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Trending / May 2021

THE WALKERS

LEVI’S® MONTHLY MUSE(S)

In this interview series, we introduce you to the people who inspire us most: creatives, educators, activists, community leaders and the everyday super-humans who keep us on our toes. We’ll take you inside their day-to-day lives, homes and workspaces. We’ll talk motivation and inspiration and of course, all things style.

Meet our May Monthly Muse(s): The Walkers, Adrian and Morgan—multi-hyphenate artists-brand wizards-entrepreneurs-engaged citizens-generous beings and parents of Emory, 3. You may have seen Adrian’s photograph ‘Black Virgin Mary,’ which recently inspired devotion at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, or you may have lingered over a Levi’s® Made & Crafted® shoot on our Instagram, which the couple directed and photographed. And maybe, after seeing this inspiring work (there’s so much more) and learning that they have a spirited toddler, asked yourself: How, how, HOW do they do it? In honor of Mother’s Day—with Father’s Day hot on its heels—we chatted with the Walkers about culture, family and community (and cauliflower crust pizza) and how they balance the art of life with a life in art. Read on to learn more about Morgan and Adrian in their own words.

“If anything, the pandemic taught us both how to stay still a little bit.” —Adrian

You’re both from St. Louis, Missouri. How did you two meet?

Morgan: We were in college at the same school and met each other through my cousin, who was from California doing an internship. She had a really nice creative community, and when I got there, she was like, you have to meet this guy, Adrian—he’s really cool. We eventually met at an event, became friends and started dating.

How did you end up in Chicago?

Morgan: In 2014, Adrian got a job in Colorado Springs, so I moved there. I stayed there for about five or six months, then I moved to New Orleans for a year. He finished out his time at Colorado Springs, we got engaged and moved together to the Bay Area. Then he got transferred to Chicago and we moved in late 2019. It’s nice to be back in the Midwest and to be closer to family, with a little one.

You're both multi-hyphenate artists. Now, with a child, you've added one more hyphen. What's it like being parents in a creative environment?

Adrian: Well, it’s definitely fun because Emory’s immersed in what we do and surrounded by art. She doesn’t understand it, but the fact that she sees it is really cool. I would honestly say it’s a learning process. We’re both still learning how to balance things, but we were just able to put her back in daycare after a whole year out of daycare due to the pandemic. If anything, the pandemic taught us both how to stay still a little bit.

Morgan: It’s all we know. We’re just going with the flow at this point. Like Adrian said, it’s really cool for her to know that her father is a photographer. She has her own camera and she enjoys taking pictures. She really loves it when she’s a part of shoots as well. She’s usually the star.

“I feel like we've benefited from the time together. Establishing more of a connection." —Morgan

Which one of you does she most take after?

Morgan: Emory is like her dad. She’s a people person, she’s very social. I think she likes adults more than she likes kids, but she loves both. She is very sweet. She’s very fiery-sassy as well. She knows what she wants and she’s been that way from birth. She would fuss about how she’s being held, like: “I don’t like when people hold me like that.” Someone holds her a certain way, she’s gonna respond.

Good for her!

Adrian: She likes clothes. When she saw us trying on our clothes for this shoot, she wanted to try hers on too. She put on her jacket and was opening and closing it, like: “Look at me!”

Morgan: She’s used to being a part of the show. If there’s anything going on with Adrian, there’s always pictures of Emory with crowds around her. Because we were in Oakland and we didn’t have babysitters or family there, she was really at everything with us.

It’s a great way for a kid to grow up. And lockdown has allowed us even more family time. Sometimes too much?

Morgan: We are lucky to have a separate office space in our attic. Adrian spends more time up there and me and Emory spend the day on the lower level. Before, we were in a 450 square foot apartment with three of us. When we think about that and how crazy that would have been, we’re really grateful to have moved to Chicago and to have things like a backyard for her and separate spaces where we can do our own thing, especially when I’m in class and things like that. But yeah, I feel like we’ve benefited from the time together. Establishing more of a connection.

Adrian: I lost my job back in April due to the pandemic. But from there, photography work just picked up. And Morgan—I don’t really want to speak on you—but I feel like she is always learning. Putting herself in a position of learning new skills. I learn a lot from her—she’s tapped into almost every medium.

What's it like working on campaigns together—most recently, doing a Levi's® Made & Crafted® shoot with your friends Imani Amos and Desmond Owusu as models?

Morgan: It was really easy. Emory was there; she was in her friend’s room playing. We’re very comfortable in their space. It was one of the first places we were invited to when we’d visit Chicago, and it’s always been a very cozy, warm and nurturing environment. So it was pretty stress free. We had dinner together and we shot a lot of the stuff in their huge backyard. It was really easy to dress them. They’re always grateful to participate in some of the projects that we have. It was just perfect. And a great way for us to jump back into working together.

“He looked like a Virgin Mary, just him with a durag and a very stern look.” —Adrian

Adrian, your incredible photograph, 'Black Virgin Mary,' part of your 'We Matter' series, showed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. What was your standout experience of this?

Adrian: Mostly, just not knowing how far this work was going to go. It started off as a campaign for a friend’s durag line that was going to live on Instagram. But after receiving the film strips back and looking at everything, I wanted to sit on things. It was about taking the time out to trust the work I’d done, put some language behind it, and work with some people who pushed me to take it further. And it ended up in the Smithsonian. I think one of the best parts about that was having friends and Morgan there in support of it. Everybody came to DC and we were all together. It was like a homecoming amongst my friends, to see this really big moment in my life. Kind of like a mini wedding or something. It was really cool just to have that work staying on his own. And it still lives on. It’s still selling, it’s still being shown in different places.

