2 minute read

Michael A. McCoy’s Documentary Challenge

Niikai Wells is this round’s worthy victor with his kinetic documentation of the street dancing scene

Where some documentary images are the product of a slow, accumulative experience, Niikai’s winner is bursting with life.

“My fascination with documentary photography starts with the love of storytelling,” he begins. “Documentary is a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects, and events. Being in the right place at the right time, to document a decisive moment, may land you a place in history.

“When I was spryer and more youthful, I was immersed in the world of street dancing.  Festivals, family functions, or days in the park with friends: wherever there were heavy drums and rhythmic melodies, I’d be there, following the music, getting enrichment for my spirit, and witnessing positive human experiences.”

Undoubtedly, Niikai’s image encapsulates the energy of the lifestyle – but there are deeper levels at play. They are a result of the execution, as much as the moment itself.

“The main purpose of the image is to express how music and dance creates fellowship,” the creator explains. “There is a sense of community open to all races, genders, and walks of life, where nothing but positivity is given and received. This instance was an annual festival in a Brooklyn, New York park – the first since the pandemic. The crowd moved their feet to the soulful sounds of house music and djembe drums, and there were smiles at being able to release energy again in a sacred space. The void of human solitude was being erased.

“I see color differently sometimes. I believe the absence of it makes photos purer. Working in monochrome strips the scene of some objectivity, allowing the viewer to see, feel, and interpret with their own perspective. Everyone will see it differently, based on their own experiences, and how it may or may not have a connection to their own life.”

Niikai’s final thoughts are of the opportunity – and the city he loves. In such a fast-paced environment, there’s little time to think. A creative must stay prepared, then react in a heartbeat.

“I try my hardest to learn my camera in detail and make it an extension of my hands and eyes, so I’m able to frame the image in any situation. As a New York native, you become conditioned to operate at the pace of a city that never sleeps. My approach is to create what looks good to me, then hope it looks good to the people I present my work to; it feels great when others relish your art.”

Evidently, Niikai’s image contained all the elements Michael values. Reflecting on the experience, the latter contributes his final comments in the role of mentor.

“I was honored to participate and set a Create With Me challenge. Out of all the images submitted, this one stuck out in particular. This image showcased detail, emotion, perspective, and an extra dose of love.”

Please note, this video was released during the 2022 Create With Me competition. Entries have now closed.

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