Darryl DeAngelo Terrell, BLKBOYCOLORED

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Darryl DeAngelo Terrell is a queer African-American artist working primary through photography.  His work deals with body image, black masculinity, queer identity, and the black family structure, while asking how the Black, femme, and queer body identify as one and separate entities, and how they occupy and demand space in the American landscape.  Originally from Detroit’s Eastside, Terrell attended Wayne State University and recently received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Terrell is a featured artist in Darkroom Detroit’s inaugural exhibition, Preface, alongside Kris Graves, Amy Elkins, Kia LaBeija and Jacob Krupnick.  Preface is on view through November 18th, 2017, open Fridays and Saturdays 12-5pm, or by appointment.
 

You were born and raised on the Eastside of Detroit, and cite that experience as influencing your work as a photographer. Can you elaborate on what specifically influenced you about growing up here?

I feel that the way Detroit has influenced my photography, is in both bad and good ways. Growing up I feel that I was forced to fit into these hyper masculine, heteronormative ideas of what I’m suppose to be as a black male. Even more so once I got into high school and came to the conclusion that I was gay as hell, and loved things that were deemed feminine. I hid myself and wore over sized etc. (it didn’t last long TBH) it’s those feeling i held in.

Then on another note my family is a large influence, to be specific, the women in my family, just the way they maneuver, how outspoken they were, and how they just RAN SHIT.


When and how did you discover photography?

It was my 6th grade year in school, which so happens to be the first season of America’s Next Top Model... I was amazed by everything on the show, like the lights and cameras were soooo cool to me, and the whole process was just like OMG yesssssss! I wanna do that... Then college turned me into a conceptual artist lol.

You identify as a queer African-American artist, and in your artist statement you raise this question about thinking about these different facets as both “one and separate entities.” How do you view your own definitions of self as influencing the work you make?

I’m queer, and a Black, these are two things that make me who I am, like my existence, and the way I maneuver thru life. It’s like when i’m within black communities my blackness isn’t a thing but my queerness is, but it’s like in communities that are more diverse, both my blackness and queerness is more visible.

I feel that my identity influences my work in multiple ways, because my queerness is more then just the fact that i’m sexually attracted to men, my queerness is also my femme-ness, my fatness, the way in which I exists. I pull from these thing as a way make my work. For example in my series “Malkia,” I’m looking at the matriarch system that is my family, I feel that it’s due to me understanding my femme-ness that I was able to completely understand it.

All of my work has ties to my queerness/blackness, either as one or separate entities.

 
Could you describe your in progress body of work, Project 20?

So in my creative process with project 20’s I start by organizing “Portrait days”, where I set up a block of 4 to 5 hours to take photos, I’m only photographing Black and Hispanic. I then process the photos thru a cyanotype process, then I soak it in Black Coffee, and/or Tea.

Your work depicts black, or latinx, bodies, which is a specific intent for your Project 20 images, but I’m wondering if this is also the intent behind the rest of your work. I feel it necessary to point out the ridiculousness of this question, as there are plenty of photographers who mostly photograph other white people, and no one asks them if that’s intentional. Do you feel like you constantly have to defend the demographic you photograph in any way?

L.O.L

I get the question often, my response is always I photograph the people I photograph, because I feel that these two demographics are often photographed in a negative light, and I grew up irritated by photographers of a certain privilege capturing images of us as the scum of the earth, it’s complete bullshit. So with that being stated I’ll be photographing Black, and Latinx people forever.

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Your recent work Blk Boy Colored is so moving, in large part because of the succinct subtitles you give the work. They say so much and yet also hide all details, a distillation of pure fact for the most part without emotion. How was the installation of this work received?

It was received well, during the duration of the exhibition I did performances of the reading, I cried, it was healing for me to do the performance. People expressed how the work is needed, how they cried, I’ve even had a few people reach out to me to have more conversations about the work.

