Blake • Photographer and Activist
Blake is from Cheyenne, Wyoming, grew up visiting Denver most of his life, and calls his move from his hometown to the Mile High City a natural progression. After his relocation to Denver 13 years ago, Blake spent 10 years in corporate America until he discovered photography and decided to branch out on his own. In addition to being an incredible photographer, content creator, and social media manager, Blake now identifies as an activist; an identity he took on in the midst of the movement for Black lives. During our conversation, he spoke candidly about this new role, the weight of it, and what it means to him.
Blake also has a strong support system here. He shared that he loves how easy it is to build bonds and create community in Denver, and that very same community was there for him when he struggled with addiction to alcohol 5 years ago.
We met in Five Points, and exchanged our opinions on how Denver needs to grapple with its racist past and current troubles like gentrification. We also agreed that Denver is a beautiful city full of beautiful people, but not having a large population of Black people is challenging. Blake is vulnerable and kind and always open to learning. When I asked him to describe Denver in one word, he replied, “naive.” Keep reading to find out what it means to be him, here.
Who are you?
I’m a Black man who is really trying to figure out how to navigate a world that doesn’t really like Black men. I never really had this rich embrace of my Blackness until the last five years. Honestly, what really opened my eyes and put my experience into perspective was Get Out. Before, I took pride in being the only one like, “Yo, I am the Black person in this space,” but it was never from a place of power. It was from a place of being other. I didn’t realize that until relatively recently. So who I am now is someone who is trying to live within my Blackness and understand what that means for me, and understand that Blackness is not homogenous. There are so many different ways to be Black. I am embracing what Blackness is for myself and how that changes my art. I also look at my responsibility as being somebody with some level of influence and the responsibility that comes along with that, and living within that. That’s who I am: a Black man who gives a shit. Who wants to be as empathetic as I can.
What does it mean to be you?
It means to be conflicted, a lot. It means having walking contradictions all in one body and also realizing that to be me every single day is to feel a lot, to feel deeply, all the time. That’s why I never was on antidepressants. That’s why I’ve never been on any type of medication. Taking those as a kid or young adult was a dampener. I wouldn’t feel anything. I’d rather feel pain than not feel anything. So that’s what it feels like to be me, is to constantly be walking with a wide range of emotions. I’m never just blasé – I always feel a certain way.
What does it mean to be you here?
It means to have a responsibility. That’s what I feel. I feel like at this moment, there are people that are still trying to find out where they fit into what it means to be a conscious human being. I think I’ve found that and what comes along with that is a level of responsibility. Not only to myself – to educate myself and to learn all the -isms and to fully formulate my ideologies but to walk within that. So I have a responsibility to fully educate myself. To be a better activist. To be a better leader. But there is also a lot of fear that goes along with that. Not only of the immediate danger being in the streets and protesting and doing the actions and being out there, but there’s also the immediacy of the danger that’s in front of you when it comes to the police or white supremacists or apologists. There’s also a fear that comes along with knowing that I’m not anonymous. There’s a fear that those who want to harm me know who I am and there’s also a fear that I’m gonna lead people astray. I’m afraid that I’m not worthy of the position or the platform or the influence or the voice in the first place. So there are all of those emotions. So what it means to be me here right now is responsibility. It’s pretty heavy, but it also gives me purpose for the way that I walk and the way that I present myself.
What do you love most about living in Denver?
I love how deeply and richly community can be built here. This is the only city I’ve ever lived in but I have learned from other transplants that have moved here from other bigger cities that this is a unique feature of this city. I’ve also heard people say that it’s a little difficult for them to click with people, and I’m like, “That might be a you problem.” I love that if you’re into something or you have an ideology about your life, you can find your people here. It might be a little difficult, it might take a little time, but I think you will find it. I love the fact that Denver is still really trying to find itself. I love that because there’s so much room to be a part of something that’s going to help build the fabric of what this city is all about. And that once again can cut both ways, because obviously, we’re one of the most gentrified cities in America. So there’s that. But there is this rich tradition and rich history, especially of Chicano culture here. It’s actually something that I grew up in a lot as well, because in Wyoming there is a big Chicano population. I grew up reading a “Lowrider Magazine” and helping my Chicano next-door-neighbor build his lowrider bicycle with the chain and everything. That’s very prevalent here as well. That’s one thing that I think my friend and local photographer, Armando Geneyro does a really good job of capturing. It’s like, there is all this new different stuff that’s cool, but Denver has this culture that is thriving that’s been here forever, and that’s not gonna make the cover of 303 Magazine. So, I do love that about Denver, and like I said, it goes both ways.
How have your experiences in Denver shaped you?
Denver has allowed me to grow in ways I didn’t know were possible. I didn’t know how tight the art community was. I knew there would be opportunities here, but I didn’t know to what end. I’m thankful for that.