Author Archives: Ava Donaldson
Pixel creators document what it means to be truly seen
Back in February, many of you saw our Super Bowl ad, “Seen on Pixel.” The spot told the story behind Real Tone, Google’s years-long effort to ensure all our camera and imaging products accurately represent all skin tones.
“Seen on Pixel” doesn’t just represent Google’s commitment to image equity, it's an invitation for all Pixel owners to take more beautiful, more equitable images. So for Season 6 of Creator Labs, we invited 23 artists to tell their stories.
While these 23 artists — our largest Creator Labs incubator to-date — come from varying backgrounds, identities and places, common themes emerged from their respective interpretations of “Seen on Pixel” as their prompt. They focused on things like individuality, community and identity.
MaryV, Coyote Park and Anthony Prince Leslie turned the camera on themselves, exploring what it means to be “seen” through your own lens. New artist Coyote Park says they want their work to speak to trans, Indigenous youth. “I want them to know that we are powerful and beautiful,” Coyote says. “For me, the act of shapeshifting is spiritual and a mode of self love. It allows me to embrace myself in my entirety.”
Chiara Gabellini and Tim Kellner also wanted to capture a sense of vulnerability in their projects, while Natalia Mantini and Andy Jackson took intimate portraits of their chosen families.
At right: Chiara Gabellini's work; at left: Tim Kellner's work
At right: Andy Jackson's work; at left: Natalia Mantini's work
Shikeith and Lawrence Agyei photographed churches, as well as the youth boxers of The Bloc Chicago. They both focused on the idea of what it means to be Black, queer and spiritual
At left: Shikeith's work; at right: Lawrence Agyei's work
Andre Wagner documented Black skate culture. He photographed his subject, Ant Lava, who finds reprieve in the roller rink, where he says he feels safe.
Myesha Evon Gardner, who photographed her hometown of Cleveland, was inspired by a childhood memory: “My mother had a kitchen towel set that depicted a honey bear with a variation on the phrase ‘home is where the honey is,’ which inspired and shares the name of this project,” Myesha says. “I wanted to show the complexities of Cleveland in a light that goes against its negative associations.”
Ultimately, that’s what Season 6 is about: Celebrating what it means to truly be yourself in spaces that feel sacred to you — where you feel seen.
Other artists who were part of this season include: Kennedi Carter, Glassface, MaryV, Adrian Octavius Walker, June Canedo, Anthony Prince Leslie, Aidan Cullen, Zamar Velez, Chiaara Gabellini, Pegah Farahmand, Neva Wireko and Myles Loftin.
Creator Labs artists take on the Pixel 6
“As humans we are constantly trying to understand ourselves … this is a universal experience, both socially and culturally. I find myself currently in a state of asking questions relating to my own sense of self.” This was what photographer MaryV was thinking while she was working on her latest project with Creator Labs.
Photography by MaryV
Following the launch of Google Pixel 6 Pro in October, MaryV and 12 other lens-based artists were tasked with exploring the idea of “For All You Are,” a prompt referencing why we started the Creator Labs program: We want to give artists the tools to tell their own stories, in their own unique voices.
This year, Creator Labs artists were also able to use Real Tone on Google Pixel 6, a multi-year mission to make best-in-class smartphone cameras that photograph skin more equitably. As part of this initiative, the Pixel team made a suite of improvements and changes across how Pixel’s camera and supporting imagery products work to highlight the nuances of different skin tones beautifully and authentically.
One theme we saw multiple artists focus on was “ancestry,” both from the perspective of honoring traditions and redefining what constitutes family. Anthony Prince Leslie reimagined African Folklore with his piece “Spyda,” which in his words, showcases “the resilience of the Black diaspora and the importance of storytelling as a method of preserving history.” Texas Isaiah paid homage to his childhood home in East New York, Brooklyn. As the first-generation of his family born in the U.S., he never spent time with his extended family. So as a child, his home was filled with native Canadian and South American photographs, souvenirs and other materials his family had collected over more than 30 years.
Myles Loftin challenged the “traditional” family structures with his piece by documenting and honoring his chosen family in New York City. This is an extension of a larger body of work called “In The Life” which centers on Black Queer life.
Photography by Myles Loftin
While each artists’ work is unique, they all invite us to reflect and be vulnerable.
Other Creator Labs artists include Mayan Toledano, Pegah Farahmand, Kennedi Carter, Aidan Cullen, Andre Wagner, Tim Kellner, Natalia Mantini, Josh Goldenberg (glassface) and June Canedo. You can see examples of their work and more from the artists above onthe Pixel Instagram page.
Pixel artists show what ‘progress’ means to them
Photos by Natalia Mantini, MaryV and Tim Kellner
In her latest piece, "A gente mora por cima e abaixo do perigo," June Canedo documents her family's immigration from Brazil. “The many lessons from my home place and family, which I interpret into objects, are markers of my movement,” she explains. “Often forward but with many detours along the way.”
