Shanta LE – Artist, Photographer, Dancer

Mirror_-Liz-LaVorgna-core-photo.com_Life unfolds before us taking us where we need to go to become who we are.  Shanta’s journey has been an inspiring one, seemingly absent fear.  She is an excellent demonstration of how to tap into your heart of hearts, follow the messages and go forth!

 

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You talk about how you “stole” your parents’ camera and took it with you when you left for college.  But, your interest in art and photography began well before then.  What are you initial recollections about your interest in photography?

 

Any vibrant images either in photographs in a National Geographic or various things I would see presented on the travel or discovery channel.  There were always moments that felt like another world that I want to travel to and somehow capture.  I guess you could say that the camera (along with my writing) has offered me a bridge into some of those worlds.

 

What kinds of things did you do as a child and a young person to nurture or express that interest?

 

That is a really good question.  I honestly did not do much around images as a young person or child to nurture my photography.  I took a basic (what I would refer to as a non-fancy) digital camera to Africa in 2007.  I was in my 20’s and it was my first time leaving the country.  I took a ton of pictures but years passed before I was drawn to actually purchasing a camera for my passion for another adventure out of the country.  More specifically, in regards to images for inspiration (planting seeds for photography), I became drawn to various pieces of art.  In my first office when I was 21-22 fresh out of college, I had to get a photograph print of the Taj Mahal.  At that point, I did not know much about it, did not venture to research the exact location, but the view of it was majestic and inspiring on an unspeakable level. Looking in the rear view mirror of life seems to always be the clearest right?  So of course, a part of me sees my attraction to this image (of the Taj Mahal in my office) as a part of the birthing story of my photography and eventual travel.

 

As a child/young person my writing was the first artistic medium that I really nurtured by keeping a journal.
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You also write poetry.  Tell us about your beginnings with your poetic writings.  How did you start?

 

I originally started writing in a journal when I was about 13-14 years old and in between this time, I wrote poetry.  My journal provided a voice during a time when I felt that I did not really have one. So it was essential for me to have a way of expressing my feelings and to chronicle things that were happening in my life at the time.  As for the poetry, I went through several phases.  I destroyed most of my earlier work (from my pre-adolescent days) during a time when I was introduced to the novel idea of workshopping my poems influenced by my short time at the Academy of Performing Arts during my senior year of high school.

Again, my writing started based on the ways that images and my feelings/interpretations of them collected in my head. Anything from the way naked tree branches appeared through the glass windows in the middle of the night to how adults just seemed bigger than life from my vantage point as a child all provided material for writing (both then and now!).

 

 

How did you know that you wanted to pursue those things?  Was there a drive to always take pictures and to write?  What was it that would happen inside of you?

Head Shot 

I was always drawn to images and I guess you could say just being drawn to imagery eventually encouraged me to want to create or inspire that feeling in others. As a little girl, many images either through film or pictures provided a bridge into another time or place, even old family photos (whenever I would stumble upon them).

Story seems to be the constant thread for all of my art that I create and I seek to share stories through pictures, dance and writing.  Expressing myself in these ways allows me to give back by perhaps creating this bridge (either to a story or into a world) for someone else.

 

What drew you to Uganda? 

 

Actually, I did not choose as a personal trip Uganda but there is sort of a cool story with this.  In 2006, I was working as the Public Affairs Manager for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (Formerly known as Planned Parenthood of CT).  Our department and agency started talking about participating as a Global Partner which involved choosing a country and doing an exchange in which a few of our key staff members would go to Uganda (and some of their staff members from a family planning association would visit the US).  I was a part of a small working committee who discussed the details of the trip and other logistics regarding the global partnership.  During this time I kept thinking to myself, “Gosh, it would be so cool to be a part of that, to be one of the staff members chosen.”

At some point in August 2006, I went to New Hampshire with my husband at the time and returned, my supervisor at the time contacted me and wanted to schedule time for me to meet with her and the CEO.  I was so nervous and I automatically thought I did something wrong.  My heart was beating a million miles a minute the day I walked in to meet with them.  As I sat there they explained that three people were chosen from the agency to go to Uganda; I was one of them so I had to start making plans for my shots and other things I had to get ready for travel.  I felt so lucky and felt like my wish/desire for wanting to be a part of this project was heard.
What was the most striking thing that you learned about life there?

