We had the good fortune of connecting with Kemi “TRUTHIS” Karim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kemi “TRUTHIS”, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
Finding a balance between my work and professional life has been the single most important decision that contributes to my overall success. I put a lot of my energy and passion into everything I do, so there were times when I’d lock in and never come up for air. I had a habit of overworking to the point of exhaustion or failing to be firm in my boundaries with clients.
The truth is entrepreneurship is often too glamorized. Many people are intrigued by the freedom of working for themselves but are very unprepared for the demands that come with that. I had to learn to give myself grace. I had to accept that sometimes, I may not be able to please everyone. I had to learn to prioritize my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health if I wanted to be the best version of myself. Rest, routine, organization, and discipline maintains everything.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I first began shooting, I had this fear that no one would take me seriously if I moved between different styles of photography. I have a lot of range and variety in the way I capture people and I believe this is what separates me from other photographers. There’s a particular depth and intimacy that is present in all of my work and the reason for that is my ability to deeply connect with my subjects and gain their trust. I feel proud to know that people feel safe and seen when working with me.
Post-graduation, I decided to use my time reviewing everything I ever shot (and saved); My goal was to improve the quality of my work while finding patterns in my subject matter. I looked closely for colors, textures, and lighting that spoke to me. From there, I worked tirelessly trying new techniques, researching, and learning from more experienced photographers. It took me stomaching my ego to appreciate being a sponge. I began to love the journey and not just the products of that journey. It was then that art and creation felt harmonious to me. I feel driven by creativity and allow it to flow through me abundantly.
I had to sacrifice a lot of my time away from things I love because I knew that my art needed my full attention. Sacrificing can seem scary or make you feel like your missing out on something. When you feel called to do something, when it lights a fire in you, follow that feeling. Honor that feeling and know that on the otherside of that is any world you imagine.
On the other hand, I’ve learned that my personal life is just as important as my work, so I must give myself room to exist freely whenever I can.
I want people to know that the choices they make now will shape their future. No matter where you come from, there’s a place for you. And if you can’t find a place for you, create one. Find something you love or something you’re good at and build it on foundations of community, purpose, love, and change. I’m not even close to where i’d want to be at in life, but I know myself and how far I’ve came. Most importantly, I will never forget where I came from.
Growing up in public housing only made me hungrier for a different life but appreciative of the one I’ve been given. There’s a grind in me that has been shaped by my environment. And although my past isn’t pretty, I am forever grateful to have learned from it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ah, I love this! I’d encourage them to book their stay in Brooklyn so we are in close proximity. After settling, I’d take them to some of my favorite spots throughout the city. If they’re up for it, we’d exercise too. Here’s a list of some of my favorite places, to eat, party, or things I enjoy doing in NYC (in no particular order).
* Lips Cafe (Great for weekend fun and the best chai lattes I ever had in my life lol)
* Aunts et Uncles (Brunch + Dinner)
* Any current galleries or exhibitions that pique our interests
* Events on the future of the creative economy
* Brooklyn Bridge Park (picnics + roller skating)
* Urban Vegan Kitchen (Dinner)
* Domino Park – Night by the pier
* Nuyurican Poets Cafe for a night of poetry
* Empanada Mama
* Lot 45
* Coney Island/Luna Park
* Mini Golf in Tribeca
* Arcade in Chinatown
* Any parties that pique our interests
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family and close friends deserve the biggest shoutout. In moments of doubt, they’ve kept me whole and given me the strength to keep going. I have to give a special shoutout to fellow entrepreneurs for waking up every day and getting to it. To my professors and staff from my alma matter, Professor Cook, Dr. Cramer, Dr. Blackmon, and Ms. Williams, thank you for seeing me and pushing me to follow my own path. Thank you to Ijana Nathaniel (my first mentor) for helping me discover my love for teaching others, using my voice as a tool, and being my first example of leadership within Black communities. My appreciation for you is unwavering.
Kemi “TRUTHIS” Karim