Tamara Woods


Cheyenne Barboza


Adrianna Branin


Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez


Nastassja Baset.

TS Hawkins

TS Hawkins


Written by TS Hawkins (http://tspoetics.com)
Direction:  Sarah Mitteldorf
Performance and Choreographed by Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez, Cheyenne Barboza, Nastassja Baset, TS Hawkins, Tamara Woods & Adrianna Branin
Photographed by Tieshka Smith, May 19, 2015

About #RM2B: Do we give ourselves room to be ourselves? Or do we allow societal structures to solely shape how we navigate and exist in the world today? Using W.E.B DuBois work as a template, these six women explore how the concepts of “to be the problem” and “to live in privilege” collide, survive and thrive physically and linguistically in everyday life.

#RM2B was performed at the Souls of Black Folks Bridal Salon program at the Painted Bride Art Center on Tuesday, May 19th.  TS took one of the still photos I shot, by overlaying text from #RM2B on it, creating a very clean yet impactful marketing and promotion piece that both of can use.

This is what creative collaboration looks like.


To Neva, My Ladybug…Happy 18th Birthday.

Warning:  This post has several blackmail-worthy photos, particularly for someone who is turning 18 and has an image to uphold.

Alexa and Geneva halloween

Big sis Neva.


Before the end of the year dance, her first one.



Happy 18th birthday Geneva Elise Cook.



I am so proud of you and I love you so deeply, not just because I’m your mom.


Happy 8th birthday Neva…oooohhhh!!

On May 21, 1997, you made your grand entrance into the world at 4:58 a.m., in Mercy Hospital in Chicago.  I was a scared, conflicted young woman of 24 going on 25.  I always tease you with stories about how I remember the day you were born…the tough labor… the surprise and astonishment at knowing how small you were…so small that I nicknamed you “Peanut.”  You were under 7 lbs…but I gained nearly 100 lbs!

Of course that nickname didn’t hold, because you plumped up so beautifully. You were like a little bundle of cuddly love, and I couldn’t believe that this gift was all for me. I think about this all of the time.  More than you probably care to know.

Our relationship as mother and daughter has been challenged by distance and by very tough circumstances. But our bond has transcended time and space and I’m so grateful for that. You anchor me, and remind me time and time again of why life matters, and why it is so necessary to keep going and not give up and keep one arm and hand above water because drowning is not a option.


Yes, Ma.

Your fierce independence and self-awareness and understanding of the world leaves me in awe. I’ve grown to have deep and abiding respect for you and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish over the next four years. You have loved and lost and decided and stood firm and picked battles that women twice or three times your age would not even dream of. The world of today may not be ready, but the world of tomorrow will be a much better place because I know that you will be one of its most vocal and transformative leaders.


I love this photo.

I’ve watched you grow from a cute, gangly little girl into a beautiful, opinionated, thoughtful and sensitive young woman. You’re fearless, way more fearless than I was at 18. You know what you want, and how you plan on going after your goals. I wish I had more to give you, but sometimes at night, when I lay awake and unable to sleep, I realize that I’ve given you all that I could and more. Those gifts that I shared with you, conversations I had with you before you entered the world, are all part of your arsenal, your toolbox.  I’m still learning, and whatever I learn, I plan to share with you.  I look forward to us continuing to walk this journey together.


Tomorrow, you will be graduating from high school and taking your place in the world as the young, beautiful, smart and ambitions woman you have grown up to become. I am so proud to know that you will be enrolling in university this fall to pursue your dreams to become an artist and graphic designer.  I can’t wait to see how this chapter of your life turns out.  And no matter what, I am with you every step of the way…the way we choose it, not the way other people think it should be.


A placeholder for her high school graduation photo.  

I love you so much, Neva.

Happy 18th birthday.

Love always,



She was always ahead of the times. Check out those lips.

