An SOTBInterview with Bria Celest

We can find inspiration in anything. From the graffiti on the side of an abandoned building to our favorite films, the wondrous thing about humanity is that we can turn anything into art. The wondrous thing about art itself is that it’s a direct reflection of self.

When I had the chance to link up with writer, explorer, and photographer Bria Celest, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d followed her for a while and had seen a lot of her work. But, I feel that I didn’t know her all that well. And when I don’t know someone in the arts who seems dope, my first instinct is to interview them and get to know the person, not the persona. I mean, it is the slogan of after all.

Hailing from Alaska for, in her words, “half of the year,” the twenty-four year old traveler describes herself as compassionate and a helper. This is seen in a lot of her work, which captures the beauty in her subjects. While there aren’t as many Black people in Alaska, she doesn’t let that get to her, since she’s been there for a good chunk of her life due to her father being stationed there by the U.S. Army. Additionally, it’s kind of hard to say no to a place when you have a good job there, as Celest does.

About four years ago, Celest, a huge selfie-head at the time, had an epiphany. A friend of hers pointed out her Instagram profile was mostly selfies. Embarrassed by this, she decided to start taking photos of what she saw on her phone. Possessing a “natural eye for things,” partially due to her love of film, she bought her first camera about two months after she started and the rest began to fall into place.

Film-wise, Celest has found influence in an eclectic selection of films. Everything from A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream series to Tarantino and Wes Anderson films to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Bria found a lot of inspiration. And while we both agree that Scott Pilgrim is kind of a fuckboy–and that the books did a bigger and better job illustrating this–movies like the ones listed helped mold her as an artist.

I’ll look at something and be like ‘wow, this would be a great scene.’

Some of her favorite photos hold significance. One of her photos is of an Black LGBT couple, as she always wanted to shoot more gay representation in her work. Plus, she enjoys love and people being in love–as seen in several of her shots. Another one of her shoots revolves around Into the Spider-verse, as it’s one of her favorite films of the last decade. Yet another is special because Bria just loved the energy of her subject and because she really loves bare portraits.

All of her photos seem to scream “life is great, life is amazing! Go and enjoy it and love it!” One set of photos that really caught my eye were portraits of the Palenqueras, who are Colombian creoles. The lighting and colors emphasized and used really made things that much more special and interesting.

If I had to travel to only one more place, if we’re talking somewhere I’ve never gone, it’d have to be Croatia or Greece. If we’re talking somewhere I’ve been, Tokyo. It’s amazing, like a true experience.

In addition to photography, Bria loves to travel. It’s this love that prompted her to write e-books about her jetsetting to help others get the most out of their adventures. The first e-book, Trippin’, is all about “getting started with travelling [such as] how to find deals, misconceptions, how to take great photos, tips, and the best resources to use.”

Her second e-book, which will be released at a later date, will be a lot more in-depth.

“I wrote a ten step planning process for trips, how to save for trips and find time, dealing with language barriers, and a lot more,” she said when asked about the second book’s focus.

Outside of giving people life with her photos and tripping, Bria loves cooking–especially zucchini boats–reading, and, obviously, watching various films.

She’s currently reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series. We disagreed a bit on how the final season went (as you can read my thoughts here) but both enjoyed parts of it for what it was. Dany destroying the cesspool that was King’s Landing, then getting killed in the manner that she did was rewarding. She opened my eyes a bit on the King Bran thing,. She reminded me that the whole series’ events kind of started because of Bran and the Starks. Because of that, it makes some sort of sense for it to end with him and his family. I’m still a bit miffed at how it went down, but you won’t ever please everyone.

Traveling and photography are hobbies that require a lot of patience, skill, and a little bit of luck. It’s fortunate for us that Bria Celest has all three in spades.

(Ed. Note: would like to thank Bria Celest for her contributions to the world of Black photography and Black art–and for agreeing to chat it up with me about her work. Follow her Instagram for more photos and tips)

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