—written by Bianca Betancourt @ByBiancaBee
I knew nothing about Felton Kizer when I was first introduced to him via Instagram—not even what he looked like—but I sure as hell, knew his name.
He was the mastermind behind the boldest images that appeared upon my feed daily. He shoots the city’s most diverse and uniquely beautiful faces—his edits are minimal but his vision and composition always executed with ease.
When he did post a picture of himself, it was always an obscured portrait that had a good portion of his face distorted or covered by his surroundings. His mantra was clear : you love me and what I do, without knowing anything about who I am.
When I first met him I was shocked by how wide a smile he had and how big of a taste for rosé he had.
I knew we would be friends.
Though his social media presence downplays his presence as a person, Felton Kizer is by no means shy. After discovering his talent with a camera during high school when he was assigned to be the annual yearbook photographer, he decided to pursue photography and the arts alongside his personal passion for inclusivity and racial politics.
“My primary interest in photography is fashion photography. It’s what i love,” said Kizer. “But when I look for photographers to follow for inspiration I don’t get it from people who look like me. I don’t.
"I honestly cannot name one well known Black fashion photographer. And I know I’m not the only one!”
His goal is simple: to be the best fashion photographer in the game. Though part of his mystic social media persona is so fans and followers don’t credit his work based on his race—meaning, “Oh, he’s great for a black photographer”—his identity still completely fuels his art.
“In order for me to compete with everyone else I have to make sure that [my work] is legit and i run a tight ship,” said Kizer. “Being a creative is not a job title but a lifestyle. I can’t just go clock out and be like, okay done! Let’s go home. No, I don’t have that. I create constantly. I have a 24/7 and not a 9-to-5.”
Kizer is also a proud Chicagoan. He’s lived in almost every major city you can think of (New York, San Antonio, Boston, etc) but always manages to find a way back to the city he calls home.
“No matter where I’ve gone, lived, wherever, I always find a way back to Chicago. It’s home and always will be. I always listen to Kanye’s Homecoming on the flight back,” said Kizer.
Chicago—the culture, the art, and the spirit—are what inspired Felton to create his biggest endeavor yet : Off-Kilter, a magazine that showcases the words, art and stories of Chicago’s shining artists.
Kizer was originally encouraged by close friends to simply create a photo book—but he found the concept boring.
“I wanted something more exciting, more inclusive,” said Kizer. “And plus not everyone is interested in photography. Not everyone’s good at photography.”
The magazine, due to make its editorial debut this spring, features profiles on city boutique owners, artists, designers and of course original fashion spreads. Kizer wants the magazine, from the premiere issue and moving forward, to be a sort of reference guide for burgeoning art and creatives in the city—a map of who’s molding the scene as we know it.
“It doesn’t matter how famous you are, how many Instagram followers you have, art is the only thing that matters [in Off-Kilter],” said Kizer.
“I want to create a space for people who appreciate [the art].”
—watch the promo video for Off-Kilter. Magazine below.