 

Things will never be as you expect to be, but always better even if they are not as you envisioned.  It is always easy to just believe what you see through what media shows you.  Specifically, as it relates to visiting the country of Uganda, I was somewhere between carrying old images of the stereotypes of Africa and not really knowing what to expect.  You see, this was the first time I left the country at the age of 29.  As I walked around the market, smelled the various flavors in the air, encountered different people, and experienced my first safari, I vowed that travel had to become of my life especially because it is so integral to expanding my perception and world view.

 

 

What was the most striking thing that you learned about yourself during that trip? 

 

That I was just as guilty of carrying around and at times maintaining stereotypes of what one might expect from the continent of Africa.  In other words, I was an offender but seeing Uganda with my own eyes and experiencing it expanded and challenged my thinking.

 

 

And India?  What brought you to India?

 

Ah, now India was not work related.  In May 2011, my two-year contract ended in New Haven (and that same day my car died on the highway).  I was able to land a summer consulting gig while looking for work.  At the time, I was engaged, and both my fiance and I were jobless.  I don’t recall when we made the decision, but we decided to take a break from job searching and use the time to travel and chose India while we planned our wedding.

 

I got married in August 2011, then by early October of 2011, I was on a plane to India.  To say that it was surreal was an understatement.  My husband at the time was someone who wanted to go to India for years and he’d even purchased travel books about it.  For me specifically, my path to India was a bit more, well, off of the beaten path.  I mentioned that picture of the Taj Mahal that I was drawn to, there was also a high school friend I had who would travel between the US and India often (we would maintain contact in between her travels).  There were also other things that drew me to India over time–the myths, a historical fiction piece that shed significant light on the Mughal Empire (and included a little back story about the Taj Mahal).  I believe that things never just come about but are stitched together by small bits and pieces……India was indeed a work of pieces of this and pieces of that all coming together in a certain way.

Neither my ex-husband nor I knew anyone in India yet we lied to everyone telling them we’d made some connections that we were going to visit.  We did not want our family members nor loved ones to worry.    I knew I was headed towards the right adventure because mostly everyone thought we were out of our minds for taking such a chance!

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How does life in India compare to life in the U.S.?  What are the similarities and what are the differences from your point of view?

 

It felt like India was more real in terms of not hiding the poverty and often blatant inequity whereas here in the U.S., one can take a different route home or into a city without coming in much contact with various disparities.  I also felt like death was not treated as a disease or a problem to be tucked away or hidden.  When I was in Varanasi (one of the sites for cremation) I noticed that children played, people did their laundry in the river, the cows roamed, and just a few feet away from living, there was the cremation pyre.

 

As far as similarities, the more I thought about it, I noticed that in the U.S. we also have many living “3rd world” (and by the way, I don’t care for that term) realities in our own back yard.  Just go into any area that is economically depressed, rampant food insecurity, and/or where education or job opportunities are not available.  Or just take note of how many people are living without proper access to health and wellness.  In other words, we have our very own gaps that are covered up by the perception of wealth we may illustrate to other countries.

 

 

What was the most amazing moment that you captured on camera or through poetry during your trip there?

 

This is difficult to answer.    At the risk of sounding cliche, I have to say it is one of my very first photos there.  It was of a man who was standing at the Chai stand.  It was the first day of my arrival and I did the very first thing that one is not supposed to do….go to a street cart, but how could I help it?  It was Chai after all!

First Face of India _new

When the cab came to a stop just before asking if we wanted Chai, we hopped out and dashed across the highway.  We were still very much in Delhi and hours away from Rishikesh.  As we waited for the cab driver to talk to the guy at the Chai stand, we waited.  I had my camera around my neck and noticed all of these individuals start to approach.  There was a family in the car, and other individuals that seemed to come closer, all wide-eyed with curiosity.  I was nervous because all of my life, I was chastised for staring and told it was rude.  I had to adjust my thinking to what was happening in that moment.

 

 

 

What kind of work do you do to support yourself?