You recently finished graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. How do you feel grad school changed your work and/or your world view? Particularly in relation to the earlier works of yours that we have in the Preface exhibition currently.

It helped me a great deal, as far as my thinking process, considering who my work is for, but more than anything finding my voice completely, and unapologetically. Grad school also changed my way of thinking viewing other works. I feel like it was more so Chicago, and the people I met that helped me with the work I made that wasn’t family oriented.


You presented a few of your letters from your most recent body of work at the panel Darkroom Detroit hosted last month. Could you describe it for us again here?

So in the summer of 2016 a 12 year old boy was kidnapped and murdered over 75 dollars that he found at a corner stores floor. He was then found in the back parking lot of Kettering High School.

When I heard about this sad situation I started questioning who prays for the black babies, then I started thinking about how much religion is a factor within the black community that I started reaching out to black mothers via social media, and would provide them with a prompt which was to write a prayer to god asking god for protection over your child.

I currently have a total of like 16 or 17 prayers, hoping to get around 20 prayers.

These letters are absolutely heartbreaking. What is it like for you as the medium that’s processing them? Is your intention for the work to be political, or is that more a secondary consequence of the reality they address?

Well I feel that by being an artist coming from a marginalized group that all of my work is political in some way or another even when I don’t intend it to be. This work is more of a curation, or archiving of black mothers worries, and fears for their children so I guess yeah it is political, because if we were in a world where black bodies weren’t hated so much this wouldn’t be needed!
 

What other photographers, artists, people or things influence you? (either historical or current) Where do you find inspiration on a daily basis?

This will be a list lol

Carrie Mae Weems, Vaginal Davis, Xaviera Simmons, Jamal Lewis, Lyle Ashton Harris, Solange, Hank Willis Thomas, Danez Smith (Poet), Glenn Ligon, My Art Peers, My Friends, James Van Der Zee, Kerry James Marshall, Juliana Huxtable, Cakes Da Killa, Richard Avedon, Bad reality Television, pop culture.

I honestly find my inspiration from observation, I highly enjoy people watching, listening to music, reading, conversations with people I love.
 

What drives you to live and make work in the Detroit area now?

I’m actually moving back to Chicago due to a 1-year residency I just received. I love Detroit, it’s going to always be home but I feel like I need to go for a while! or forever I haven’t figured out yet!

 

Finally, what advice do would you give to an aspiring photographer?

RESEARCH THE PRACTICE... I mean I understand that college isn’t for everyone, but please don’t be one of them shitty photographers who post photos of naked girls covered in ice cream, or pizza, on instagram, it happens, and a lot of people be sitting here LAUGHING AT’Cha!

 

You can view more of Darryl's work on view in Preface at Darkroom Detroit through November 18th, or on his website here.

Sonia Litynskyj, Darkroom Divination

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Sonia Litynskyj is a self-defined medium of Photography who divinates through lensless, material studies. Sonia is currently a graduate student at Cranbrook School of Art's MFA program. A Michigan native, she previously taught photography at The Anton Art Center and Paint Creek Center for the Arts. I wanted to catch up with Sonia to talk about her recent work and the space she's recently opened this summer, the Grounding Center in Troy, MI, a collaboration that intersects art and healing through creative practice.

 

So, we’re meeting here at the Grounding Center in Troy.  Tell us a little bit about this space, what is its history and what is your vision for it?

I’ve always been interested in how an art space can function as a small self- sufficient community. My close friend, Alycia, a recycled art junkie, has been dreaming for a very long time about a space where cathartic making could exist.  Between some heavy thinking about the function of art and a conversation Alycia and I had 6 months ago, we decided how important it was for us to collaborate. Simple magic, really.

Right now, it’s part home away from home, part studio space, stage, library. Most of my energy is towards continuing to perform my Darkroom Alchemy readings, and building up our calendar of events. We’ve been reaching out to people interested in anything from curating shows, playing music, offering healing sessions or something that can merge it all.  We are currently working on a schedule of open studio hours, Alycia is hosting recycled sculpture classes and preparing for our Poetry Slam events that begin in mid-July.

