different. Everyone on the BFF team wanted to help shift perspective, create a table, and help expand the ideas of what’s possible for Black creatives. Being a part of establishing something that meant so much to us felt amazing because this is something we hope will benefit the generations after us.
Who are some of your favorite Black designers that you chose to highlight in Black Fashion Fair?
Both: This is such a hard question! To be honest we can really say, everyone. I think us being able to work with the Sergio Hudson Collection and also have him on set to see what was happening was really cool. We also had the chance to photograph him for the story as well. That moment was very special for us. Additionally photographing the historic Pyer Moss Couture Collection was amazing as well.
What prompts you to continue to push for more exposure of Black stylized narratives in all forms of media, from ads to editorials?
AB: I think the biggest motivation is creating reference images by our culture for our culture. We want to make sure generations to come will be able to see themselves on these platforms and know that Black luxury, Black glamour, Black couture, Black fashion is and was alive and well.
DM: Correct! And that there’s so many different stories to tell. There’s not just one style or one way because there’s so many different perspectives and views that all Black creatives work and reference from.
Outside of the commercial scope of the fashion industry, what does high fashion look like to you both in the future?
AB: I think high fashion looks free. I think we are currently seeing a lot of blurred lines between the highs and lows, the street vs couture, and I think that will continue to create a lane where people are no longer looking to force things into those boxes as they once did.
DM: High fashion looks like whatever you’re feeling in the moment! When people allow it to be, then it will.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
source : https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lifestyle/style/ahmad-barber-donte-maurice-black-fashion-fair-magazine-1235102316/