photo via JD's Instagram
portrait of JD

I discovered JD‘s work a couple of years ago while exploring Columbus’ street culture. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with his blog, which is filled with unique product photos, delicious food, crisp nature shots, and vibrant portraits. tumblr_mqo7d4hpVC1qmfnrio1_1280 DSC02188 tumblr_n6nqe0o9gd1qmfnrio2_1280 tumblr_m8gj82JHkJ1qmfnrio1_r1_1280

I truly appreciate his aesthetic, but recently he has given me a lot more to appreciate. His definition of “sexy”.

I believe that most great artwork challenges both the creator and the viewer to see things in a new light and his recent work does just that. These days, most photographers set out to capture women because their physical features will attract views from the masses, selling nearly any product. But that was the last thing on JD’s mind while working on his latest project, {Sexy}.

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There’s a lot more to him than what he’s able to share through social media. Fortunately, I had a chance to speak with JD after his reception for {Sexy} this past weekend. See what he had to say.

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VANICE ALEXANDER: Can you introduce yourself to Ohio Streets readers?

JAMES DRAKEFORD: My name is James Drakeford, most people know me as JD or King JD. I was born & raised in Dayton, Ohio. I’m an alum of The Ohio State University. I mentor high school youth through the Pathways To Prosperity programI founded The Idea of Being Somebody (TIOBS), a social lifestyle movement based on three principles : self-determination, self-education, and self-initiative. I manage the only lifestyle streetwear boutique in Columbus, OH, Sole Classics. At SC, I handle daily operations, visual merchandising, social media, photography, and styling for the shop. I also spend a lot of my time doing freelance photography. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with countless individuals and businesses…

What inspires your work as a photographer?
Reality, everyday things. In reality, we can find the good and the bad. I’m inspired by both, I want to share more of whats’s good, and I want to help change whats‘s bad via combative photos. I get ideas from other people’s images often, but I don’t follow many photographer’s work, don’t want my photos to be “too influenced”.
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What inspired your photographs for {Sexy}? 

This is a tough question to answer bc the project was inspired by so many different experiences and ideas, I started conceptualizing the project winter 2013. The project can take-on and represent so many different angles. One of the main inspirations is my dislike of objectification. I want to increase our appreciation for women beyond the surface; beyond the shapes of their bodies, the length of their hair, or the complexion of their skin. We know sex sells, that’s very-very old news, I want to know more. A literal definition of “sexy” includes words like attractive, appealing, and exciting, each of which stretches far beyond the surface.
      A lot of women are valued purely by the shape of their body, it’s pretty corny. Why don’t we buy into other characteristics that women possess? It takes two, it takes a woman to project herself as she is and as she wants, and it takes everyone else to appreciate her for who she is and who she projects herself to be. She may or may not choose to project herself sexually or do lots of sexually suggestive things, either is ok. But the fact that she chooses is important, the self-confidence and assurance is important. There’s a thin line, but very big difference, between genuinely expressing oneself – and displaying for the attention and or approval of others. From my observations and conversations with female friends, I think too many women are pressured, by outside forces, that include social media, TV, friends, popular-culture, and cheap attention, to publicly project themselves in sexual ways. When our actions are decided purely or primarily by the expectations that others have for us, we lose a sense of self.
     I’ve been inspired to tell a different story, to expand the definition of sexy a bit, to let everyone, men & women, know that I think the most sexy characteristics are the ones that make each person unique – the combination & accumulation of ones character, habits, interests, ambitions, the energy they share, etc. There’s nothing like the only one.
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How did you select your subjects?
I chose women (7) that I think have an interesting look, share good energy, and have an uplifting vibe. I also wanted to pick women that don’t all look the same, just for the sake of viewing purposes. The project isn’t about what they actually look like, as much as it is about what they represent and project through the photos. I’m also friends with all of the models, so a little personal bias was definitely interjected. Each of the models do a good job at projecting themselves as more than sexual objects in their own actual lives, I find their ways to be attractive.
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What was the creative process behind capturing these images?
The process was pretty challenging. The photos are all concept based, none will really blow you away by the way they look. The significance is in what the photos mean and or represent. So, it’s a challenge to take photos that are more focused on a concept than the actual images, …because I still want the images to look good and be visually stimulating. I try to break things down to their most simple state, I wanted the photos to be very simple, practical, and authentic.
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What do you think is the difference between viewing a photo online and in person, printed?
I think the main difference is the connection, when I see photos in person, they seem more real, and they’re closer to me, more is felt from viewing the photos in person. However, photos on the computer are usually a little cleaner and crispier. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
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What are you hoping that people took away from your exhibition?
I hope people left the gallery feeling some type of way. I hope my words and photos made people think a little, a little differently than they normally do. I wanted to reinforce something that isn’t widely applauded, that something being the appreciation of women for the things that make them unique, and the things that make a woman who she is… An accumulation of character, habits, interests, ambitions, etc.
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What’s next for JD?
I have another project in the works, still working on the conceptualizing process and creating a solid plan for executing my ideas. I don’t want to speak too much on it just yet, would much rather just do it or at least be close to completion before talking about it. But yea, more projects and exhibitions will be forthcoming. And I’d like to have a show sometime relatively soon to sell photo prints.
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Follow JD on Instagram and Twitter to stay updated with his work.

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