Photographed May 17, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA by Tieshka Smith


Sometimes, in life, you have to slow down (or stop) in order to figure out how fast you need to be going and who or what is worth chasing.  Other times, it’s perfectly okay to dash at full speed out of the gate when its time to pursue your dreams. The choice is up to each of us to figure these things out for ourselves.


Private Pain Silent Struggle Debuts Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at the Painted Bride Art Center!

It’s been a long five or six weeks.

And with that said, I’m pleased to share that the first phase of work on this ongoing project is complete!  I will be giving a short presentation of the work, discussing the images, the backstory of my collaborators, my interview and shooting process, and overarching context of the project that has been informed by discussions with fellow artists, reading, reflection, and a lot of preliminary conversations with my co-collaborators.

I strongly encourage you to attend if you’re here in the Greater Philadelphia area.  RSVP here >>> https://www.facebook.com/events/908944245828779/

Painted Bride Art Center

230 Vine Street

May 19, 2015 at 7pm

Photographed May 2, 2015, in Philadelphia, PA

Reflections on “This Is My Home: Photographs from 2011-2014”

My best friend and sister from another (super)mother, whom I love dearly, says that you can’t know if the work that you’ve done has made an impact if you don’t take a moment to reflect on it. So I decided to follow her advice (for a change) and take a stab at writing down some of my reflections about what became known as the “This Is My Home” photography show.

 * * *

 It’s been two months since I returned from Oak Park, Illinois, a west suburb of my hometown, Chicago.   I hadn’t been back to Chicago in over ten years, and was very excited that I had this great opportunity to share my photography with a new audience. Two installations of over 50 photographs at the Oak Park Public Library and the Oak Park Village hall comprised the “This Is My Home” exhibit. It was well received and sparked some very interesting and thought-provoking dialogue and conversations about how we interact with shared spaces and how those interactions are influenced by race, class and, to be honest, an awareness of the history and evolution of those spaces. I talked with all kinds of people – photography enthusiasts, researchers, community organizers, artists, mothers, fathers, children – and listened as well to what they had to say. And boy, did everyone have a lot to say. At the end of the day we could all agree on one thing, it’s that we all have very strong and passionate feelings about the places we all call home.

 * * *


I can’t believe that four years have passed since I began photographing life in northwest Philadelphia – specifically working-class Germantown, where I live, and Mt. Airy, the solidly middle-class community to the immediate north. I look at these images and see how far I’ve come as a photographer, and as an outsider in a community that is fiercely loyal to its deeply historical, blue-collar, gritty roots. Also, it was the first time in four years where I was completely comfortable with calling the City of Brotherly Love my home. Yes, The Windy City will always be my hometown. I love its energy, its food, my family and friends. I made a lot of good memories there. But Philly, with its cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels, water ice and crazy sports fans, is my home, and I knew I belonged here the moment I stepped off an Amtrak train in 2007 from NYC and walked through 30th Street Station to take me to Center City.

I arrived in Philadelphia to stay, four years later, in the middle of January, 2011. Days later, the city was hit by a pretty bad snowstorm, and I sat in an unfamiliar room, looking out the window and wondering if I had made the right decision to move here from Jersey City, NJ.   I could have returned to the Midwest, but thankfully, I didn’t. I was going to make this work and little did I know, my camera would play a huge role in making my one wish come true. What was that wish? My one wish was to settle down and put down the type of roots that would make it virtually impossible for me to want to leave.

Lovett Memorial Library, located in the West Mt. Airy section of northwest Philadelphia, is part of the Free Library of Philadelphia and has been serving the Mt. Airy community since 1885 when it was founded by Reverend Simeon C. Hill of the Grace Episcopal Church, Mrs. Samuel W. (Margaret Ada) Potter, and Miss Louisa D. Lovett.   It, like many other prominent buildings in northwest Philadelphia, is surrounded by lush trees, fragrant flowers and immaculate landscaping. I would go there just to sit and think. Other times, I would go there to work on my computer and observe patrons, or wander through the stacks and select a book or two to read.

