We came across Temi and Afritina Coker on Instagram– isn’t that how it works these days? Temi was wearing one of our bomber jackets from the By Way of Dallas collaboration and was shot by Afritina, his creative business partner and wife. After some digging and seeing their incredible work, we knew we had to reach out, get to know them, and share their stories.
Temi and Afritina are both photographers and designers based in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, TX. Temi, a former Adobe Creative Resident, is known for his blend of colorful, geometric graphics and photography. Afritina shares important stories through her photography and art direction. Her latest work, “Heavy is the Head”, is an artistic celebration of Black women who wear the weight of their natural hair in corporate America. Together, they started Coker Studio, a multidisciplinary studio that combines both of their talents.
We recently invited them over to the store and for brunch at Prim and Proper where we chatted for over an hour about everything from their studio to society’s pressures on creatives and our neighborhood.
They’re a reminder of why we love our Neighborhood– it’s full of people striving to lift each other up and valuing collaboration over competition.
Get to know them:
A brief summary of what you do and how you got started:
AC: "I’m a photographer and art director and I work at Coker Studio with my husband, Temi. I originally got started in retail but decided it wasn’t the place I wanted to be. I enjoyed styling, aesthetics, and visuals, but knew I needed something more creative. I started to explore what it would look like to get into photography and that’s how I met my husband."
TC: "I got started in college. I originally studied biomedical engineering to make my parents happy at the University of Houston. A year and a half in, I was like “nope!” So I switched to digital media. I got my first camera in 2011 and it was $360. I had $365. I had $5, but I was so happy. I only got it because people told me I had an “eye”. It was when the iPhone 3 was out. I started taking photos and that turned into weddings, graduation photos. I started doing design as well. I loved looking at ads and billboards and magazines. I would ask myself, why did this capture my attention? I noticed the shapes, colors, and composition. I saw all these things in photography as well."
What has been the most exciting experience in your career?
AC: "The most exciting moment in my creative career has been discovering my attitude of not being afraid to fail. It was very restricting before I got to that point. It was nerve-wracking, especially as an introvert. It was hard to get out of my comfort zone, hard to find community. I just got to this point where I was like ‘eff it, I’m going to go for it. I’m going create freely and with heart.’ I feel so free."
TC: "I’m starting to understand my worth. I was always second-guessing myself. I still do sometimes. My wife had to talk some sense into me. Now, I start to approach people and brands with new-found confidence. I get to speak my truth. I used to always chase clients and lower my value just to get the gig."
*We took a brief break here and discussed society’s expectations on creatives.*
“I think everyone has some form of creativity. I just feel like sometimes we diminish our creativity because it’s not up to society’s standards” – Temi
“Society is really starting to embrace the fact that being creative is a very different, but valuable level of intellect. It’s expressing and reaching people in a very different way.” – Afritina
What's one thing you've learned from each other?
TC: " I’ve learned confidence. She reaffirms me more than I reaffirm myself. She’s taught me patience. She’s very loving and loyal."
AC: "Two main things: 1) he teaches me a lot of the technical parts of being a creative, like the programs and finances. 2) he really taught me to get weird. I’ve always had the inkling to get out of my comfort zone, but I didn't have anyone to resonate with my ideas. It's so great to have a soundboard for my ideas.
TC: “Thanks, you’re very weird. So am I.”
What do you love about your neighborhood [Oak Cliff]? What would you like to see changed?
TC: "I like the creativity of Oak Cliff. It’s a good place for creativity. What I want to see changed… More collaborative and less competition. As people of color, sometimes we feel like we have to one-up our neighbor. But no, we can start our own thing, we don’t have to compete against each other to get this big gig. That's why we started Coker Studio, so we can have a database of people to reach out to and bring along."
AC: "I love the diversity - there’s Bishop Arts, and it’s developing but there are a lot of native oak cliff neighbors there. There’s cool culture. I hope they are able to retain that. What I would like to see changed… echoing Temi, collaboration over competition. I feel like minority creatives in the workspace chosen to meet a quota. That’s probably where the competition stems from. I want to uplift everyone- minority or not. There’s a small group of creatives in Dallas and we should all thrive. "
What guidance would you give people who want to get involved with arts in Dallas?
TC: "They need to be aware of the creative community in Dallas. There’s no point in creating alone. There are friends and people who want to support you and collaborate with you. There are so many creative events in Dallas for you to meet people!"
AC: "I would say, just get uncomfortable – send that email, that DM, have that conversation. It’s going to be uncomfortable for a moment, but it’s going to open opportunities."
Where do you find your inspiration?
TC: "I find it everywhere, to be honest. Here *points around the store*... You just never know, take a walk, talk to someone. Some of my best ideas come when I’m about to fall asleep. Pinterest or Behance could be good, but be careful. Someone once said, 'Don’t inspo yourself to death.'"
AC: "A lot of my inspiration comes from my own personal experiences. For example, I’m into the regality of minorities, specifically black women. One of my topics, that I will be putting into an artistic installation, is black women and natural hair in the workplace. Corporate America can be a touchy subject when it comes to black hair because they don’t understand it. Oh, it’s messy, loud, but it’s black hair. I’m shooting and art direction a photoshoot that pays homage to women wearing the weight of natural hair in corporate America."
We absolutely loved chatting with the Cokers, learning from them, and seeing our Neighborhood through their eyes. We hope you feel the same!