Wardell Malloy, affectionately known as “Woady,” is a portrait & lifestyle photographer. His photographs are bold character studies that portray the beauty, boldness, and bravery of his subjects, but they also bare the energy and intimacy of their soul. Sexy, provocative, and vulnerable are a few of the descriptions that come to mind when you look at Wardell Malloy's photography. While these are still images, there is a light in the subject’s eyes and aura emitting from the picture that captivates and consumes your imagination. You simply want to know more about the subject, their thoughts, their secrets, their story, and their lives — you want to tap into their light.
Through his photography, Wardell Malloy wants you, the viewer, to be laser-focused on the breathtaking, beautiful, and beguiling visage — his vision, his art, and his artistry.
In an interview with National Magazine Award Winning Editor, Emil Wilbekin, Wardell Malloy discusses the influences, inspiration, and intention behind his photography. Bare witness to the musings behind the masterpieces.
Exclusive by Emil Wilbekin
Emil Wilbekin: How did you get into photography?
Wardell Malloy: I would say photography got into me. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to look at images…. family photos, album covers, fashion magazines, you name it. The idea that you can connect with a moment, personality, or even parts of one’s soul through a photo has always fascinated me.
Emil Wilbekin: Did you always want to be a photographer?
Wardell Malloy: I think my dream, subconsciously, has always been to tie in all my passions: music, photography and fashion. As a college student at Virginia State University, I majored in fine arts, ending up at the Fashion Institute of Technology, majoring in graphic design, with a minor in Fashion Advertising & Marketing. I left school and began to work in the music industry for the next 24 years.
Not feeling totally fulfilled in my music career, I began my journey of discovering my true purpose and passion. I wanted to discover my own voice and expression. During this journey, I was gifted a camera from my good friend, music producer Joe Wilson. Joe knew there was more to me than what I was tapping into. He taught me a few basics on how to use my new Canon 7D and off I went. I would practice on still objects but that was about it. Then one day I decided to meet up with my good friend, singer/songwriter, Elijah Blake. What was supposed to be just a regular hangout turned into a full-on photo shoot that lasted the entire day. That was what I needed to propel my art forward. We were both in a space of reimagining ourselves more clearly and this was the beginning of both of our new chapters in life. I tapped into something special that day and could feel it in my soul.
During the session with Elijah, even though we had been friends for years, I realized there were many sides to his personality, I didn’t know existed. This was very exciting for me! From there, he became my muse. We began documenting the transition in his artistry, image and growth personally and professionally. During this time, I also reconnected with beauty photographer Dae Howerton, who I met a few years back in my music industry life. I informed Dae that I had picked up photography and he offered to give me a few pointers. This changed my life. Not only did he teach me all I needed to know about lighting and other technical aspects of photography, but he did it so willingly. Not looking for anything in return… just wanted to share his knowledge.
Emil Wilbekin: What is the biggest influence on your work?
Wardell Malloy: Faith, Hope and Love.
I want my work to promote self-love and love for others. Tolerance for people you may not understand. My coffee table book in conjunction with HOPE FOR HARVEST is very important because it tells a visual journey of a community that does not have access to certain resources and services, in order to make sure the children and adults in that community have hope. Through love, we can give hope. Hope that our yesterday does not have to be our tomorrow. It all ties back to love and I want my work to reflect that. Love for others but most importantly love of self.
My people are also a big influence on my work. There is beauty in all ethnicities/races and I want to capture them all. But as a black man, I do feel it is important and necessary to highlight my people from our perspective. I want to help tell our stories and break certain stigmas that plague our communities.
Emil Wilbekin: What is your dream as a photographer?
Wardell Malloy: I want my work to bring forth a statement of truth and I want that truth to be led by my heart. For myself and the artist I work with. I want to build my world around that truth, walk through that power of authority and do it through my lens. My photography becomes a conversation and hopefully, in that conversation, LOVE becomes the focus and connection.
I enjoy capturing hope in a troubled soul. It’s all in the eyes. With my capture, I offer a new and improved caption of their self-worth. Finding them where and beyond where they are — beyond what they see.