When I first began promoting myself as an artist online, and on social media, it was as a photographer under the brand “Photography by Dannie B.” During the period of my life when I first began to really apply myself towards building a website and using social media I was actively pursuing a career in photography. Some of the first images I published online were from my study abroad trip to Amsterdam, from fast food worker protests, of poets and artists, and more recently of Ferguson protests.
I’ve been relatively quiet within the space of photography for the past few years because I’ve undergone significant life changes, including the loss of my father. This period of absence has given me an abundance of time to explore, to feel lost at times, and to relearn what I value. Also in this time, I constantly felt a desire to use my camera professionally but always felt a loss of motivation despite encouragement by those closest to me to keep going. I occasionally took my camera out to take picture but didn’t apply myself as I had previously.
In the time I spent not being behind the camera I was occupied by music. Music has been a part of my family for generations with many of my relatives being singers, musicians, and just pure music lovers. It’s safe to say that I was born to be in music. Music has been the most amazing source of healing, history, and aspirations that I’ve experienced in my life, thus far. Music not only encouraged me to move forward in life, it also encouraged me to revisit my past and understand the origins of my creative passions.
Before I considered myself a photographer I was a pure, unfiltered, source of creativity that manifested itself in multiple mediums. I expressed myself through writing, through film, and through whatever tools I could learn to operate. Through a search of my history I was able to trace the origin of my creativity back before college, where I originally said it started, to high school where I first learned to write my thoughts, poetically, and create my own films. Amazingly, some of these wonderful experiences got lost in my desire to pursue new experiences.
I’ve gotten many questions about work that I’ve previously done, especially the work that’s been inspiring to others, and when I’ll return to it. The simple answer is that I can’t return to it. I’ve grown significantly in the past two years and that growth prevents me from seeing my past work with the same perspective that I had when I first created. That work will always be a part of my personal story, just not front and center. However, what I can give in its place is all of the lessons, thoughts, and new perspectives that I’ve gained.
My creativity will be expressed in ways that are similar to those of my past, ways that are new, and ways that are newly rediscovered. Yes, there will still be photography but it may or may not look like what people are used to from me. There will also be more. My mission, and the goal of the Facebook page, “The Real Dannie B,” is to give the most authentic version of myself that I can give and inspire others to do the same. To get a fuller picture of my entire journey and how all of what I said fits together please read my newly revised biography. Thank you for choosing to continue on this journey with me.
I Bought the Same Record Twice: How I learned to avoid this by using Discogs to catalog my records (plus tips on how to catalog your own records)
Last year I was at Mills Record Company in Kansas City when the sales clerk who checked me out gave me the name of a website, Discogs, to help me find a Lianne La Havas record they no longer had in stock. Discogs is an online marketplace, and database, for music that connects you to a global network of retailers (and resellers) who offer nearly all physical music formats from all generations and genres of music. In short, if there’s a piece of music you want Discogs can help you find someone who’s selling it. After just recently digging into their website I learned that it has many other uses for music collectors like keeping a database of your music so you don’t purchase duplicate copies, which is something that happened to me earlier in the year.
Back in April I found myself in Kansas City again and saw a record by Chic that I loved and knew I had to get but I had the feeling that I already purchased it a few months earlier from Vintage Vinyl here in St. Louis. The fact that it would be a 400-mile trip back to the record store if I got home and realized that I didn't have it coupled with the $4.99 sticker price told me to take the chance and buy it just in case I didn't already own it. Low and behold when I got home I realized that I already had it and I ended up gifting the new copy to a friend since I couldn't return it. Going through my Dad's share of the records I noticed that he also faced this same dilemma and ended up with multiple copies of the same record.
A month ago that I finally got around to creating an account on Discogs when I was looking to make a purchase because with most companies you can’t enjoy the full benefits of their websites without creating an account. Previously, I visited the website last year when I first learned about it but didn’t take time to understand it beyond just searching for La Havas, only to find that the record was out of print and was going for $100 plus. You could say that I’ve been procrastinating on getting hip to Discogs for the past year, which is true, but it was a new need that arose this year which brought me back to it long enough to understand its power. After creating an account and then poking around on the site a bit I learned that there is a "Collection" feature which allows you to catalog all of your music so you have a single, consolidated, list of every piece of music you own.
When I found out that not only does Discogs offer this collection feature on their website but they also have a mobile app that allows you to access your collection on your phone inside record stores I felt like all my problems were solved! I am now able to keep a list with me of what records I already own and scroll through that list while shopping to avoid picking up duplicates by mistake again. Conveniently, they also have a “Wantlist” feature that allows you to keep track of what records you want so you know what to look for in a record store.