 

Honestly I only do what feeds my soul so ‘support’ also means feeding myself beyond just a paycheck.  I am: a Director of Development, I organize the Slow Living Summit, and I have Media and PR clients (authors, artists, and some businesses).

And of course, I am an active artist though I have not started to sell my work yet.  There is a common thread here and it is the fact that I have a fondness for storytelling and integrate it into my life.  Thus, anything I can do to create a bridge or a connection through story that will inspire change or a positive outcome as a grant writer, through organizing and helping to bring people together for the Slow Living Summit, providing visibility for my clients through my media work, and/or through my art nurtures me deeply and my need to be of service.

 

 

How does dancing come into play in your life?

 

I have always been inclined toward movement though I always joke that I was not in dance at a young age.  I set a goal in my 20’s that I wanted to learn different forms of dance.  I was drawn to bellydance. This dance and art form connects me to something that I felt I was lacking as I became a woman–a bridge to the sacred feminine.  It is hard to quite put it into words, but as I have done more reflection in my life, I realized that I was never taught how to be a woman.  It also does not help that we don’t really have a right of passage in this culture.  My bellydancing and the most recent Cameroonian dance that I have learned put me in touch with what it means to be feminine and tap into my inner Goddess.

 

You are an artist.  You dance, write, do photography, call yourself “The Woman Who Dreamed” – and along with all of this artistic stuff, you also have a Masters in Business and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality.  How does your education tie into your artistry, or does it?

 

Yes in a number of ways.  A couple of years ago, when I came back from India and did not have any paid work at the time, I used the opportunity to position myself for opportunities that were a match for what I had to offer.  In business, there is something known as a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threats/Challenges (SWOT) analysis that is used to help identify gaps that need to be addressed while highlighting what is working well.  I applied this to my own life, when things did not feel so fulfilling (like finding myself unemployed when my contract ended in 2011), I asked myself “What are the opportunities here?  What are my challenges?”  When I came back, I applied this analysis to creating some opportunities for myself.

My professional and education experience also taught me the art of building/maintaining relationships and strengthened my entrepreneurial spirit.  As an artist, I noticed how my business and work experience has provided me with a strong foundation for thinking strategically about my approach to projects and creating key relationships.

There is a joke that sometimes artists don’t know how to market or self-promote or that they are so into their art, they let others handle that piece for them.  While that is not true of all artists, I have certainly recognized where my degrees and past careers lend themselves to my artistic endeavors.  And of course, even as I answer these questions about my art, I am thinking from a business perspective “What is my next step?  How do I need to brand myself?  What are my goals?”

 

 

Shanta L.Evans-Crowley, MBA

Multifaceted Professional/Photographer/Writer/Dancer

My LinkedIn:  Shanta on LinkedIn
My Photography Site: Stories We Tell Photography

Check Out Perfect Imperfection: A collaborative photography exhibit and project by photographers Liz LaVorgna  & Shanta L.E.

About the Project
The Beauty of Imperfection

Visit Us on Facebook!

 

My Blog where I share thoughts and ponderings about everything from life to thinking inspired by conversation  http://www.reformer802.com/realtalk/My photography site: http://storieswetellphotography.com/

Ponder This (Radio):  Every week on Green Mountain mornings, I share thoughts and ponderings via radio, this piece is about Conscious Starvation (in the Emotional sense), it starts about 6:30 into this piece:
https://soundcloud.com/wkvtradio/ponder-thiswith-shanta-10

Capturing Wildlife

 

 

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Wouldn’t it be nice to watch “bird tv” or “deer tv?”  You can pick up a Wildlife Camera, set it up in your yard or favorite animal watching area and record images to view later.

There are a number of channels on the internet that stream nature to us.  You can click in and watch birds in a nest or you can watch owls and other animals interacting with each other.  Setting up one of these cameras is relatively easy and you can sit back and enjoy what nature does from a distance without distracting them!

 

Stevie’s Soul is More Than Photography

We give you Stevie. Stevie is a woman who followed her passion all of her life and allowed it to lead her into a world of photography, video, film and independent music management and promotions. She’s got a very full artistic plate. We’d like to touch on the things that she does and find out how she got there.

It is interesting how you combined your love of photography with music. What came first, the interest in music or photography?

