VSCO Voices – Khristopher "Squint" Sandifer
Creative expression is a powerful tool for sparking change and creating dialogue. And together with VSCO, we believe that creators are amongst the best equipped to spread and awaken diverse perspectives. For the second year in a row, our program, VSCO Voices, will support five creators with mentorship and $20,000 of funding to make art that empowers marginalized communities in the United States. This year’s theme, Style, drew many remarkable applications and we are excited to be interviewing each creator that was selected for this year’s cohort to learn about them and their projects.
Last week, our VSCO Voices creator feature was Alexandra Cuerdo and her project Dancing On My Own. Today, we are excited to introduce you to another VSCO Voices creator, Khristopher “Squint” Sandifer. Squint is a multifaceted creative whose diverse skill set includes branding, film directing, photography, and public relations. His VSCO Voices project, The Untold Innovations of Jazz, will showcase jazz musicians as inventors of their craft, with the hopes of inspiring other creatives by telling the stories of these musicians creative journey.
We spoke to Squint about his current project, what he is learning, and what advice he would share with someone just getting started on their creative journey. Here is what he had to say.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I began my love for the arts at a really young age. I was 8 when I first started working with film— and when I was 12—I knew that photography is what I wanted to do. In addition to my early exposure to cinematography and photography, jazz had a huge presence early on. My father, my friends, and my grandmother played jazz. To me, jazz and photography are the perfect recipe for creativity.
What is the project you are working on for VSCO Voices?
My project is called The Innovation of Jazz. It’s about being able to capture some of the most iconic and influential jazz artists of our day—showcasing the wide range of influence jazz has on popular culture.
What’s your favorite part about this project?
My favorite part of the project has been building deeper relationships with the artists while hearing some of the most memorable stories.
What kind of work were you doing before the VSCO Voices project?
I was working with professional athletes to help develop their brands.
How does where you live impact your creativity?
The Bay Area is like a central hub. There are so many talented people who come to or are from the Bay Area. This has provided me with the opportunity to build relationships with other artists. Nearly every person I wanted to shoot has been just a call away.
What kind of impact has working on this project had on you personally and for the community?
Because this project is focused on something that I’m so passionate about, I’ve been highly motivated to work. This has enabled me to identify a more evolved version of my creative process, which is something I’ve been seeking for the past 10 years. Through this work, I’ve streamlined how I scale, frame, manage my time, and pace myself. I’ve become more clear about what I want to create and with whom. I’ve been able to craft a process that allows me to create my best work.
I think I’ll have better insight into the community impact once the project is complete. Thus far, I’ve just been met with a tremendous amount of gratitude from the artists. They’ve graciously given me access that has allowed me to capture the talents and perspectives of a wide range of artists.
Hearing someone else’s story of victory or failure can provide the courage and confidence needed to take action in a way that will shape the future. A story can immerse us in experiences and perspectives that we would otherwise never have.
What have you learned so far working on this project?
I’ve learned how creative jazz artists are. Some of the younger artists in particular are able to maneuver within a variety of musical genres effortlessly.
What advice would you share with someone who is early on in their career, aspiring to do what you do?
It’s very simple—I would encourage any aspiring artist to pursue what they love and become a student of their craft.
Do you believe art and storytelling can create change? Why?
I definitely believe art and storytelling can create change. Hearing someone else’s story of victory or failure can provide the courage and confidence needed to take action in a way that will shape the future. A story can immerse us in experiences and perspectives that we would otherwise never have. Storytelling itself is an art, and there are so many ways to tell a story, be it through music, film, photography, painting, or literature. The various art forms used to tell a story help give the story greater impact, making the stories something to be cherished. We would not have history, religion or memories without stories.
What makes jazz different from other genres of music?
It’s lasted the longest and has contributed to every other genre of music.
You’re drawn towards black and white photography. Why is that and how does it influence your own editing style?
Over the years some of the most classic pieces I saw were black and whites. To me, black and white photography is timeless. It’s hard for me to see jazz outside of black and white, so that’s why the majority of the work produced for this project is in black and white.
Jazz is often thought to be a genre dominated by older men. How are you challenging such a narrative with your project?
To some, it may seem to be a genre dominated by older men, but I think that’s a misperception. There are a number of well-known, legendary female jazz artists like Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sara Vaughn. More recently, artists like Lela Hathaway, Mara Hruby, Patrice Rushen, Ledesi, Amel Larrieux, and Erykah Badu, have formulated their own sound through the jazz art form. Through this project, I aim to highlight some of the younger jazz artists, and artists who have been highly influenced by jazz, both male and female.
As someone who often works with recognizable faces, what advice would you share on maintaining good relationships with people you work with?
Treat everyone the same—it’s that simple. Also, be respectful of the time you have with the people you work with.
Access Ventures believes in creators like Squint who can be a powerful force for change. VSCO Voices is a program that helps identify and fund those early-stage creators that create impactful work so that the program might become a catalytic experience to help propel a creators career. Each year, VSCO Voices will select five creators to participate in the six-month program and will provide each of the five grant recipients with mentorship and $20,000 in funding as well as participation in key events with your cohort. Follow along as we continue to update and share more stories about this year’s VSCO Voices creators.
You can read our last VSCO Voices interview with Alexandra Cuerdo.