I’ve spent the past week building my Discogs collection by cataloging my records one by one which has been a time consuming process. I move meticulously through the records because not only does Discogs give you a field to input the records by title but you can also include the condition of the record and its cover, your personal rating of how much you like it, and personalized notes. I opted to fill out all of this information since I plan to pass on the collection to future generations because I knew it would be helpful to document as much information as possible about the records.
Here's the process that I've been using so far:
Step 1: Input the name of the record
The quickest way to do this is by typing in the album’s serial number (for example SD-5658) or using the app to scan the barcode on the back of the record to retrieve the record's details (year and country of release, format, etc) if one is present. In the rare case that neither of these methods works you can search for the album or artist manually.
Step 2: Record the condition
I take the time to pull each record out of its jacket to review it quality then give it a rating from poor to mint. I then do the same for the sleeve condition.
Step 3: Notes
I make it a habit to document which records I purchase in different cities or at concerts I've attended so here I'll list the city of purchase and/or the concert of purchase. I like capturing the unique stories of each record. I haven't gotten as specific as what record store they were purchased at but I'm considering it.
Step 4: Purchased by
I've created two categories in my collection list, one for my father and one for myself, so I can identify who made what purchases.
Step 5: Rating
Lastly, I give my personal rating of the records. Since I haven't listened to all of them yet this will encourage me to do so and also allow me to keep track of which ones I have or haven't heard yet.
Bonus Step 6: Value of collection
If you ever plan on selling your collection Discogs gives you an estimated dollar value of all the records you own. You’re given three estimates, the minimum, median, and max. This is not of any value to me since I don't plan to sell mine. However, it's nice to know how much money has gone into my collection.
If you want to know how I got started collecting records read my first post on record collecting here:
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Years ago I had an idea for a book to write. In college when I decided to change my major to creative writing all I could dream about was someday writing my own book. I didn't know what exactly I would write about because I had a love for all different types of books, both fiction and non-fiction. At one point I even dreamed about writing a book on relationships because I wanted to give my "expertise" on the subject that my friends have found me to be so helpful with over the years. A few years after changing my major there I was, finally with an idea to work with.
A few months ago I found new inspiration to pick up where I left off after a few years of false starts that gave my book idea shape but brought it nowhere near completion. I wrote notes, outlines, and text that was to become a book but didn't feel that I had the right life experiences to complete it from an honest and enlightened perspective. After looking back over my past writings I had a revelation on how to move forward earlier this year. The subject that I started off with was far too broad to tackle. However, after putting it aside and allowing my life to develop a little more I found a specific idea within the broad subject that truly spoke to what I was feeling. I found my subject.
In addition to finding a specific focus I also had to find the appropriate format through which I could convey my idea. I've known all along that it was going to be non-fiction despite the appeal of fiction. Within the world of non-fiction books there are still many format options. My choice was narrowed slightly but there was still a lot to choose from. After careful research I opted for the memoir format. I chose the memoir because this genre is specifically for writing on a specific life experience, which is where I want to go.
For about a week I debated writing this blog post because I knew if I published it then I would become accountable for having to actually produce a book. It’s also not common practice for for me to reveal projects that I’m working on in their early stages. The compromise I decided to make with myself was to go ahead and make the post because I feel it's an honest representation of what artists experience in the early stages of the creative process. In exchange, I won't say what it's about so I can maintain some degree of creative cover. I will only say that it's a memoir about a life experience that I’m constantly gaining new perspectives on. I also realize that the risk of speaking about a book before it's actually book, there's a chance that I won't finish it or that it could take years. I'm okay with that because it's honestly in what projects go through when we first dream them up, some live and some die. Hopefully, this one will live on to inspire others.
What I really want to focus on is the experience of writing a memoir more than the memoir itself because the experience of working on something can be more valuable than reaching the finish line. The first thing I've learned is that writing about a life experience takes a lot of courage. The process of digging up memories, both pleasant and painful, is extremely unnerving at times. This reminds me of the quote, "anything worth having won't come easy." Anyone can write the chosen highlights of their life from a place of comfort but a good memoir requires you to be truthful about everything, both good and bad. You have to be brave enough to relive the thoughts that you had and carry them with you once again throughout the writing process. A positive outcome is that revisiting difficult times can grant you a new perspective or even the closure that you've been seeking.
As much as it can hurt to be honest about the not so perfect things we've done I believe it's necessary both for us to fully realize the growth that we've experienced and to show others that they're not alone in what they're going through, if we choose to share those things. In my personal experience, I've learned way more life lessons from reading memoirs than reading any type of self-help tips. Telling an experience through story is a lot more motivating than just giving bullet points. When we can feel struggle, especially struggle we can relate to, we can also feel optimism that that struggle has an end and will lead us somewhere wonderful.
