Ezekiel Clare

“Creation is the most powerful thing you can do. It’s the most holy thing you can do. Not just creation of art, but creation of love and joy.” Ezekiel Clare

Ezekiel is a Harlem-based creator, who uses his photography as a means of self-expression and self-exploration. Ever since childhood, he has felt an all-encompassing curiosity – about how the world works, about how people work, about how he works. The very act of seeing became an existential crisis for him at a young age. He couldn’t accept that he can only see from one fixed point of view, so gravitated naturally to visual mediums as a means of getting to the bottom of everything.

Ezekiel began his journey with photography after seeing The Dark Knight in theaters. From there, he picked up his mom’s camera to play around with – and never put it down. Growing up, Ezekiel’s work has evolved. Now, his self-portraits are a means of processing how he sees beauty in himself and the world.

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/125 sec at F8, ISO 640

A Sense of Being

Observed on the eclectic streets of Harlem, Ezekiel Clare moves with a commanding elegance – but a glance tells little of the artist’s true nature. Beneath vibrant hair and bold fashion, lies a well of introspective emotion. In every moment, he’s locked into the world with a beholding and lonesome gaze.

“I recently realized I’ve always been drawn to the same set of ideas,” he notes. “In my self-portraiture, there’s a presentation of me – the Ezekiel you see – but also an idea of me. It’s one of self, identity, and what it means to exist as a person. I like documenting that in other people, too. Not just passing moments, such as a street portrait, but the intimacy of the full picture-making process.”

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/125 sec at F8, ISO 640

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F4, ISO 3200

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F4, ISO 3200

Turning the lens away from himself, Ezekiel documented a Live from My Den performance by fellow East Coasters, Pinegrove. In the months since the show, he’s been documenting actors in the lead-up to an original play, creating portraits of individuals inside their homes and preparing for an editorial-style photo session. Boundlessly creative, he’s also turned his eye to set designing the very same stage production.

“The physicality of our world is a key part of identity. How do the environments we choose to live in reflect who we are as people? We all exist in a certain space. I’ve been exploring the composition and geometry of architecture, and how we fit within that, in my image making.”

Like many artists, though, Ezekiel’s creativity comes with weight to shoulder. With a frenetic mind that’s prone to being swept away in endless waves of light and shape, he finds natural appeal in a more methodical means of creating. Taking a case study slowly, precious time can explore the inner workings of a subject, refine the approach, and finely craft a story. The time constraints of photographing a live music performance were something Ezekiel faced graciously.

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/125 sec at F4, ISO 2500

“I loved the experience, and it was incredible to see the band in this space, but the faster-paced session inspired a different type of creativity. I am a quick person – especially in my set-ups, sitting with a subject to collect everything I need all at once – so that wasn’t a huge challenge. It’s the picture-making process directly that I like to slow down with. I get in a groove and begin to photograph different aspects of a subject as they’re revealed. The photos I make later in the session often become my favorites.

“I do believe documentational art is innate,” Ezekiel continues. “Humans have been doing it since the time of cave drawings. People of my generation had access to smartphone cameras from the age of ten, and I’m no exception. So that aspect of the Artists Den project was exciting – especially with a band I knew well. I’ve photographed musicians live before, but this felt more personal. Some of my ideal subjects are other artists, wrapped up in their creative process.”

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/125 sec at F4, ISO 2500

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/230 sec at F4, ISO 6400

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/230 sec at F4, ISO 6400

With full creative direction falling beyond his hands, Ezekiel had to forgo his usual meticulous, or at least highly explorative methods, adapting to what was presented before him. His points of focus became immediately clear.

“I always appreciate color blocking and minimalism. Millennial minimalism defines that generation for me, in a lot of ways. I love what they cultivated in culture so much,” the youthful image maker enthuses. “I also feel that, as a band, they embody the American West, with this alternative spirit. The light was bringing both elements out.

“It was typical of what you’d see at a concert – colorful, but not that bright. My mentor explained he was exposing for the highlights and letting the drama of the shadows play. I tried that and it worked well. I don’t feature a great amount of contrast in my images usually, so I found a nice medium here.

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/60 sec at F4, ISO 6400

“I photographed RAW+JPEG with the Eterna Film Simulation, to accentuate that flat look,” Ezekiel recalls. “It’s what I view as cinematic aesthetic – reality mixed with a dreamy picture of life. Reality is bizarre to me. I don’t think it takes much to bring that magic out.

“Even more than lighting, my focus was on composition. We all have unique bodies, and we all hold ourselves differently. I was interested in the very specific shapes they created – holding their guitar, at the piano, or playing drums. I was really focusing on trying to find the geometry within that, and trying to frame them together with a real emphasis on full composition. I wanted the individual members to be cohesive in the image.”

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/60 sec at F4, ISO 6400

Photo 2022 © Ezekiel Clare for Artists Den Entertainment | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/250 sec at F2.8, ISO 1250

Photo 2022 © Ezekiel Clare for Artists Den Entertainment | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/200 sec at F4, ISO 1250

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/320 sec at F5.6, ISO 160

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/320 sec at F5.6, ISO 160

Not shy in voicing a desire to photograph the band again in the future, exactly on his terms and in fitting with his intimate approach, Ezekiel is still astutely aware of a transformation. His sensibilities have shifted – as a photographer, as an artist, and as a man.

“The whole Students of Storytelling process feels so validating. As I sat there speaking to the band before the performance and photo making, it didn’t feel crazy to me. But it was only in the moment that I realized I was prepared to do something like this. I didn’t know that about myself before.

“I’m ready to experiment, and just create beautiful content – even if it goes beyond my previous style. Working with my mentor and listening to the ideology behind his image making was inspiring. I want to stay loose. A photo you’re not perfectly happy with isn’t necessarily a bad photo,” he concludes. “I’m ready to stop holding myself back.”