 

Photography…I didn’t fall in love with music until I was a pre-teen and started changing the station on the radio to the soul station. As a kid watching National Geographic on TV, it inspired my desire to be a photographer. I envisioned myself on safari in Africa taking pictures. Haven’t been to Africa yet but, that’s coming… My first photo was published was in 1992 of Kris Kross n Speech n Wendy Moten….. My first magazine cover was “Right On!” in 1994.

As a teen I discovered Chaka Khan and fell in love with her music… I wanted to meet her… the only way I figured I’d meet her was by working in music… it worked. I met her in the first time 92′.

 

What do you prefer more, photographing musicians live or doing studio shots and why?

I love shooting concerts… capturing the moment…the emotion…I’ve become pretty good at that. Music is emotional.

Some of Stevie’s photography work

 

How did you get started with photography?

I kind of fell into being an entertainment photographer. In the late 80’s I was working with Toni Braxton. I went to a music conference down in Atlanta called “Jack the Rapper” to network and to promote her. I used my camera as an ice breaker… I used to be shy…believe it or not.

 

Artist management and promotions. What led you into that field?

I got into promotions right out of high school. Answered an ad in the paper. I helped this company promote a comedy show. Promotions come natural for me. If I dig something, I tend to tell the world.
Artist management – I was working with these guys with a production company…I put up all the money to get it incorporated and signed Toni Braxton. We became disillusioned with their work ethic, so we split from them and she started calling me her manager and we continued our hustle, until La Face picked her up.

How many artists do you manage?

La Veda

Right now, One…La Veda and I’m looking at a couple others, but La Veda is keeping me quite busy. www.reverbnation.com/laveda3

 

You are what you called an “Indie Artist Advocate.” What does an Indie Artist Advocate do?

Promote Indie Soul artists out of the love in my heart for them. I take their photos, blog about them, tell people about them, support their performances, shoot live videos and post on my youtube page in social networks and play their music on my podcast/radio show called “Stevie’s Soul Love 101”.

 

How did you get into that field?

Well it started with meeting DJ Frances Jaye @ Morgan State University homecoming concert featuring Amel Larrieux and her telling me about her station neosoulcafe.com. This was at the end of 2005… All this beautiful soul music that she played and commercial radio didn’t …I was hooked, told everyone I knew about it. Then in 2007 I was at the B stage of Balto’s African American Heritage Festival and this amazing

Sy Smith

performer by the name of Sy Smith (www.sysmith.com) blew me away. We became quick friends…A light bulb came on… It dawned on me that she couldn’t be the only one; I soon discovered many more. I realized every one of her songs that I’d been hearing on DJ Frances station I loved.

I told everyone I knew about Sy, brought all her music and I started taking vacation days from work and traveling everywhere she was performing, taking photos and video of her, spreading the word.

Everyone that know me knows I love me some Sy Smith…she’s is so very talented!!! not to mention she is one of the coolest people on this earth.

Your artist La Veda has had some recent successes internationally. Tell us how you created opportunities for her.

La Veda

If I tell you my tricks of the trade who’s gonna hire me…lol… I’m a promoter and I network my butt off. I know quite a few industry folks and DJs all over the world and am always open to meet more.

It also helps greatly that she records HOT songs… She’s an amazing artist on so many levels. Very focused, level headed, great range, she’s just a STAR. Everyone falls in love with her.

I’m losing count on the number of DJs and producers wanting to work with her from all different countries…It’s quite exciting.

We have a release coming from the UK with Italian DJ/ producer Phat Frank and South Africa, her producer Cafrodeep…and after the ink has dried on a few other projects I’ll share.

 

A lot of female artists have challenges working with men, especially because the music industry is a little more male-dominated. As a female manager and promoter, do you find opposition from men?

Nope… I get respect… they love me. They see and respect my hustle. They have been my biggest supporters.

 

Photography and video seem to go hand-in-hand. Do you find that to be true? Could you elaborate on how you make the transition between the two seamlessly?

Depends on who’s holding the camera. Vision is different for everyone…that’s why I love photographers. I kind of shoot video the way I take pictures, to capture the moments. So it’s not really a transition but more like my vision. And often I do both at the same time. This photographer in DC took a picture of me doing that. I use both my hands.

