A saxophonist at sunset.
A saxophonist at sunset.

PHOTO ESSAY | Jacksonville through the lens of Michael Rakim

Published on November 3, 2021 at 7:28 pm

Introduction by Matthew Shaw | Photographs and captions by Michael Rakim

The first time I saw the work of Wesley Michael Rakim Edwards — who publishes his photography under the name Michael Rakim — I could tell he was a people person. I’d engage with Rakim’s imagery in the way most of us view photography these days — mostly on Instagram, his handle (@rakimism) footnoting countless captions below portraits and press photos of emerging Northeast Florida artists. 

Humble and reserved in conversation, and an admitted introvert, the 28-year-old commercial and freelance photographer doesn’t exhibit the qualities of a social butterfly, but his work reveals him to be a deft communicator capable of telling a novel-length narrative in a single image. 

“[Photography] is my natural way of communicating,” Rakim told me. “I’m not the loudest person in the room or the one that’s going to be comfortable going around and introducing myself. But I try to tune into people’s energy, their style.”

If Rakim’s photos had a sonic quality, it would be a wash of pleasant ambience, the internal soundtrack of someone hyper-aware and in-tune with his surroundings.   

For his Jacksonville Today photo essay, Rakim says he sought out “familiar places of solitude” around the city. 

Here’s Michael:

“With a new frame of mind and focal-length — literally, since I used my Sony A7 III and 24mm-wide lens, a setup I rarely use — I wanted to create some images that really captured the atmosphere of Jacksonville Beach. By pure kismet, I ran into saxophonist Cordell Carmichael, who happened to be playing down on the beach. I listened to his set, and after I snapped a few photos, I got to listen to him tell some stories.

Experiences like that are why I love photography. It’s such a blessing to capture memories around Jacksonville.”

“Both Images of Saxophonist Cordell Carmichael happened so organically. Cordell has played saxophone and other instruments for 11 years and was on the beach advertising his talent. After listening to his set we introduced ourselves and exchanged stories.”
“It was such a beautiful day in an area that I’ve loved to visit since I was a child. I made so many memories on Third Street and at places like Joe’s Crab Shack. It was so long ago, but that day it felt just as vibrant as ever. It reminded me how fleeting life can be, like the bicyclist who came into my frame.”

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And now, some bonus snaps from Michael Rakim’s portfolio. (These were just too good not to show you.)

“When I’m shooting for personal projects, I like to shoot artists that I know personally who are grinding in creative fields. A lot of my personal work is focussed shining a different and new light on the way that the African American community is perceived.”
“The image ‘Compel Them’ is from a series of photos where I included a pencil in the composition. I pulled the title from a poem by Nina Simone. To me, the pencil represents the very first tool that an artist can use to make a difference in this world. Just get something down on paper.”

author image Arts & Culture Editor Matthew Shaw is a writer, editor and musician. His writing has appeared in Folio Weekly, Edible Northeast Florida, The Surfer's Journal, and SURFER Magazine, and he's reported on national stories for The New York Times. He was previously editor in chief of the Void Magazine. author image Lifestyle Photographer/Entrepreneur Michael is an experienced Freelance Photographer with a demonstrated history of working in the events services industry. Skilled in Curatorial Projects and Lifestyle Photography. Strong business development professional pursuing Digital Media degree at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
author image Arts & Culture Editor Matthew Shaw is a writer, editor and musician. His writing has appeared in Folio Weekly, Edible Northeast Florida, The Surfer's Journal, and SURFER Magazine, and he's reported on national stories for The New York Times. He was previously editor in chief of the Void Magazine. author image Lifestyle Photographer/Entrepreneur Michael is an experienced Freelance Photographer with a demonstrated history of working in the events services industry. Skilled in Curatorial Projects and Lifestyle Photography. Strong business development professional pursuing Digital Media degree at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

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