The same could be said of Google Pixel’s Creator Labs’ latest body of work: The program most recently invited nine artists to explore the idea of progress, captured on Pixel 5.
Like June, photographers MaryV and Andrew Thomas Huang explored heritage in their work, looking at how we carry forward certain traditions. MaryV commemorated her friend Aeron and daughter Becca in Korean Hanboks. Andrew showcased his reconnection to his Chinese ancestry by incorporating Taoist scripture and symbolism; he felt compelled to share an intimate self portrait literally reflecting his self discovery.
Two of our artists trekked alone into state parks with their Pixel devices — thanks to exceptional battery life, no extra equipment needed. Tim Kellner captured vibrant images of flora in his piece “Distant” while Natalia Mantini said she wanted to “soothe the viewer with beautiful, meditative imagery amplifying the historical practice of healing through Earth” in her series.
Inspired by the motto of his native Jamaica, Anthony Prince Leslie created a piece inviting us all to find common ground.
All of the artists interpreted progress differently, but each left us with a similar feeling — a feeling of forward movement and positive momentum. Creator Labs artists also include Josh Goldenberg (Glassface), Kennedi Carter and Mayan Toledano. You can see examples of their work and more from the artists above on the Pixel Instagram page.
Pixel artists take time to refresh, reflect and create
For Tim Kellner, a nomadic photographer and filmmaker in the program, the COVID-19 pandemic led to taking a step back from his art. “Quarantine gave me time to think more deeply about the types of things I wanted to create,” he says. “I was surprised after that break to feel a drive to create again that I hadn't felt for a few years.”
Tim is one of Google Pixel’s Creator Labs artists who’s been exploring the side effects of spending more time alone. Creator Labs is an incubator for emerging photographers, directors and YouTubers that launched last winter, pre-pandemic. All nine of the program’s recurring artists pivoted to working virtually with us this past summer.
Armed with the Pixel 5 and their imaginations, the artists set out to create work grounded in social impact and cultural narrative (captured in a COVID-safe way, of course).One theme all of the current Creator Labs artists are embracing is the idea of space. Los Angeles-based Creator Labs veteran Glassface has been exploring isolation and mental health throughout his tenure in the program. “We’re all going through a mass shared traumatic experience right now. It feels like a really necessary time for meaningful art. I’ve been able to hone in on the art and music I want to be making, and I’ve been reminded of why I create in the first place,” Glassface says. “I think art can be a guiding light during difficult times like right now, and that’s informed and inspired my approach heavily. I’m taking a lot more risks and only putting my energy into the creative projects that mean the most to me.”
New York-based program-newcomer,Andre Wagner, like Tim, decided to turn the camera on himself “I’m always making self portraits but something about this time in particular led me to putting more focus on myself as the subject matter. There have definitely been surprises, and for me that’s needed because it helps sustain the effort.”
Other self portraits celebrated the artists’ heritage, including Los Angeles-based photographers June Canedo and Andrew Thomas Huang. June photographed herself wearing an embroidered handkerchief, representing her family’s history of domestic work, while Andrew’s photos pay homage to the Chinese Zodiac—with a Sci-Fi twist.
Creator Labs also includes artists Mayan Toledano, Kennedi Carter, Natalia Mantini and Anthony Prince Leslie. You can find their work on Pixel’s Instagram page.
The work of our Creator Labs artists is a reminder for all of us that isolation can have a silver lining—in this case, giving us more space to think, reflect, refresh and create.
A look at art in isolation captured on Pixel
Every industry has been affected by COVID-19, and the art world is no exception. Content creation requires a new level of imagination as many artists figure out how to approach their work within the confines of shelter in place.
Google Pixel’s Creator Labs program, an incubator for photographers and directors launched in Q4 2019, faced these new challenges as well. But the program’s simplicity actually aided the artists. Because Pixel was their primary tool, Creator Labs artists were able to explore ideas that came to them in quarantine, through an unfiltered lens. Given Pixel features like 4K video, Portrait Mode and HDR+, no complicated camera setups or highly produced shoots were necessary.
Many flipped the camera on themselves, exploring the fluid dynamic between artist and muse. Myles Loftin, an artist based in New York who focuses on themes including identity and marginalized people in his work, dug deeper into exploring the importance of intimacy right now. “Taking self portraits has been one of the main things that has helped me pass the time during the last few months. I feel like being indoors for so long I've been so much more in tune with myself and my body,” Myles says. “The Pixel makes it easy for me to set up really quickly and take self portraits whenever I want.”
Another artist, who goes by the alias Glassface, took a look at the tension of our new virtual work lives. “Nothing kills creativity like fear or depression. And often, nothing helps heal and reshape our mental health like creativity itself,” he explains. “Isolation is a tough pill to swallow, but often it breeds incredible work.”
You can discover more Pixel-made art, including the work of several Pixel Creator Labs artists, on our Pixel Instagram page.