Ones to Watch: Karis Beaumont
Ones to Watch: Karis Beaumont
Written by By Hannah Makonnen
“People say they can feel my photography”, shares Karis Beaumont, 26 year old photographer, born and raised in Hertfordshire. Feeling is exactly what she leads with, then follows her camera. Through the lens of her Black Caribbean heritage, she focuses on people and portraits, capturing the intimacy of relationships in a single shot.
Since starting her career in 2015, her work has been featured in The Guardian, Gal-dem and Dazed, she has worked with clients such as Rolling Stone, Netflix and SSENSE and even won the Power of Fest x Nikon x Jack Agency: The Power of Black Identity award in 2021. But amongst the accolades, it is her work that speaks volumes.
Feeding into her exploration of people she developed ‘Bumpkin Files’, a curatorial instagram that serves as an Afro-Caribbean archive. Featuring sourced imagery from submissions and research online, it documents black life in Britain “beyond the London-centric narrative”.
Scrolling through it’s instagram page you can find a black and white photo of three dapper Jamaican men, in a tailored suit, hat and tie, strolling down the streets of Birmingham in 1955 or the photo of young FKA Twigs, sitting on her bed, looking benevolently into the camera. With it you can’t escape the richness of African and Caribbean history, of lives lived, of culture and most of all, of feeling.
Here, we take a moment to discuss her process and projects as a photographer, featuring her as a creative to watch as she continues her journey and career as a photographer.
How would you describe your craft to others?
I love photographing people. I explore beauty and community in my work. I do that through portraiture, fashion and a little bit of documentary. I focus on people of African and Caribbean descent and the diaspora, but I like exploring outside of that as well. There’s just something about shooting the essence of people that makes me love what I do.
Could you talk us through your project ‘Bumpkin Files’?
‘Bumpkin Files’ is a curatorial project that documents the diaspora, focusing on black life in Britain, beyond London. I source imagery that explore stories from outside the capital cities, including those of Black Irish and Black European communities. There is such a rich history that people are often unaware of, contributing to our erasure in certain contexts. It’s opened up a lot of conversations, even something as small as scanning images of pizza spots, people chat in the comments and it kind of inspires this collective memory. So, I think the project is a lot bigger than me and it is a commitment I will continue as long as I have a camera.
Can you tell us more about the conversations it inspired?
I remember stumbling upon a video on YouTube of what I think was a block party in Chapeltown, Leeds. It’s crazy to think that they still have Caribbean block parties on their street to this day. I uploaded the video to Instagram and people in the comments were like, “Oh my gosh, I think I saw my auntie in the video!” and “That’s my dad, he was the one recording the video!”.
It felt like a trip down memory lane, even though I haven’t even set foot in Leeds yet, but it’s definitely on my list. It was heartwarming to see people share cherished memories or spot their family members in the video. It just goes to show how important documentation is and how much it means to people. That was really dope.
What are some of your biggest influences?
Travel has definitely played a big role in my life. My parents always encouraged my brother and me to explore from a young age. We grew up poor, but my mum would always find deals or reach out to friends who had accommodation somewhere in Spain or something. We would spend a week or so there and it really opened up our minds to how different people live, understanding that there’s a big wide world outside of the UK.
Also my Jamaican heritage. Going back home and just seeing how Jamaican culture is everywhere, in popular culture, in the way people speak, it’s just so ingrained. I feel the need to rediscover my culture and learn more, and having a camera helps me stay curious. I’ve always been nostalgic, like looking at family photo albums, and I think that’s what drew me to photography initially – the feelings that looking at images brought to me.
I’m always inspired by photographers like Gordon Parks and Vanley Burke who spent their careers documenting communities and applying context and storytelling to their work. Travel, heritage, curiosity, and nostalgia – those are my inspirations.
How would you describe your journey from when you started to now?
Overall, I would say that my journey in photography has been liberating. I’ve seen growth in my confidence, the way I express myself and even the way I keep curious and delve into that curiosity. The journey has been character building, but it’s been fun. It’s mountains and valleys.
I began in 2015, but it was in 2020 when I went deeper into photography and began getting paid for my work by brands and clients. Previously, I would create just for the sake of creating. My journey has been spiritually led, with times where I had to say no to opportunities that weren’t right for me. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I trust that God has kept me on the right path.
If you had a protege that wanted to learn how to photograph, document and tell stories, what would you teach them?
I suggest focusing less on the how and more on why. Ask yourself what interests you and why you want to document certain things. Don’t shoot what you think people want to see, but instead, shoot what you see in your own unique way. Nobody will look at the front cover of the book the same way as you do. Embrace your individuality and play around with colours, shades, tones, shapes, and silhouettes to see what works best.
Shoot what you want to shoot and keep shooting. It’s good to try and develop an artistic style, but don’t limit yourself to one box. Stay versatile and approach things with feeling. When people see your work, they should be able to feel the image, whether it’s a portrait, wedding, landscape, or event. Your essence should be within the images.