Class of 2018: Adrian Octavius Walker


A "BLK PWR" cross stitch hangs in Adrian's living room.

A “BLK PWR” cross stitch hangs in Adrian’s living room.


Adrian sitting at his dining table in his Oakland home.

Adrian sitting at his dining table in his Oakland home.

Adrian Octavius Walker, Photographer

Adrian Octavius Walker is a force, a power, a strong voice leading a generation of creative African-American men and women. When we selected Adrian to be apart of this guide, we noted the body of work he had produced through the years of living in St. Louis, Missouri and has produced in his time within Oakland, California. Adrian self-published a photography-based book, “My Lens, Our Ferguson,” a documentation of protests against police brutality after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. We spoke with Adrian in his Oakland apartment on a warm Saturday afternoon.

To our readers who did not read our published interview with you, can you give the readers a brief overview of who you are? The type of photography you do, the type of person you are…

My work is inspired by my investigations of the black body, dynamics of the black family and archival work related to the African American experience. Working in both film and digital-format photography, I create intimate portraits based on my studies of human interactions based in urban settings that share untold stories. My photography and installations encourage viewers to address and appreciate the culture of one’s surrounding.

Your work hits straight home on issues regarding African-American men and women. Your self-published book “My Lens,” Our Ferguson,” a documentation of protests against police brutality after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO, was a major success. Walk us through the process of creating the book; what were some thoughts behind the scenes?

I never intended on creating a book. Hell, I wasn’t even supposed to go see what was going on that night things went down. My first day when I went to see what was going was very eerie and this was during the day. I only had gone out at night once, only because I knew that’s when shit was going to turn up and the police would start acting recklessly with the protestors. After shooting images for about 5 days straight and only posting via social media, I thought it would be a good idea to create something you could actually hold and not only see the truth and what was really going on during the protest, but you could actually feel it while looking at my images.

What made you move out to the Bay Area? As a St. Louis transplant, what about the Bay Area appealed to you?

I work for VSCO, which is a photo company that’s based here in Oakland. That’s how I got here.

Art by Ray Neutron hung in Adrian’s living room in Oakland.

Art by Ray Neutron hung in Adrian’s living room in Oakland.

How did you become involved with Southern Exposure and the Green Book: 2018 Juried Exhibition? SOEX dubbed your work new, innovative, risk-taking contemporary visual art practices. Walk us through that.

A great friend of mine and local Photographer named Kierra Johnson hit me with a link for this juried show, so I thought, shit I don’t have anything to lose, so I simply applied and submitted what I thought was my best work yet. “We Matter” explores Black American beauty traditions among black men. The intimacy that I depict in each photograph erases the possibility of a threat often assigned to black men and instead pushes the viewer to see the power of kinship within the black community. “We Matter” seeks to expand notions of blackness by challenging the American socialization of black men.

You are also a father as well—we’d like to know your thoughts about bringing up your child in Trump’s America.

This isn’t his shit. 🙂 As far as Emory Onyx Walker goes (my daughter) that little black girl is going to be fantastic because her parents are gifted and truly blessed to have someone we would do anything and everything for to make sure she is better than both of us combined.

What’s on the horizon for AOW? What can you share with our readers!

Honestly, I’m just looking forward to cranking out my work. I want to explore video and some design. I also started seeing a therapist and she is black! So I’m really just open and ready to explore new creative things. Definitely trust that my works will be hanging a lot more now.

Final thoughts on how the Bay Area can be better in the arts, culture, and race realms?

As far as all the artist goes they are doing their thang. I’ve seriously never been so damn inspired in my life by so many artists working in so many mediums. To the folks with money out there that love our work but don’t want to pay for it, piss off. I feel those are the individuals that should look into opening up spaces for us to be able to work out of at an affordable cost. As long as folks like that hog all the resources just because they can, on top of having the racks to do it, how about helping out your so-called favorite artist on a 1-1 type of vibe rather than double tapping all the time.

// View the rest of Adrian’s work here:

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