Kourtney Iman is a photographer and creative director based in Alabama. Her work explores the overall notions of Blackness, including the culture and the aesthetics that follow. In this 16 Questions about One Photo interview, Kourtney shares the story behind a cotton field near her home, why its cultural and historical significance caught her attention, and how that inspired the direction of this portrait.
1. Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How long have you been into photography?
My name is Kourtney Iman. I am a self-taught photographer based in Alabama that specializes in portrait, street, and documentary photography. I have been photographing since the age of 16, officially (ironic because this is 16 questions about one photo).
2. In one sentence, please describe what you captured in this shot.
I captured a young Black, African-American male, in a space where cotton is still grown.
3. Why did you select this photo to share?
I decided to share this photo because while scouting this location I never noticed the cotton that had been grown in this area that I call home. I felt drawn to it emotionally and also felt the need to document this photo due to the historical significance of cotton in Black life.
4. What style of photography would you describe this as and do you typically take photographs in this style?
I would describe this photograph as portraiture even though his body is facing away from the camera. I have a couple of photographs like this. Bare skin is so vulnerable and raw, it’s something that has caught my attention recently.
5. When and where was this photo taken?
May 2020 in Athens, Alabama, at the beginning of summer.
6. Was anyone with you when you took this photo?
I actually collaborated with a friend, Justin Lawson, his work is amazing!
7. What equipment (hardware and software) did you use?
Mamiya RZ67, 110mm lens (2.8), Kodak Portra 400 for film.
8. What drew you to take this photo?
I was honestly testing my skills with my first medium format camera, and I can say I am very satisfied.
9. How many attempts did it take to get this shot? How long did it take you to get one that you were satisfied with?
Being that this was shot with 120mm film, I didn’t have a lot of room for error. I honestly snapped this photo and prayed it would come out the way I imagined it in my head.
10. Did you edit (or do any post-processing/production on) this photo?
I did minor editing in Photoshop to get the sky to the color I wanted. Other than that, nothing. Editing film too much makes me cringe, I like its natural look.
11. What encouraged you to share this photo online and with others?
I wanted to share this photo online because it’s truly beautiful to me, and since I’ve transitioned to film, I want to showcase these works and get opinions of it.
12. Did you learn anything in the process of taking, editing, or sharing this photo?
I learned to just take a chance with your photos and to stop over calculating things, remember to have fun with your art.
13. Do you remember what you had for breakfast (or lunch or dinner) the day you took this photo?
Since the drive was 30 minutes out from where I live, I had to stop by the gas station for a Slim Jim and Nehi peach soda (not the healthiest of choices but my go-to gas station order).
14. What would you like people to take away from this photo?
I’d like people to think about how history is changing, but not as rapidly as what we might think.
15. Is there any feedback that you’d like to get on this shot?
I’d like to know if this shot resonated with anyone. Did you feel something from this?
16. How can anyone reading this support your work?
Find more of my works as well as prints on my website: www.kourtneyiman.com. And follow me on Flickr and Instagram.
Editor’s note: This interview with Kourtney Iman is part of a series that we’re doing with members of the Black Women Photographers community. For more in this series, head here.