The iconic photographer, model, and muse on the rituals that align her artistic path and passions.
– KEYS SOULCARE
It’s no surprise that a person who has broken many of the world’s boundaries is so good at setting her own. And Ming Smith — model, muse, and the first Black woman photographer to be included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art — is one of those people. Ming chatted with us about the art world, her own inner creative life, and why this work is much more than a career, it’s a calling.
How would you describe your work?
The spiritual journey of my life.
In 1975, you became the first Black woman photographer to be included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art. What has it meant to be a “first”?
I didn’t know or dwell on that too much, but it did give me outside validation and conviction to continue to shoot in my style of photography. As for now, I look back and see it as a blessing that I was a barrier breaker.
I made a choice as a young woman to go down that path of being an artist / photographer, the risk that came with being a Black artist, and the looming threat of the inability to provide for myself. The tenacity that it takes to continue the dream has defined me in my journey as a Black female artist.
Were you drawn to art as a kid?
I was always kind of like a space child. I mean, I’d be in my own world. And so when I participated in art, it was just the way of being with myself.
Do you think there’s value in following what initially feels unique or even weird about yourself?
I think it’s the only way. You have to come from a place that’s within — the more authentic you are, the more you can reach other folks through art, music, or dance, or any part of life, really.
You’re a favorite artist of Alicia and her partner, Swizz, who have several of your pieces in their home. How did you meet them?
I met Alicia and Swizz at one of their “Just Because” house parties a few years ago. They have been nothing but amazing. I feel such love, acceptance, and respect from them. They are truly great people and visionaries working towards the good of humanity.
What have you learned that’s really valuable to you?
Always look at yourself through your eyes and no one else’s.
What are you still learning?
I just had a conversation about this! As I age, it’s really about being in the moment. Many times, we fail — we leave the pork chops in the oven, the water boiling — but if you can always try to find a way to get back to being you, that’s truly wonderful.
Love this. Needed this. How are you circling back to you — awkward parts, inner parts, and all — in this moment?