On April 30, 2011, I found myself at Lovett Library again. I was slammed by some really disheartening news that made me begin to seriously doubt myself and my decision to make Philadelphia my home. Damn, not again, I thought as I sank down on one of the stone benches outside.

girls only print file

Little did I know that moments later, Lovett would become the backdrop of an impromptu photo shoot that I did with a group of kids from the neighborhood. Their smiling faces, curiosity and enthusiasm, combined with the awesome natural light, made for some pretty neat photos. One of the photos from the series ended up being published in Philadelphia City Paper, and the rest, they say is history.

With that experience under my belt, I became more emboldened to seek out people and situations in the neighborhood that I could observe and photograph. For instance, the series entitled “Kids of Ya-Ya’s Place” came to life in the front yard of a West Germantown home.  When I think of this series, my thoughts go back to when I was a kid. I think about how fun and carefree my childhood was and how we really didn’t need much to keep ourselves entertained and engaged. I think about how powerful a child’s imagination is and how it can take him or her to faraway places. And I think about how our personalities are formed as a result of our interactions with other children.

Arms crossed.  Taken April 26, 2011 in Philadelphia PA

I see myself in the expressive faces of these children. I see optimism. I see hope. I see cynicism. I see curiosity. I am reminded of why it’s so important to keep the light of our children’s collective imagination from extinguishing, because it is that which fuels their innate creativity.

Four years later, these photos continue to amaze me because they speak to the easygoing way that kids of all races and backgrounds connect and form bonds of friendship. It sustains my hope that we can all learn to live together and love and respect one another like they do. I believe that Germantown and Mt. Airy had a lot to do with why these children are the way they are.

 * * *

Home to me, is about belonging. It’s about carving out a place for yourself in a community and having that act be accepted and validated and seen as a good thing. It’s about love, and laughter, and inside jokes and food and music and art and long walks. It’s about hugs and kisses and warm greetings, and a feeling that you’re wanted, and needed. It’s about fighting fair and making up and being friends at the end of the day. It’s about peace of mind and about action and knowing which is the right thing to do for a neighbor. I actually learned these things here in Germantown. This is my home.

* * *

Screen shot 2015-05-05 at 9.53.12 PM

My childhood home…1939 – 2015

UPDATE:  The charred remains of my childhood home were demolished, and here's what's left. I'm very sad.

UPDATE: The charred remains of my childhood home were demolished, and here’s what’s left. I’m very sad.

In late March I received a Facebook message from one of my friends from high school. She said, “Tieshka, I passed by your old house yesterday and it was burned down.” I have to admit that the words hit me in the gut like a sledgehammer. What the hell, that can’t be! But I really wasn’t ready to accept the news, so I took to the Internet to confirm things for myself. Sure enough, on March 1st, the house did catch fire. Damn, I thought, I was in town on March 1st. I didn’t leave Chicago until the 5th (and ironically, when I woke up in Germantown the next morning, I was greeted by one of the worse snowstorms of the season!!).

That night, in late March, after I got the news from my friend, I huddled over my laptop and  searched Google Maps to see if there was a picture of the house, and thankfully, there was, from 2012, and not one of the burnt remains. Growing up in that house was pretty tough, and I was glad to leave. Despite the mixed feelings I harbored about many of my past experiences, I couldn’t let my memories of my childhood in south suburban Chicago go, despite the fact that I tried desperately to disengage, once in St. Louis, then in New York and then in Jersey City. I always found myself comparing these places to the one place that I had intense but mixed feelings about. Uprooting myself over and over again was like pulling a scab off repeatedly when nothing else to heal the wound would work.

Finally, in 2015, at 42 years old, I can breathe a sigh of relief and say without a doubt in my mind, that it is okay to let go. Knowing that my childhood home was no more made space in my mind to accept a new reality:  That this place – Philly, Germantown – Is Now My Home.


PHOTO:  Spring Cleaning, April 19, 2015.


