KaiYanna Washington or Kai Tshey is a multi-faceted, creative entrepreneur and freelance photographer. Kai Tshey was raised in Columbia Heights, surrounded by the urban panoramic views of downtown Washington. D.C. During her adolescent years, she traveled throughout the United States and thus encountered a wide range of different cultures and backgrounds that have greatly contributed to her current artistic vision.
As a young child, Kai Tshey was introduced to the world of visual arts by her mother who was a successful graphic designer. This early influence gave her a head start into the world of art and design she is fully immersed in today. Kai Tshey’s interest peaked during the initial Tumblr era of social media. She fondly recalls receiving her first camera and becoming the friend who would document every function with countless photos.
Kai Tshey eventually relocated to Cocoa Beach, Florida. She began to elevate her technical photography skills to successfully capture the kaleidoscopic elements that resided within the sunshine state’s natural scenery. Her dedication and determination to her craft granted her opportunities she could have never fathomed. Kai Tshey began her career journey at Newborn Photography with Jennifer Shaver in Merritt Island, Florida. Newborn photography is where she first created multimedia content for an actual company. She also utilized the studio space to photograph local, rising musicians and lyricists.
After high school graduation, Kai Tshey took her talents to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She embraced yet another new atmosphere photo shot to photo shot. She began to connect with campus life, fellow students, and other intellectuals so much so that they inspired her to execute many creative photo-journalism pieces. Her hard work gained Kai Tshey position of lead photographer at Morehouse College’s student newspaper: The Maroon Tiger. Through this experience, she also began to branch out and find her passion for concert photography.
As an individual, Kai Tshey is a force to be reckoned with. Her desire for personal growth, positivity, and prosperity is inspiring. Conversing with her, you can feel the manifestation that constantly builds inside of her to achieve any dream she can imagine.
“This is the season of manifestation. Words have so much power. These words are how we communicate with the universe. We have to be cautious about the words we use. When you want something, say that you already have it.’’ said Kai Tshey.
Kai Tshey’s impressive portfolio includes visual projects of concerts, festivals, BLM protests, and so much more. She has photographed some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry such as 2 Chainz and Mike-Will-Made-It. She continues to take the world by storm.
Her advice to anyone in the DMV who wants to pursue and fully live their passion is to “Stay close to people who make you feel like somebody and to embrace their shadow side. The shadow side is the side of a person’s personality that contains all the parts of oneself that they won’t admit to having.” Kai Tshey stated. “Embracing this shadow can lead to a greater understanding of your whole self and unlock gifts you may have never known you had.” She truly believes the power of being conscious of her unconsciousness is what helped develop Kai Tshey into the human being she is today.
What or who inspires your photography?
Music inspires me the most. I love all genres of music and enjoy capturing musicians and documenting their growth as an artist. I love the culture of concert photography and being in the pit—it’s a great experience.
The people that inspire me are Black people. We have so much flavor that needs capturing. Because of our history, we have lost so much and don’t typically see images of ourselves in mainstream media. We are not often granted representation. But I believe photography brings that representation back to us.
What are your favorite types of photographs to take?
My favorite photos to take are behind-the-scenes shots. I love taking BTS content for music videos of artists working on their craft—it brings a sense of realism to the picture. I also enjoy capturing people just enjoying themselves at the moment. I love looking back at the photos I’ve taken of artists showing the first stage of their creative process and how they got to the finished product. In my opinion, I feel that some of my best photos are the ones that were not staged or posed. I also enjoy music, photograph and studio work.
How was it photographing the infamous Rico Nasty?
Photographing Rico Nasty was dope. She is very chilled, cool, and just a star! Rico knows what she’s doing. She has a great personality and is just so creative. I hope to work with her again. Scratch that I will work with her again. All the shots on Instagram you see from the photoshoot were behind-the-scenes shots.
Why is it important to tell visual stories of Black culture?
It is important because our stories deserve to be told, and visual representation matters. A perfect example is the Black Lives Matter Movement. Without the camera phone, we might not have seen the injustices that were happening, and some may not have believed it either. It is significant to capture the truth. It helps validate Black people’s stories and that we are in control of telling our own stories. I love the time we are currently in. It is like a renaissance of black art and photography.
What is a long-term goal you have?
My long-term goal is to manage a group of photographers and to have my agency for young black media photographers. I want to help get them into spaces that could provide awesome opportunities for them. Another goal for me is going on tour with an artist and experiencing that tour life. I’ve heard a few horror stories about going on tour but, I still would love to.
Fill in the blank: I love being black because…
Because I harness the sun. Without the sun, there is no light. *mic drop*
Jamaican food, Thai food, and buttery popcorn.
Top 3 favorite Music Artists
Anything within the Neo-Soul Genre
Interview & Article By: Corrin Jones
Edited By : Ambre Tomlinson