Lee Cherry, founder of LA’s Cherry Soda Studios, has been working in the entertainment industry for over 20 years. Back in 2014, he was the winner of our “Streamline Your Workflow 2.0” contest, and now, another project has caught our attention.
Cherry has been posting a series of shots on Instagram dubbed #lightupthedarkness as a “creative response” to the election. It’s a concept that dates back to the day after 9/11, when he had a photo shoot with Madonna’s dancers. “Needless to say, showing up was difficult,” he said. “But we kept going through the motions, immersed ourselves in the creative flow, and it was the absolute best antithesis to the destruction that had just taken place. By doing this shoot, I didn’t necessarily make the world better or ‘fix’ anything, but it definitely was a cathartic, healing process.”
Now fast forward to 11/9, 2016, when the photographer felt similar emotions toward Donald Trump’s impending presidency—although he’s not comparing both on a factual level. “Up was down, day was night, and I felt without any sense of control,” he said.
The next day, Cherry and his wife bumped into their neighborhood friends, Alissa and Brynn, who are gay mothers with another child on the way. “They were genuinely distraught over the election, looking for lawyers and seriously considering moving. To stare into the eyes of good people who were in genuine danger of having their basic civil liberties taken from them… Not cool at all. They needed to be seen and heard, and I did the only I thing I thought would help anything.”
Forty-eight hours later, Alissa, Brynn, and their son Orion stood in Cherry’s studio.
“Over the next few days, I met a lot of extraordinary, dynamic, thriving humans,” said Cherry. “I knew some of them, others I met for the first time. It was a combination of friends, and friends of friends. I deliberately chose to not overthink anything. Just do. Go. Shoot. Give. Create. And Valerie Hernandez, my very talented hair/makeup artist, who also happens to be the Latina daughter of a Texan and Mexican, was right there with me.”
According to Cherry, the style of the shoot was inspired by the black squares people posted as their profile pictures in response to the election. “People were expressing the darkness they felt, but I said ‘No! No one has control over my happiness! Not the Donald, not the media, not anyone!'” he said. “As long as your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness doesn’t physically mess with mine, you should be able to go for it!”
How did you come up with the name for this series?
I knew I needed a hashtag and that I had to call it something. I thought of things like #ownyourhappiness, #creativecatharsis or #lightinthedark, but none of them were quite hitting me for some reason. I started researching hashtags to make sure I wasn’t accidentally associating myself with something I didn’t want to be attached to, and I came across #lightupthedarkness, which has a strong attachment to a Bob Marley quote I’d be proud to be associated with.
Is there a couple, family or person who really stood out or made the biggest impression on you?
I can’t really say if one image or story has made a larger impression over another aside from the two moms who kind of triggered this for me. I can tell you that each story and human interaction was unique and the images were an amalgamation of them, me, the environment, and this moment in history. I was very happy with the turn out and the vibe of the people who showed up. It’s a busy, busy life and there was zero agenda for this other than the process and the result. I kind of needed to do it and I think the same goes for the people who showed up.
Mostly because it’s my most active social media account, but I also shared them to Twitter and Facebook. It’s a true combination of personal and professional images and this series is exactly that. I hope as many people as possible see my images. I really believe in #lightupthedarkness! People have suggested doing a show or a book, but we’ll see.
On November 29, Cherry posted his “finale image from this series for now,” but on November 30, a brand new picture appeared. Guess he’s not quite finished yet. But how long will it continue?
“I would love to keep doing this on some level and I really enjoy the process of exchanging energy with all different kinds of people, but I have no idea. I’m keeping this intuitive and I’m not overthinking it.”