When I posted this yesterday, I said that there is someone always cleaning somewhere in Germantown.  I was standing in a corner store waiting to pay for my food, and this older gentleman comes up and starts sweeping.  I’m sure he was doing it for a few dollars in his pocket, but you can’t tell me that the only people who want a cleaner Germantown live above Chelten Avenue.  We all want a cleaner and safer community, but some of us need incentives.   When we stop trying to shame people about the behavior and do more to encourage people to take ownership, we may see a change.  A lot of people feel like this community doesn’t belong to them anymore and therefore feel justified in littering and engaging in other antisocial behaviors.  

Germantown needs to get real about these racial and class dynamics if it intends to change in a way that looks and feels more inclusive than how other communities have done it.  We can’t be like, well, we’re good with the fact that we have a few model Negros, so we’re racially diverse ENOUGH.  And so on and so forth.  The numbers just don’t support this utopian perspective.  We have to come to an understanding that community will look a whole lot of different ways to different people as defined by their socioeconomic reality.  

Anyway, that’s my two cents on the matter.  






Theater artist and founder of The Art Church in West Philadelphia, Cara Blouin, has guided a group of artists through a number of discussions based on the idea of the ‘two-ness’ inherent in being a Black American and in many other American experiences as introduced in W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk. These artists have created photography, visual arts installations, performance, and movements exploring the Black body, the concepts of problem and privilege in society, personhood, and the question of blackness. Join us for the culminating presentation of the work developed through this program on May 19th at 7pm. Pay what you can.

RSVP to: laneshe@paintedbride.org

Facebook Invite:  https://www.facebook.com/events/908944245828779/

Featured Artists:

Charlyn Magdaline
Nastassja Baset
Lyric Prince
Richard Warren Gibson
Tieshka Smith
Nadina Patterson
Cheyenne Barboza
Tamara Woods
Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez
TS Hawkins




Call for Project Collaborators: Private Pain, Silent Struggle.

Call for Collaborators

Working Title: Private Pain, Silent Struggle

Since last September, I have had the tremendous fortune to be a part of the Souls of Black Folk project sponsored by the Painted Bride Art Center. A group of artists have gathered once a month at the Painted Bride to discuss W.E.B. Dubois’ seminal work The Souls of Black Folk and its impact on our artistic practices and ongoing conversations about race and class.   This project will culminate in an artist showcase in mid-May.

If you’re interested in participating, please contact me as soon as possible.  Thanks!




Let’s Meet Up on Saturday, March 7th at Champagne’s in Germantown!

Hey everyone,

I know two mothers who have been dligently fundraising to send their daughters to South Africa as part of a school sponsored exchange program.  I haven’t seen anyone work as hard as they have been working to make this happen.

On March 7th, they will be hosting a fish fry at Champagne’s in Germantown, Philadelphia to raise money to go toward the proceeds.  Since I will be back in Philly by then, I wanted to give you a few reasons why you should come out on the 7th!

1. I’m ready for some face-to-face interaction!

I love our online community, and I love the fact that we can all connect via this blog.  Here’s the thing: I’ve never met some of you in person, and I think that community really happens when we put faces to names. Let’s come together and connect!

2. We will be supporting a Germantown establishment.

Champagne’s has been here for years and I wonder how many of you have gone there for a bite to eat or a drink. Let’s come out in full force to support our local businesses.

3. We will be supporting two Northwest Philly mothers and their daughters who contribute so much to our community!

4. Our actions show love and support for two of our children – and that’s important. They need to know that we care for and want the very best for them.

5. AND, we can all reconnect and chat about the great time I had in Chi-Town over the past 6 weeks!

So… will you join me? I hope so!

There’s not much time, so get your tickets for this event via Eventbrite, because advance tickets sales are always so helpful.  But if you must keep us in suspense, you can buy your ticket at the door.  Champagne’s is located at 21 East Chelten Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144.

