Amerika McDaniel: Photographer

Photographer Amerika McDaniel (Photo by JB Coronado)

French designer Yves Saint-Laurent once said that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it. For many artists, the subject in their artwork is as critical to the creative process as the fabric, pencil, paint or photographic equipment used to capture them. The depth and quality of the bond between the artist and his or her model is at the heart of the resulting artistic piece. When that bond is strong, the end result can be just as meaningful and invigorating for the person creating the art as it is for the subject in it.

In a day and age when we are finally beginning to see a higher awareness and shift in the dynamics between women, when we are seeing more women raise each other up as opposed to always being pitted against each other, it is heartening to encounter artists who are using their creative practice to lift up and empower other women. Art Motif Magazine’s next featured artist, Amerika McDaniel, is using her photographic lens to do just that. Regardless of her subjects’ social or cultural background, physical attributes, or clothing and accessories, Amerika is focusing on the essence of each of the women she photographs to bring out and magnify their natural beauty with the use of color, shadows and light—and in that delicate process, she is also helping to build up and strengthen each woman’s sense of confidence and self.

Gaby’s Angel by Amerika McDaniel. September 2017. (Using natural lighting to get a bokeh look.)

What is essential to your work as an artist? Apart from my camera, I find that my “mood board” for my photo shoots is what is most essential to my work. I like to be inspired by other artists and let their work motivate me to create new art forms. Also essential for me is the model that I choose to work with for a particular photo shoot because, without them, the stories I am trying to capture are meaningless.

Railroad Crossing by Amerika McDaniel. February 2018. (Aiming for a 90’s chic fashion vibe using the Arizona sunset as lighting.)

Are there any themes you gravitate towards more in your works? I gravitate more towards a fashion/edgy/nature vibe. I really enjoy incorporating fashion with nature and having those two come alive in my photographs.

Smokey Oaks by Amerika McDaneil. February 2018.

Do you have a preferred genre/style/medium? My preferred genre or style is fashion photography. I love being able to show a woman’s confidence through the clothes she is wearing in my photos. Nowadays, young girls tend to be highly influenced by the media and its strict definition of beauty or perfection, which oftentimes means being naked in front of the camera. I want to change that. I want women of all types to be able to wear whatever clothing they want and feel beautiful and fully confident doing it. If helping to build that sense of confidence starts with a photograph, then so be it!

Underneath the Palm Trees by Amerika McDaniel. June 2018.

What inspires you (e.g. places, scents, elements, moods, sounds)? I get inspired by my surroundings. If I’m at a staircase where the sun is hitting a particular way and that light is giving me some cool lines for a models face, I’ll use it. If there’s a red trash can that can make for a colorful background, I’ll use it. No matter where I am, I can always find something that inspires me and can be used as a prop or creative idea for the photo shoot.

Lady in Red Takes the Jungle  by Amerika McDaniel. July 2018.

What is your creative process? What does a typical day of creative expression look like for you? I usually get up early and drive around Tucson to get an idea of the setting where my next photo shoot will take place. Once I have a location, I start my mood board. I’ll look on Pinterest, Vogue and Instagram to get inspired. Once my mood board is complete, I think about the model who can help bring my concept to life. Typically, I’ll already have someone in mind or I’ll have a client who has asked me to photograph them. Once the model is in place, we meet at the selected location and the art-making begins!

Christmas Passion  by Amerika McDaneil. December 2018.

What piece of advice would you give other aspiring artists? Be critical of your work but in the right way. It is easy to self-critique and compare ourselves to other artists but, I’m here to tell you, STOP! It is important to understand the difference between constructive self-criticism and destructive criticism. It’s not about telling yourself “I’m good” or “I’m the worst”, it’s about looking at your work objectively and trying to identify specific things you can improve on.

Who are your favorite writers and/or poets? Currently, my favorite poet is Rupi Kaur.

Who are your favorite painters? Banksy, the anonymous, England-based, satirical street artist.

Who are your favorite heroes/heroines in real life? My aunt Maria (Vito). She passed away some time ago but she will forever be my favorite heroine until we meet again. She taught me how to look at the world with so much beauty at a very early age, and I will forever be thankful. 

What is your favorite motto? “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”–Milton Berle

Your idea of happiness? Being able to do what I love, which is photography.

To learn more about Amerika and see more of her work, click on the following links: