Most people, when they hear “equestrian club,” probably don’t picture Compton. But Mayisha Akbar isn’t most people. In 1988, Akbar founded the Compton Jr. Posse, a youth outreach and leadership program that imparts and builds self-esteem, responsibility and discipline through the care and competition-level riding of horses. She’d seen first-hand what raising horses had done for her own three kids (it’s a long story but yes, some parts of Compton are zoned for agriculture), and she felt it was too good an idea not to share. And she was right.
Artist Melodie McDaniel, for her part, practices many kinds of photography, from fashion to editorial, landscape to photojournalism. But her friends, like writer Amelia Fleetwood, who introduced her to the CJP, know that what McDaniel truly loves is having the chance to get to know her subjects through her work. Fleetwood, herself a horse lover, put McDaniel and Akbar together in 2015, whereupon McDaniel spent the next two years getting to know the riders and their trusty steeds, witnessing up close and personal the transformative manifestation of the CJP motto: Keeping kids on horses and off the streets. “Daring to Claim the Sky” is the result.
The joy, focus and confidence of the riders are apparent throughout the series, made all the more powerful by the largely incongruous nature of the riders’ surroundings. McDaniel pursued this project with an exhaustive and patient journalistic state of mind — but by shooting the pictures in black-and-white, she anchors the work not only in the evocative and informational sensibility of reportage but also in the broader cultural history of classic equestrian photography, and of both sport and courtly portraiture more generally.
Curated by Audrey Landreth, organized by Amelia Fleetwood, and featuring exhibition design by Mark Montiel. McDaniels’ expansive portfolio of human and equine portraits and action shots is on view through Sunday, May 6, at Hollywood’s Space15Twenty (with a closing reception that day from 4 to 6 p.m.), fittingly as part of this year’s MOPLA (Month of Photography Los Angeles) crosstown exhibitions festival.
Space15Twenty, 1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; closing reception Sun., May 6, 4-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.