 

What kind of video work do you do for others?

I’ve done event videos, a couple of music videos, and promo videos.

 

Tell us about “Hip Hop for the Homeless.”

In 2010 a young Baltimore rapper by the name of Lano (Bomb1st) saw a homeless advocate’s son on the news talking about how folks didn’t seem to give as much since his mom, Bea Gaddy, died. Lano decided to get some of his fellow rappers to hit the streets and perform and collect canned goods. That’s how it began.
Phone calls were made to get local media support and people at Radio One got involved. That’s where I met everyone for the first time, I was with the video crew taping drops for promo commercials.
I sat down at the big conference room table and became apart of the team. Everyone just got in where they fitted. I wound up being the photographer for the movement. I’m now one of the administrators.
Now twice a year, summer and winter, we gather hip hops artist from all over the city to perform on the east and west sides of town outside at Rim Source & Wheel Deal. We sit out boxes and collect food and clothing for our homeless brothers and sisters.
We also go to a place called “bum city” (terrible name I know) and we take clothing and hot meals and break bread with our less fortunate brothers and sisters. We talk with them and let them know we care.
I did a mini documentary about it complete with my photos: http://youtu.be/xsZTZWBi0OE

 

How do you find the artists that you manage? What does an artist need to have in order for you to consider managing them?

Actually they find me. I don’t go looking for them. It’s a lot of work. People tell me it takes a special person to be an artist manager and I’ve come to learn exactly why they say that. It ain’t easy!

La Veda is my ideal artist. She’s got international appeal. She writes great songs, sings, arranges, records herself and she’s loyal. She has an understanding of the industry that I find a lot of artists don’t. She’s patient and works at reaching her dream. She’s beautiful; she models and is an actress too. Her resume is pretty cool. She’s the Greatest!

Mmm, to consider managing someone else they’d pretty much have to be like La Veda…she’s ideal. I do however consult with artists and help them out when I can.

 

You are officially published writer. Is there more of that coming?

Yes most definitely. I’ve always loved to write. I recently pulled out notebooks and notebooks of short stories, poetry, songs and this novel I wrote. I’m interviewing a couple of artists to do blog postings on their stories as well.

I love to read; it’s one of my favorite things ever. I have quite a few favorite authors: J. California Cooper, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, E Jerome Dickey, Octavia Butler, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, etc.

 

You are now getting into the engineer’s booth in the studio. Tell us what you are doing and why you’re getting behind the board.

I don’t know…like I need something else to do… What happened was I had booked a date for La Veda in my friend’s studio and my engineer couldn’t make it at the last minute. So I just jumped in and worked the pro-tools. My photoshop knowledge helped me and I made a lot of phone calls. We recorded for about 5 days straight. We got a lot done – once I got the hang of it.

 

Congratulations on your independent radio show is being syndicated. What is the focus of your show and why do you think people find it so interesting?

Thank You! I play indie soul music and sometimes hip hop and soulful house and lounge … its been called eclectic. I basically play what I like listening to. I just play good music. I have pretty good taste in music.

We’re missing good old R&B love songs on mainstream radio. We never stopped making our music, the radio just stopped playing it. We as a people always communicated through our music. Love songs are what I play. Love makes the world go round. Love is good.

 

Stevie, everyone dreams of being self supporting by doing what they love. You’ve gotten to that point now. Was it an easy journey? Is there anything that you would have done differently and any advice you have to offer to other women who would like to get there?

I’m still on my journey. I do what I love and I love what I do. Nothing worth having is easy. Just meet the challenges along the way and have faith. You are here for a reason. It’s Divine order. Live your purpose and always give back. Love, support and respect each other. I’m a part of a strong team. We’re all leaders!

Spread love.

Oh, by the way, the team is also shooting a movie called “Hood Dreamz” which is a screenplay by Anita D. Foster (one of my business partners, we met around the conference table at the first Hip Hop 4 the Homeless)… we’ve been shooting since Feb… I play a cop.

 

Photo Credit: La Veda ~ Darrin K. Bastfield (2nd photo)
Photos of Stevie: Shedrivin Photography
All other photos: Stevie


Stevie’s Soul LLC

www.youtube.com/stevie0323