How Creator Labs Buoyed Daveed Baptiste’s Practice

The 27-year-old photographer, fashion designer, and visual artist Daveed Baptiste reflects on how being part of Creator Labs’ inaugural class has helped him “create at the highest level possible,” amassing a production team and industry recognition along the way.

Credit: Daveed Baptiste

The past three years have signaled a momentous shift for Daveed Baptiste. The 27-year-old photographer, fashion designer, and visual artist is continually inspired by his Haitian-American heritage and the formative role that living in Miami and New York has played in his life. His garments, photographs, and moving image works are unflinching portraits of his intersectional identities and background. Awards and grants, like Converse’s All Stars artist program, and the inaugural Creator Labs Photo Fund Grant, have created room in the Brooklyn-based talent’s practice to focus on “creating work at the highest level possible,” alongside trusted—and properly paid—collaborators.

As applications open today for Creator Labs’ third season, Baptiste reflects on his growth, the transformative power of artist residencies, and what’s following his “Ti Maché,” his breakthrough solo show in Brooklyn.

Daveed Baptiste. Credit: Sean Perreira.

Have awards like the Creator Labs Photo Fund Grant allowed you to get more experimental or take more creative risks?

When you receive the award, it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s validation. You feel good that people and the industry are recognizing you. More than half of my career as an emerging creative has been sustained by these grants. The Creator Lab Photo Fund has bought me freedom and the sense that I can do projects that I really care about. I’ve been able to respect my collaborators with proper pay.

You used to make your own sets for photographic projects. How has that evolved since receiving grants like this?

Last year, I was able to get funding [from the Converse All Stars Project] and I still had funding left from grants like Creator Labs. When I started, I was wearing many hats. We created amazing images, but the work could’ve been so much stronger with a team. I was building sets by myself, casting, doing really shitty lighting, and producing the shoots. It’s amazing the liberty and freedom these grants can give artists to create work at the highest level. It’s hard to do that when, by the time you get to set, you’re tired. It was like the creative energy had left my body. That’s changed a lot.

Credit: Creator Labs

I did a residency at Silver Art Projects in the World Trade Center for a year and a half and created some of my best work. It hasn’t been released yet. For every project, I worked on building my team out with people who understood and could execute what I was trying to create. The best part is, the team was the homies—all super skilled. It felt like we were doing big stuff. I plan to show that work at a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MOCADA) in 2026.

What does your practice look like right now? Any upcoming exhibitions or collaborations we should know about?

I’m focusing on other disciplines, specifically fashion design. I just had a smaller fashion exhibition with MOCADA and now I’m preparing to release my first lookbook. I’m doing a residency with Material for the Arts in Queens. They started a design residency program. It’s very new and I’m one of the few designers that has had the luxury of working in that space, and I’m expected to do a fashion exhibition in the late fall.

All Stories