And you can also make a donation or get more information about the efforts to send Ishara and Brooke to South Africa next month through their crowdfunding site at http://gofundme.com/saexchange

Thanks so much!

Peace and blessings,


2015-02-09 13.37.14

I’m a RAWards6 Semi-Finalist!!

2015-02-09 13.37.14


OMG!! I just found out that I am one of three Philadelphia semi-finalists in the RAW Photographer of the Year competition!!! I am so psyched!

Thank you thank you thank you so much to all of you who voted religiously during the past week. Finalists will be announced on February 15th…

Congratulations to all of the Philly RAWards6 semifinalists.

This is really exciting!

Onward and upward!



Help Me Become RAW:Photographer of the Year!! Vote!!


Hey everyone! I need your help. I’m competing in this year’s RAW Photographer of the Year contest, and I would love it if you could vote for me ONLINE on my RAW artist page.

RAWards national winners receive career-building prize packages such as placement in boutiques or galleries, products, services, consultations with the judges and the exposure of a lifetime.


1. RAWards 6 National Online Voting will take place from February 1st at 12:01AM (PST) to February 7th at 11:59PM (PST).
2. Online voters are allowed a total of 9 votes per day, one vote per category (e.g. 1 film vote, 1 visual art vote, 1 music vote, etc …).
3. The voter can choose to vote for one artist per category, per day.  Go to http://rawartists.org/tieshkasmith to cast your vote!
4. Each voter will require a valid, registered email address (we do this not to complicate the process, but to ensure real valid votes).
5. Entering invalid email addresses will disqualify one’s vote. Votes accumulated via fraudulent email addresses will also be disqualified and the artist may be removed from the competition.

Vote once each day until the voting period ends on February 7th.  Hit me up if you have any questions.

Thank you!

Photographed January 28, 2015 in Oak Park, Illinois

Please Support My Re-Opened Indiegogo Campaign!!

Hey everyone!

Many of you generously supported my #gtowntochitown Indiegogo campaign, which ended on January 22, 2015. Because of your generosity, the campaign was funded at 130%!!

Today, I received an opportunity to re-open the campaign to raise additional funds. This is great, because it gives those who did not have a chance to contribute to do so.

While I’m here over the next month or so, I’ll be working on a photo series I began called Oak Park After Dark, which I hope to exhibit either here in Oak Park or back home in Philly. I’m going to be speaking to the Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Photography Club next week. And, at the close of the exhibit, I will be giving an artist talk as part of a reception sponsored by the Oak Park Area Arts Council, the Oak Park Public Library and the West Town Links. And just the other day, I photographed the People’s State of the Union story circle at the Oak Park Public Library.

As you can see, I’m keeping myself busy!  With all that said, please consider making a gift. My sincere thanks go out to everyone who have given. If you can’t give, please consider sharing this post with your networks.



Introducing…Oak Park After Dark!


Just a little something that I started working on a few days ago. Oak Park, Illinois is so beautiful, I wanted to document what it looks like after dark, during the dead of winter.  I hope you enjoy this preview.

Top left:  Oak Park “L” station, CTA Green Line, 100 S Oak Park Avenue

Bottom left:  Lake Theater, 1022 W Lake Street

Top right:  Oak Park Public Library, 834 W Lake Street

Bottom right:  Oak Park Post Office, 901 W Lake Street


girls only print file

Germantown photographer brings images of Northwest Philly to Chicago — NewsWorks

Germantown photographer brings images of Northwest Philly to Chicago — NewsWorks.

Really grateful for the press.  If you get a second, check it out.




You’re Invited to a Double Header Travel Party!!


The masterminds of Casa De La Mujer Azul (YahNé and I) are throwing a travel themed party this Tuesday, January 13th. Come say good-bye to me before I leave on Thursday, and learn about how you can travel more for less and get paid doing it. You know you want to. Just make sure to let us know you’re coming … details in the attached flyer.

