I Want to Challenge Myself and Go as Big as the World Will Let Me - 10 Questions with Photographer and Curator Khalil Osborne
At only the age of 20, emerging photographer Khalil Osborne exhibits a high level of ambition. When he was 15, Osborne was given his first camera from a friend. It was a Sony Cyber Shot. He started taking pictures and posting them online through social media. Soon he became known by others in his school as the kid with the camera.
Aspiring for more than a retail or food industry job when he was a teenager, Osborne harnessed his passion for photography and in 2015 he secured a job at Cady Studios. With more than two years of professional experience behind him, Osborne works as a portrait photographer through the family owned school photography business. In his free time he continues with camera in hand, setting up shoots with his peers to add to his growing body of work as a visual artist.
Don't be foolish enough to make assumptions about Osborne because of his young age. His maturity and the professional demeanor with which he conducts himself leave most surprised when they find out he just recently broke free of his teenage years. This young man is constantly pushing himself and challenging any constraints that are placed on him, which is perhaps one of the reasons he isn't satisfied being a one-disciplined artist. In addition to photography, Osborne is an event curator and he has started an independent brand of t-shirts and apparel.
In February 2018, Osborne curated his third event, titled "Ah La Life." Again demonstrating his maturity, Osborne did not exhibit his own work in the show. Instead, the exhibition featured the work of six emerging artists. For most of the artists involved, it was their first time exhibiting their work in public.
The evening was full of youthful energy. Through his network of peers, and their respective network of peers, "Ah La Life," which was a one-night-only engagement, attracted nearly 300 attendees. What's even more remarkable is that the sheer size of the audience isn't the only thing to celebrate. Those in attendance were buying work off the walls. One artist in particular, Steven Westbrook Adams (read the interview Kandice Clark recently conducted with Adams), sold five out of the seven large format photography prints he had on exhibit.
Osborne is leading his peers by example. This is a result of he himself having positive role models to look up to when he was a teenager. Street photographer Malcolm Jackson met Osborne when he was 15 and took an interest in him. Jackson shared with Osborne some of the lessons that he learned about being an artist and entrepreneur through trial and error. Because this type of caring attention was afforded to him at an early age, Osborne now mentors those around him.
In March 2018, Osborne was added as one of the artist co-hosts of Every Single Artist Lounge, a monthly networking event organized by the Cultural Council. This informal meet-up is intended to spark dialog between artists, arts professionals, art educators, and art appreciators. It is part of a multi-pronged approach to foster a creative community that is diverse and inclusive. You can meet Osborne during the next convening of Every Single Artist Lounge, which is scheduled for Tuesday, April 10 in Hemming Park.
Osborne is enrolled as a student at the University of North Florida (UNF). There he is pursuing his Bachelors Degree in Marketing. He is slated to graduate in 2019.
10 Questions with Khalil Osborne
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
The biggest routine for me, before going to any shoot, is making sure that my props and ideas are there. Every item, color, clothing, etc. is predetermined to create a certain feeling that I want the series of photos to convey.
Since all of my work is model based, I choose the shoot based on the underlying emotion I receive from looking at the model. I like to use objects that people may not see as something that belongs in a fashion based photo.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic and cultural endeavors?
Time management. It is a lesson I am still learning, but it is also an exercise I try to encourage others to practice.
I recently shot around 100 new portraits and I am still not sure what I want to do with them. I have put a lot of time into my work and through that I've learned the importance of patience and not rushing things. Time is a construct that I will never fully understand. With every new day, it is as though I try to find ways to create more time.
How do you define success in what you do?
For me personally, anything that I do that makes someone think or makes them feel any type of way is a success. I just want to create experiences or moments that take people away from the current state they were in before they encountered my work.
The newest generation of emerging artists are not subscribing to being just one thing. What attracts you to being a multi-faceted artist and how do you describe what you do to others when asked?
Since I was young, I was always taught to ask "why?". I took that curiosity and ran with it. Why stop at just taking pictures? Why not make clothes? Why not help other artists by curating shows?
I will never stop asking "why?". I want to challenge myself and go as big as the world will let me. I have seen what is possible by watching artists whom I look up to. I know what is possible. All I have to do is try.
When asked, I usually tell people that I am a creative. That definition usually sparks an interest and I expand from there.
What do you think is the key to producing an engaging event that attracts a diverse audience?
It all starts with how you brand the experience. That includes how you design your images for social media and flyers. How does the public perceive your event? They may not know who the person behind the event is, but your branding should make them curious and interested in learning more.
Next is repetition. Society now feeds off of instant gratification. If you can satisfy their needs continuously then you have won.
The vibe around the whole show is very important. This is set by the location, the music played, and how items are arranged. A lot of the younger generation want big pieces. They want the negative spaces between the work to be curated and experiential. Installations are very popular right now.
Attract the youth but have a sophistication that would please even the adults.
Street photographer Malcolm Jackson took an interest in you at an early age. In what ways do you feel having guidance from a more established artist has benefited you in your pursuits?
I cannot thank Malcolm enough for showing me the right way to do things. I had known about Malcolm and the rest of the boys involved with Bonsoir Southern Flea Market for a while. I knew they were genuine because of the support they showed me and my friends.
Malcolm has introduced me to people that have helped me in ways that they may not even recognize. He has been a front runner, someone who has cleared the road so that the rest of us can follow with ease.
What traits do you look for in fellow artists or their work when you have an opportunity to showcase Jacksonville talent and what expectations do you have for the artists whose work you exhibit?
I look for artists who exhibit individuality. How do they differentiate themselves from those around them? I can tell when someone puts a lot of time into their work. I like it when I can see their thought process in their work.
I work with artists whose work I want to look at for a long time and whose work I would hang in my own home. I expect artists I work with to present their work professionally. It's a must if they expect to be appreciated and have their work valued.
The artists who participated in "Ah La Life" are already seeing a heightened interest in their work. For instance, photographer Steven Westbrook Adams was interviewed by Kandice Clark for her website. That interview will also be published by the Florida Star. What does it mean to you to see new opportunities extended to emerging artists as a result of your having provided them an initial opportunity to share their work with the public?
This is honestly the best feeling. I was amazed to see so much work sold during the show. The artists involved have told me that people have been interested in supporting their endeavors even more after the show.
It excites me because this is just the beginning. We will have to see what the future holds for me and everyone else involved in this movement. One thing I do know is that the shows will grow and the magnitude of the work will grow.
It's my hope that the artists continue to create and then pass what they have learned on to the next generation of emerging artists. It truly is a great feeling to play a role in developing someone and helping them find their audience.
What is the greatest challenge(s) you face as an artist working in Northeast Florida?
It is very hard to find a venue that supports everyone and will showcase art at every level without costing the artists everything they have. I have so many ideas but I do not have consistent access to a space that allows me to properly execute my ideas.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow Jacksonville's arts and cultural sector?
I would like to see more opportunities for everyone to showcase their work. We have the numbers but far too often I hear artists say they cannot do something due to not knowing where to start or where to show their work.
I just want to create more opportunities for artists of all disciplines to be able to show their work and have it valued.