I really desire for the space to continue as a community of artists, healers, storytellers and mystics collaborating to share their magic with one another. My hope is, that our transparency as artists and women, with the strong determination to live in authenticity, will attract anyone searching for something similar. I have no intention of weeding anyone out– I truly want to encourage everyone to tap into their own individual magic and creativeness.


How do you see this space as connected to your own practice as a photographer?

I’ve been exploring different ways photography can feel less two-dimensional and then it occurred to me how much I was trying to materialize my research. Maybe my photographs have been attempts to spill magic into a room and heal anyone who looked at it, and this approach had been failing. This current space is exploring what kind of magic materializes when mysticism and creative making intersect.

Photography attempts to reveal information, true or untrue, an action frozen or staged, that no longer truly represents anything other than what it stirs up in your desires, beliefs, thoughts – divination does this also; inviting people to experience something and being a part of that experience with them. There isn’t a huge difference for me from reading a tarot card and being an audience to a body of work.

Your work feels very physical, using photographic, or other, materials as canvas and paint, but not based in the tradition of looking through the lens.  It almost begs the question, why use photography at all?

The relationship between the occult and photography’s birth feels important to a much larger goal for me in my work. I’ve had a love hate relationship with photography but was always infatuated with it growing up because my mother constantly photographed me. This influenced a lot of performative imagery I was experimenting with.

After some time, it occurred to me how masculine the lens was, how penetrating it felt, and how tired I was trying to reveal something through my physical body and how problematic that became for me.

After swallowing all the feminist theory I could, especially Roberta McGrath’s Re-reading Edward Weston: Feminism, Photography and Psychoanalysis, I felt validated about my experience with the lens.  By working directly with materials and removing the camera, I dive into the guts of Photography. I’m looking to stir it around and reveal everything we didn’t know was there, or knew but were too afraid to look at.  

These material studies in my divination photography aim to reveal the unseen, with the most ambiguous visuals that hint to something within us and Photography herself. 

 
Your work also deals explicitly with the imprint, making images with photographic chemicals that literally translate thing to paper (such as your recent work with the body), or making something invisible visible (such as the readings). What are you looking for in photography’s ability to create change through process? 

My relationship with photography is very heavily used for mediumship and divination. An intuitive process, guided first by intellect; removing the lens and revealing only the imprints of material process.

Photography is revealing herself to me almost as a deity – which is incredibly exciting. And if I continue to approach her this way and treat her as such, it’s narrating a beautiful transformation that is beginning at a universal level.

I don’t have a deep connection to my ancestral background and this darkroom divination process has stirred up something extremely powerful for me. I’m beginning to understand why I do things and how connected I am to them - how lost and separate I am from my own roots, how harmful this separation is to myself and others.

A second series of color images involve my body to make contact to 4x5 sheets of film, which are undeveloped and scanned digitally as objects. A process that is still being fine-tuned but I’m excited to continue it further.

Photography for me, is reclaiming her feminine energy. As an artist, I’m practicing acting as a medium for this energy rather than photography being a tool for me.  In this way, it feels right to speculate she might be an energy that has been misused, misinterpreted.


You’re now halfway through the MFA program at Cranbrook, how has grad school changed your work?

I’ve gone from performative nude photography to a visual opposition. I’m only beginning to see a transformation visually because most of the work is happening internally. My final year will help me connect the two more successfully.

Describe for our readers your current work and the process through which it’s made.

This process is done in full light, my supplies for darkroom divination consists of 8x10 RC paper, a candle flame, salt, developer, fixer and perma wash. Through each reading process I collaborate with one person. I ask them to think of a question or concern, sometimes they come to this process open. I give them the paper to contact the flame, emulsion side down, while they meditate on their question. Each person interacts with the flame and paper differently. Some only hover over it, some make contact until the flame is put out, some circle the paper around. The querent is then instructed to throw salt onto the top of the paper while I hold it, face up. After about 10-20 seconds I place the paper in the developer, deciphering the shapes while the development process is completing, revealing information presented to me through forms, processing mistakes and intuitive information.


