I feel that what's missing in the depictions of Black Southerners is a deeper, more personal dive into their lives by one of their own. So many portrayals from non-Southerners are very superficial and miss important nuances and Black Southern cultural references. The result too often is either a total omission of Black Americans or the repetition of the same dysfunctional tropes about them. Through my work, whether it is photographs, film, or collage I am making the viewer take a second look and explore more deeply the lives, influences and viewpoints of my subjects. It is through continued engagement with the images that the viewer gets a fuller understanding of who the subjects actually are as people.
Phillip “King Phill” Loken is a photographer who describes himself as a "Black Southern Culture Documentarian." Loken, who is based in Raleigh, N.C. was born in Texas and has lived in North Carolina since the age of four. His photography is intimately tied to his lived experiences as a Black man in the American South. He wants to capture the rich history and vibrant cultural expressions that influence his subjects' lives.
Through years of various creative projects, Loken grew to understand the true power of photography and Black visual art in public spaces. Thereafter, Loken felt compelled to dedicate his life to photography that exposes a wide audience to the Black American narratives that are frequently omitted from depictions of the South. One example of this are his images of the 2021 "Not Native Barber Battle'' competition in Raleigh that highlight the importance of barbershops to African-American communities and to Black men as safe places for them to bond.
Loken's work has been exhibited throughout North Carolina. Most recently his work was part of the group exhibition, "Give Black Raleigh Her Flowers" at Anchorlight Gallery in Raleigh, N.C. (2022). In 2021 Loken participated in the exhibition "BLACK GAZE: Representation, Identity, and Expression,” at Light Factory Photo Arts Center (2021).
Loken's interest in Southern culture has drawn him to photograph events such as the Second annual Dreamville Music Festival at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, N.C. (2022), Moogfest (2016, 2017) and Hopscotch Music Festival (2016). In 2019 Loken's work was featured in the NC Always’ "Don’t Wait Til It’s Cool” exhibition, an archive of photographs taken of Hip-Hop artists by North Carolina photographers, at the North Carolina Museum of History.
Loken's artistic expression has taken many forms beginning as a child who played the drums. In high school Loken and a friend created a clothing brand. While in college Loken took up fashion photography. Subsequently, his photography employs a range of approaches including fine-art, documentary, and character-studies. The unifying thread is a desire to present bold and meaningful portraits of Black lives in the South from an insider's perspective. Moreover Loken's body of work also contains film and collage.
As a professional photographer, Loken has worked with a variety of organizations, including CreativeMornings in Raleigh, N.C. His photographs have also been licensed for use by Raleigh's Visitors Bureau. Loken was featured in a documentary film, “Creative NC: An Introspective Look at Creative Culture”, which premiered in 2017 at the North Carolina Museum of History.
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