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.
Back in August I did my first photography gig that involved me shooting interior design. A family friend reached out to me with a need to photograph her home for the purpose of advertising it on AirBnb. This was a unique request for me because in all my years of being behind a camera I had never shot what would be considered architectural or interior design work, and I had also never considered it. However, I’m always up for a challenge and decided to give it a try. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it.
The day of the shoot, I came prepared with my usual camera gear, plus a tripod, but rather than wearing comfortable shoes I just wore my socks. My client doesn’t allow guests to wear shoes on her carpet so I wore Hanes instead of Nike’s while working.
The first thing I noticed once I started shooting was how peaceful this type of work is compared to some of the other photo work that I’ve done. Coming from a world of shooting in busy cities and protests the quiet of an air-conditioned home was like being in a photographic meditation longue. My mind was free to focus solely on the camera and the space without external distractions. I could also shoot at my own pace without feeling the rush of a motion-driven environment and capturing split-second moments. It was very therapeutic.
My choice of camera and lens was a Nikon D750 with a Nikon 20mm f/1.8G, which served me well both in term of full-frame capabilities and an articulating screen. The simplest way of explaining the how this setup was beneficial to me is that I could get a wide field of view, low noise while shooting indoors, and the movable screen saved me from having to stoop and squat to get the angles I wanted.
The first room I shot was the sitting room, the room with the chair and coffee table surrounded by blue accents. This was the most time consuming because this is the room where I set the standard for how I would the rest of the house. It was here that I determined how I wanted to dial my exposure settings and perspective so that I would use the same standard throughout the house. I spent about 20 minutes here alone. Once I figured out what I wanted the rest of the rooms were pretty simple.
The most challenging room was the living room because of its unique balance of light in relations to other parts of the house. There were no windows in the central portion of the living room which meant that all of the natural light it received was reflected off of the wall from other portions of the house, essentially making it darker than the rest of the house. However, the kitchen that it’s connected to received ample light from a glass sliding door. It took me a while to find a suitable exposure that would accommodate both spaces. I made additional exposure adjustments in Lightroom to provide additional balance.
Overall, this was a great experience that taught me a lot about the comfort of shooting indoors and lighting. It was nice being able to focus solely on the space that I was shooting and have the time to do so. I also learned a lot about photographing using natural lighting. I was able to observe how sunlight flowed throughout the house and interacted with the color of various surfaces. I would happily do a shoot like this again because I found the experience to be very therapeutic and creatively stimulating.
Below is a gallery of the entire home.
I was sitting in the house Friday morning when I scrolled through my Facebook feed to find that protests were beginning after the failed conviction of former police officer Jason Stockley for the murder of an unarmed man. I saw many of the people I’m connected to posting about how they were either downtown protesting or asking how to support protesters with supplies. Having taken the day off I was free to go downtown and join them but I didn’t. Instead, I spent the entire day, from sunup to sundown, thinking and writing. This thinking brought me to the fact that I view myself as one who seeks solutions to the core issue as opposed to being a reactionary. Rather than run out and protest I’d rather find a way to prevent the need to protest in the first place.
It was later that evening when I remembered a request from my friend Gabbi to volunteer at 6 a.m. the following morning [Saturday] to help with setting up for Conscious Fest, a festival that builds and promotes positive images blackness. I’m not a morning person at all which is why I didn’t give her a straight answer when she first asked. However, I did plan to volunteer, just later in the day when I would free from having to engage with the early AM.
After seeing all of the hurt and anger that was being expressed regarding the verdict I myself began to feel a sense of frustration, not at the verdict, but at the fact that this has become an all too familiar routine for black people. I was frustrated that I have to continuously discard my happy feelings for the day in exchange for rage because we continually face every form of discrimination that the so called color-blind population swear no longer exists. Every time we see that first post about an injustice we know what time it is. Even if you don’t consider yourself politically active you are dragged into these feelings by the world around you.
This intensifying frustration lead me to a place of wanting to contribute, not towards tearing down the city in protest, but building up something else that will support our people. This brought me back to Gabbi’s request for volunteers. As much as I resisted getting up at 4ish in the morning to make it to the Conscious Fest setup on time I decided that it was something I needed to do, so I made that commitment.
My decision to go beyond my already planned level of volunteering lead me into a 12-hour day that ranged from moving and setting up tables three hours before the event to staying an hour after to help with cleanup. Most photographers who volunteer their services simply do so in the capacity of a photographer which is capturing images. I did more than that because I realized that as important as it was to document such an event it was just as important to contribute towards its existence. This philosophy possibly gave me one of the most unique perspectives of Conscious Fest and I’m grateful for having experienced it in the way that I did.
What did I get from an experience that I both photographed and volunteered for? I got a true sense of what it takes to build a movement, literally from the ground up one table at a time. Many people show up after the movement has already been constructed and let their social media accounts give them credit for their presence but I had the opportunity to be there before these people ever showed up. As a photographer, this translates into experiencing a deeper connection with the people you capture and allows you to no longer see them as just subjects, but as comrades that you’ve bled and sweat with. This is what it meant for me to be Conscious on September 16th, 2017.