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.
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.