A lesson that I learned while volunteering with a local mentoring program, The Village, over the summer is that there are people that don’t know things that our society considers basic knowledge. Some may not know at what age to potty-train children or how to establish credit. You cannot learn these things if you’re never exposed to them by someone who does know them. This lesson served as further inspiration for me to share my experience because there’s a great chance that someone may be able to learn from what I’ve learned and I feel that it’s my moral obligation to share. Accomplishing your dream is great but if you can help others in the process, that’s even greater.
I think one of the most important lessons for me in undertaking this project is that our dreams always start with us. For me this means my dreams of writing books starts with writing about myself. I could have easily opted to be a ghostwriter of someone else's story but I would have been writing their story of growth before I'd written my own and in the process missed all of the lessons I'm destined to receive.
In conclusion, I invite you along on the process of continuous learning and exploration. Whether or not we reach the end and see a beautiful glossy cover with my name on it we can all at least say we've share this experience together and hopefully learned from it.
How I Started Collecting Records
As a child I remember my father having a huge crate of records that sat beneath the windowsill in one of the rooms of our house. He also had what is now considered vintage stereo equipment that he purchased sometime during his young adult years in the 80s. Despite having what had to be a few hundred records I never saw him play any, most likely because in my childhood cassette tapes were the latest music rage and my dad spent most of his time dubbing his own mixtapes to play in the car. With cassettes, and eventually CDs, being how my dad got his music fix his records were mainly a decoration in a music lover's lair, and sadly a fixture for an infant to climb on top of to look out of the window they sat underneath.
In my teenage years my dad bought a new record player when he learned that he could use the computer to transfer his old vinyl albums to CDs. With this new discovery he began digging through his record crate and rediscovering his old favorites. I witnessed and heard this whole process. Having been born to older parents I grew up on pre-90's music and grew to like artists like The S.O.S Band and Earth Wind and Fire. To this day, I still get more excited by old funk/soul music than most new music. I instantly became curious about the new record player when I saw all of the albums that my dad left lying around the basement and began to play them for my own listening pleasure. The experience of physically flipping the albums to play the other side was highly engaging to me.
By my early 20s I found myself in Vintage Vinyl and decided to buy my first two records of my own, Nas' "The Lost Tapes" and The Brother's Johnson "Look Out for #1." Nas was, and still is, my favorite musical writer/poet of all time and I've always loved the funky soul groove of The Brother's Johnson. I played those records faithfully almost every night. By this time the iPod and MP3s were in. My dad didn't use his record play as much but when he saw the records I bought it took him down memory lane. Although his passion had been reignited mine still had not yet fully emerged. The convenience of my iPod made my record playing short lived.
My father passed away in early 2016. Like anyone who loses a parent it's an entire process to deal with it. Part of my process was getting deeper into music which made sense for me having been in the prime of growing as a musician and artist. Despite being involved in other art forms music gave me the most peace.
While having discussions about my dad with my aunt the subject of his love for music would always come up. This inspired me to revisit his record collection and play a few of his records that had been left sitting out over the years. The first thing I noticed when playing them was the tremendous difference in sound quality compared to MP3s. Vinyl albums sound so much fuller and truthful to the original recording which is something I grew to appreciate as a musician. I also found this to be true when I purchased my first record in nearly five years, Esperanza Spalding's "Emily's D+Evolution." I compared the sound of Vinyl to that of the digital download that came with it and the record made me feel so much more present in the music than the MP3 version. I was so eager to express this marvel to all of my music friends.
When discussing my dad's record collection with one of my friends (shout out to E. Nicole) she suggested that I have a record listening party in honor of my father. Influenced by her suggestion, I decided to have a record listening party for my birthday that year and invite friends to help me explore my dad's collection since I didn't know what albums were there other than the few I played over the years. This was a life changing experience. Through the ears of my friends I was able to learn how music savvy my dad was and how many gems he had in his possession. Some of the records that got player were Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," Prince's self-titled album [Prince], and Whitney Houston "I'm your Baby Tonight."
After that night I was committed to not only preserving my dad's legacy of records but also continuing to add to it for the next generation of my family to enjoy in the future. Continuing to grow the record collection will create a music catalog that's representative of albums from each generation and will serve as a sonic time capsule. I also find value in the physical format because it's something tangible that can be given unlike digital files. That's what record collecting means to me.
I'm a writer of the arts, vinyl, and life according to being an artist.