You could be having a bad day and stumble on Cheyenne Boya’s page on instagram, and you’ll almost forget that bad days even exists. We don’t know what it is about Cheyenne’s art that catptivated us. Perhaps the warmth, the use of neutral tones and the beautiful faces of Black women draws us deeper to her art.
Cheyenne is Amerindian (I’m not from there; that’s just my name). It’s a pretty name from an American native tribe. Boya is my second name, and it was also my grandmother’s name. There is no particular meaning but in Lingala (one of the languages that we speak in Congo DRC), it means: to come or refuse.
There’s no denial that Cheyenne has a unique name—very rare—and so we were moved to invite her for an interview so she can enlighten us on the roots, aesthetics, and the role of photography in portraying Black identity.
I am Cheyenne Boya; I’m a Congolese - French Photographer and creative director based in Paris. I’m passionate and sensitive to art and travel. I studied Design and Applied Arts for six years. I started photography seven years ago; at first it was just to document my trips, take urban, family friends’ pictures. However, 4 years ago, I began to discover and develop my style for portraits. It was a natural way to express myself, I think. Art is a beautiful way to tell stories without using words.
I’m very thankful to God for this gift: my creativity, and my skills. What I love most about being a photographer is the whole process, from the ideas/inspirations to the results—’Bringing my ideas into life’, pushing myself, trying new ideas, expressing my thoughts and feelings through visuals. Also, I am grateful for the the opportunity to meet and create with amazing people. In some way, photography is therapeutic; it helps to clear my mind as well.
My work is like poetry. I would describe my aesthetics in a few words: colorful, warm, nostalgic, and soulful. I try to capture timeless moments with powerful energy and emotion which resonate with me and people. I love creating ‘a whole vibe’ between the subject and the spot, bringing dynamism with poses and revealing emotion with different facial expressions. You can also find the peaceful part in all my shoots. When the model closes their eyes, it tells other stories: about dreams, self-reflection, inner peace...Be free to create your own story.
I think photography plays a huge role in Representation. Representation matters, I can say it for myself. I know that it's difficult to grow up and to live in an environment where the beauty standards don’t look like you. Where you are not good enough for this or for that, feel uncomfortable, questioning yourself because of your skin color, that’s wrong! I think that if we saw more often, Black people presented in a positive way, we could identify ourselves more easily and be proud.
Personally, I also use my photography as an ode to Black beauty, to diversity, an invitation to embrace our identity and skin. Being Black is beautiful and normal, that’s not a ‘’trend’’. I know that it works when I receive positive messages from people who feel directly connected to my work.
I hope my work will always resonate with me and people through generations. I hope it continues to inspire us to pursue dreams and goals.
Yes it does Cheyenne! We also needed to know the highlights of Cheyenne’s photography career and how she deals with criticisms. Here’s what she had to say.
I'm thinking about Covid; this period wasn’t easy for everyone. I took this time to stay close to my family. Before the first lockdown, my dad was always busy with work, but at this moment, he was at home. I decided to do a special photoshoot named ‘little suburb,’ a family portrait with my brothers and Dad.
Also, I did some portraits with only my dad as a model it was a lovely way to share a moment into my world and understand how I work. Before, he was just impressed by the final results, but working behind the scenes as a model is very different. He appreciated it and understood that my art and passion take time and energy. Yes, That’s a job!
I know I’m the only one who can give the best version of my work, so I push myself to do better. I’m not good enough; I’m more than enough. I just need to trust myself and my path. I share my work on social media which is good to get inspiration, visibility, connections, opportunities, etc. But I also know that can be a struggle with the algorithm (the likes, comments, etc.). The number of likes doesn’t define your art's quality or value. The most important is how you feel about it.
I try to always be my first supporter. I don't want to wait for someone else 's appreciation, to love my work. I’m using social platforms in a healthy way; that’s not a competition. I’m admirative, and I stay inspired by the work of other creative people. I just keep learning, growing, and expanding in my art. I’m also grateful for people who take the time to look at and appreciate my work and send love and support, even if it's not a lot (for them or social media), which means a lot to me.
If I could advise my younger self, as an emerging photographer, I would say: stop talking, stop overthinking, just do it, believe in yourself. Time flies, things happen, you don’t have time for regrets. Stay focused and genuine in your intentions and what you love and get it. Don’t be afraid to fail, ask for help, take risks, try new things – keep learning, getting inspired. It's a long journey, and one-day things that you work for, will come naturally. Stay surrounded by encouraging, sincere and creative people. Be grateful!
And that’s it from Cheyenne’s TED talks! Make sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter so you can get the latest updates on our spotlight stars.
Love and light!