It's powerful. On top of the sanctification of the Black male, there’s this feminization that forces the viewer to reorganize their thoughts around maleness.

Yeah. I’ve played around with that type of work before with another series, and as far as gender goes, also thinking of different artists like Kehinde Wiley, placing Black people in white spaces, depicting them as living that experience versus the white folk.

“It's been interesting because I'm learning that there's an absence of Blackness.”—Morgan

Speaking of our other artists, who are both of your biggest artistic influences or inspirations?

Morgan: For me—I’m transitioning into graphic design—it’s been interesting because I’m learning that there’s an absence of Blackness. So it’s been a bit difficult to pull for inspiration or see myself in some of the designers I’m learning about. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around “What makes me me?” That said, one artist I really like is Emory Douglas. We named our daughter after him. So it’s not that they’re not there, it’s just that they’re not part of the mainstream. They weren’t hired at agencies, so they’re a little more obscure and more difficult to find. But I do have loads of peers that do amazing work.

Adrian, you've mentioned Arthur Jafa and Gordon Parks. Any other influences?

Adrian: A lot of close peers of mine that I lean on. I’ll just name a few. A good friend of ours, Lenworth “Joonbug” McKintosh. We have his art all over our house. Another good friend of ours named Muzae—he’s a part of the same collective as me and Joonbug. As far as photographers go, an artist by the name of PhotoDre out of New York, originally from Omaha, who is really great. Morgan already mentioned Emory Douglas, and Kerry James Marshall, my favorite artists. I’ll just drop a couple of more photographer names, women: Carrie Mae Weems is one of my favorite photographers, and Deana Lawson and Latoya Ruby Frazier.

Morgan, you’ve worked with the art collective 'Her Place Is In?'

Morgan: Emory and I were just participants in one of their projects. We were asked to model for a shoot on hair, and it was really interesting because it reminded me of the importance of media and representation and how I’m a model for Emory, even starting very young. I think she was maybe one and a half, two. They presented her with a book called ‘Hero,’ which is about a father doing his daughter’s hair while the mother is away. She opened the book and saw the Black girl with puffs in her hair, and she yelled: “Like me!”—and she wasn’t even really talking at that point.

That’s great.

It was really cute. And I think it was heartwarming for the people who were there because that’s part of the reason they were using us as models—showcasing different textures of hair. I was in an awkward phase with my hair and didn’t necessarily feel all that great about it, but that little moment made it really special.

“I’m positioned to do cool things, but at the same time I'm aware it’s valuable to put somebody else in a position of power to do so.”—Adrian

Adrian, you recently photographed Porche Bennett-Bay for 'Time Magazine.'

Adrian: I got that assignment not knowing where it was going to live in the magazine, Porsche being one of 100 people of 2020. Before even photographing her, I had a conversation with her that was—not heated between us, but heated because she had just come back from the ruling of that case in Kenosha, with the police getting off and all that (for the shooting of Jacob Blake). We talked a good 30 minutes, and during that conversation, I asked her if she’d feel more comfortable with a Black woman photographing her, and to let me know, and I would help find a Black female photographer for her. She was really kind and sweet and said, “Hey, God chose you. Let’s just do it.”

You were willing to give that assignment up?

Adrian: For me it was about being mindful of—just being mindful, period. I’m positioned to do cool things, but at the same time knowing it’s valuable to put somebody else in a position of power to do so. I’m glad I was able to do it, though, and that we executed it the way we did. Once the portrait came out, to see people loving the photo, but also the story, and also looking at Porsche, how dominant she looked—even she couldn’t believe that she looked that way. She’d never seen it in herself before. She called me the week it came out and said she had a hundred copies and she was passing them out to people.

“I've always enjoyed dressing a little bit outside of the norm. I hate to use the word masculine because what is that?” —Morgan

Okay, let’s talk personal style.

Morgan: I’ve always enjoyed dressing a little bit outside of the norm. I hate to use the word masculine because what is that? I like men’s pants. I like what I like, and there’s not a lot of boundaries. If I do choose to wear something more feminine, I pair it with something masculine. It’s always been hard for me to choose what my favorite color is because I just love color.

Adrian: For me, I’ve grown to be really comfortable with the things that I have. I just go to the same things—relaxed and cozy, with some type of pop somewhere, probably some jewelry that pops, with a hat or something. But when it comes down to it, I want to be able to move around in what I wear. Most of the time I’m photographing or something and I want to be relaxed, so my clothes tend to be a little bigger. I like my jeans to be loose and comfortable.

Any plans for Mother's Day and Father's Day?

Morgan: At least for me, dinnertime is one of my favorite times for us to be together, especially when we can all enjoy a meal—and with a 3-year-old, it’s really difficult. Finding that meal that we’ll all enjoy has been something we’ve done for special occasions.

What are your favorite foods?

Morgan: I’m really into Mexican. We took a trip to Mexico City early in 2020, and really enjoyed the food there. I really just honestly love meat, rice, beans. We really like eating ramen together. Adrian is a big burger person. I’m recently into pizza. That’s mine and Emory’s favorite. There are a lot of food options here. We love the food scene in Chicago.

So: Deep dish or regular?

Morgan: I like both, but deep dish is a little heavy and we’re not big cheese eaters. We don’t eat a lot of dairy, but we also know that vegan cheese and deep dish—no, you just don’t do that. But sometimes we make our own pizza. We buy little cauliflower pizza crusts and make our own.

Adrian: Yeah, those are good.

The Walkers, 2021. Illustration by Morgan H. Walker

Photo Credit: Adeshola Makinde

Shop the Walkers’ style below and stay tuned here, to our Off The Cuff blogfor more style inspiration, DIY tutorials, sneak peeks of our latest collaborations and all the insider goodness you can handle. 

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