Peace and blessings, Tieshka


“This Is My Home”: The Invite Is Ready!!

Here is the invite for my upcoming show, “This is My Home:  Photographs from 2011-2014.”


Members of the community provided the words in the background.  I surveyed people online, asking the following question: “When you think of Germantown/Mt. Airy, what three words come to mind?”  As you can imagine, there were quite a few responses from this opinionated and vocal community.  I love Germantown, and I’m proud to call it home.

There’s still time (15 days and counting) to contribute to my Indiegogo campaign.  Follow the link and contribute:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/my-first-midwest-solo-show/x/9351433

FB event is here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1525670867684593/

Photographed August 5, 2013 at Wyck Historic House and Farm, Philadelphia PA

2014: My Final Thoughts.

Hi friends!

First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  I hope you’re having a grand time celebrating the start of 2015 with the people you love.

2014-12-22 02.18.35I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the past year.  I honestly did not know what to expect, but it was definitely a year of challenges.  I had some health challenges that I was forced to deal with, and boy am I glad I did.  I feel like a new person, and with that newfound clarity came the space to make some decisions that I had been delaying for a number of years.  I’m still working through the fallout of the decisions that I made, but I know for certain that I did the right thing.

While I faced a number of challenges, I experienced a lot of growth as a photographer and community advocate.  I worked very hard to build a number of important connections in the community, stepped out on faith and got more involved with other artists and artist groups to speak out about racism, injustice and economic inequity, and put a real stake in the ground about whether or not I was going to be seriously in this life for the long haul.

One of the things that I learned is that as an artist, you have to keep your mind and body moving. You have to keep things fresh.  A lot of this comes from spending time with other people who have great ideas and a level of enthusiasm and optimism that is infectious.  I know from personal experience that it’s easy to isolate yourself, to wall yourself off in the name of your craft, to buckle down and focus, but I also know that too much of this can be unhealthy.  There’s nothing wrong with stepping outside to get fresh air and to go for a walk.  There’s nothing wrong with sharing laughter and conversation and a bite to eat and drink with friends.  And there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a break completely from the grind to rest and recharge.  It takes a tremendous amount of honesty and maturity to decide to have an identity outside of your work as an artist.  Me?  I love wine, I love music, I love Jamaican food.  I love my friends.  I love getting my nails done.  Does that detract from me identifying as a photographer?  Of course not. But now that I’ve realized that I need these other things to help balance out my life, I believe that my photography has gotten much better and more thoughtful.  In other words, my images definitely an outward reflection of my inner state.

2014-12-29 14.10.09-2In 2015, I plan on continuing my climb upward, from where I was as a complete newbie to where I hope to be one day as a mature artist.  I will continue to inner light.  And I hope that you’ll continue to check in on me from time to time to see how I’m doing.  I wish you and yours a safe, prosperous and happy 2015 as well.

Peace and blessings,


banner for fb event page

From G-Town to Chi-Town!

10849206_10205471023080229_505434874_oI’m excited to share that I have been invited by the Oak Park Public Library’s Art in the Library program and the Oak Park Area Arts Council to exhibit some of my northwest Philadelphia work from mid-January through February, 2015. This will be the first time that I’ve exhibited outside the East Coast, and I’m thrilled!!

Dates to remember:

1. The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign started on December 8th and ends on January 23rd.  I would appreciate any support that you can provide.

2. I will arrive in Chicago on January 15th and will be in town through the end of February.  To all my Chicagoland family and friends, I’m hoping we can reconnect and catch up while I’m there.

3. The photography show opens January 19th and runs through February 28th.  The show will be a look back at work I’ve done from 2011-2014, with a particular focus on children.  The working title will be:  “We Can Learn How to Love Like They Do.” Despite the horrible instances of police brutality; the drastic and often times draconian cuts to urban public education; gun violence; and other atrocities that are exacted on communities of color, children and young people show such resilience and optimism; I believe we can learn from them.

For more information:


Peace and blessings,