Growing up in Virginia, she was known by her friends to always have a camera in hand. Digital, disposable, it didn’t matter. Any time could be an opportunity to capture the moment. “I guess it’s always been in me to be a storyteller.”
Keashundrea Donald, but you can call her KeeKee, relocated to Memphis, TN and gave birth to her first child – a son. After shelling out thousands of dollars in photographs, the realization hit her. She could capture those memories on her own. She could be a photographer. Those same friends, now miles away, weren’t surprised and encouraged her endeavor.
Not long after giving birth to a daughter, she finally took the leap. In 2017 she founded Photography X Keashundrea, later rebranded as Photos and Phases. In a short amount of time, her company saw tremendous growth through incomparable personable service, community support, and a lot of drive. She’s been featured in the BUMP and MunaLuchi Bride.
If you ask any of her clients, they’ll probably all agree not only is she easy to work with, but her photos take their breath away. The moments she captures are stylized in a way that plays on your senses – smelling the crispness of the air, hearing background laughter, feeling the lightness of the atmosphere, and seeing every genuine emotion. Her photographs are comparable to travelling in time.
That’s because her business runs on this motto. “Bring an idea to me and I’ll explore everything that connects that idea back to you.” Whether it be a wedding, image branding, or lifestyle, she views every experience, or phase in life as a story to be told.
The road to becoming an independent, female black business owner wasn’t easy. There were and still are plenty of hardships to face. “Being a black business owner is trial and error and you really have to experience a downfall, whether it’s through customer service or some kind of loss in business.” Often, there is a lack of guidance for black business owners versus their white counterparts. If you’re looking to start a business as a black person, you could find yourself with limited resources, experiencing prejudice, and no roadmap. And KeeKee is no exception. These proved to be her major challenges. Because of her gender and the color of her skin, she had to work threefold to gain the respect as a business owner. Black people are often seen as a liability and not to be taken seriously.
BUT – she pushed through!
Through her journey, she noticed the importance of community and acknowledging that you can’t do everything alone. Her story, legacy, and kids are what motivated her to persevere. “I don’t think I would be as far as I am without my kids. They definitely are a mirror – one of the biggest mirrors I have. I look at them and reflect it back to myself.” They helped her along her path.
Which is why she has strived to create a communal space for people to network and encourage each other through difficult paths. Paths that may seem insurmountable are possible with a strong support system.
On December 12, 2021, her interactive exhibit – FROM THE ROOT UP is designed not only to showcase her talent but, but to honor black legacy.
“I think it’s really important for us as black people to tell our stories. It could be as simple as taking a photo so it can be passed on from generation to generation.” The idea came from KeeKee’s quest to discover more about her lineage.
“I’m now on this ancestral quest and it’s so hard to find pictures. I’m tearing up thinking about it.” This is common within the black community. Photos, information, history are lost when exploring genealogy. “What were they like, what were they doing, cause that could really help me on my journey.”
KeeKee also attributes the lack of knowledge to black people – believing we rely too much on the school system to tell black stories versus “us taking that power back and telling the stories ourselves.” Her belief is that it is imperative for black children to learn where they come from and that starts at home.
“I look back when I was a child…It would definitely help me now if I had more of those influences.” Now, at 29 years old, KeeKee says this spiritual journey freed her from the conformities of social standards – something she wants for her children.
From The Root Up strives to inspire black people to tell their stories, research black history, and learn more about themselves and their ancestral past. The exhibit will serve as a guide, ushering them along that murky, messy pathway and into awakening.
The photo party exhibit will be held on Dec 12th at 1:11pm. “I came with that date and time because I’m big with numbers. They help guide me…and my daughter was born at 12:12 pm and my son was born at 1:11pm.” The concept is to rediscover black history and honor that legacy, so the dress code is all black or ancestral garments. “You can expect to connect back to our roots, and we’ll have drumming, a DJ, plant-based food, and pictures that help invoke the black legacy within us.”
The event is completely donation based but has a VIP for option for those who want their experience immortalized on a canvas print.
And if you’re a black entrepreneur looking to propel your business or simply looking for the starting line “Just do what you feel, take your time with it, don’t put yourself in a box.”
To everyone else?
“Tell your story, honor your black legacy and the people who came before you – honor yourself and then honor those who come after us.”
To participate in this incredible spiritual experience, you can get your tickets at eventbrite.com. You can also visit her website for more information on her photography, journey, and more at photosandphases.com