What is your interest and history in the mystic, or spiritual, realms?

There have always been signs and experiences that feel like they were adding up to where I’m at currently.  Right now, I’m delving into different practices around Witchcraft, Wiccan and Pagan traditions. I’m beginning to learn a little more about Slavic folk healers called Whisperers and spending a lot of time meditating. Moon magic has been incredibly instinctual. I read a lot and attempt to absorb all of this intellectually but finding how magic is working in my life, what it looks like, feels like, what shapes it takes, what signs to look for – its important that my mystical practice is specific to my experiences and learning how She communicates with me. This has transitioned into my relationship with Photography.

My mother was adamant about raising me a Ukrainian Catholic. I respect her admiration to her religion now, but as a teenager I rebelled against it. For ten years I had no connection to anything outside of myself and it drove me into a lot of depression and obsession, one of which turned into free online Tarot readings. Along the way I met women who were willing to share their spiritual experiences and beliefs with me, borrowing a little bit of what they had until I knew what I was looking for on my own.


When you’re doing the readings, how much of it comes from a visual translation of the image versus an interpretive intuition?

It’s an equal distribution. Intellect and intuition need to exist in balance with one another.  

I take into consideration shapes I see, and the mistakes made through the chemical process, chemical fogging, flame burns, areas where developer never reached. The photographs function as objects, that exists as recordings. Because of the nature of the paper, this object is non-archival, a crucial element to the process.


What other photographers, artists, people or things influence you? (either historical or current)  Where do you find inspiration on a daily basis?

 Cindy Sherman’s multiple roles in producing an image was exciting for me and influenced a lot of performative works.  Francesca Woodman, Ann Arden McDonald. It’s changed dramatically in the past year as I’m absorbing a lot from Sabat Magazine and Carla, Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici, Amanda Yates Garcia- Oracle of L.A. and the #witchesofinstagram has been a source for learning about current trends with witches and mystics.  Louis Darget, Chaira Fumai – my list is constantly filling. I like to pull in as much as I can.

I spend an unhealthy amount of time in my head but also a lot of my inspiration is sourced through mediation and ritual.


What drives you to live and make work in the Detroit area now? 

I’ve lived in the suburbs outside of Detroit my entire life. I’m isolated when it comes to downtown connections, even at Cranbrook, it became difficult to find time to casually meet and discuss with other artists. During the school year, once 3:00pm hits I’m transitioning into mother mode time- not anything I’m willing to sacrifice. My role as a mother is the most important right now.


Finally, what advice do would you give to an aspiring photographer?

Liz Cohen, my graduate AIR, urged us to decide of how art is supposed to function. This is your rule. Once it is established then self–defeat has less of a chance to ruin your dreams.  On that same note, when someone asks you “And what do you plan on doing with your photography”? don’t take them seriously and remember your fearlessness is intimidating. Don’t give up. Don’t take rejection personally. Success requires patience and practicing compassion towards myself and my process. My critical brain will never validate me at any point in my artistic career because it always expects I can do better. When we stop making work we get depressed, resentful and confused. So please, just keep making art.


You can view more of Sonia's work on her website here, or use this direct link to book your own 30-minute Darkroom Divination session.

Information about the Grounding Center can be found on their website or Facebook page.  You can contact them with inquiries at thegroundingcenter@gmail.com.

 

Steve Koss, No Time to Worry

For our first interview on the blog, we are delighted to introduce you to Steve Koss.  Steve grew up in Lake Orion and then served in the Air Force in North Carolina and Okinawa, where he studied Japanese language and the history of the Ryukyu Islands.  He started taking pictures abroad to document what he saw overseas, and then continued studying photography at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit when he returned.  Steve was a 2016 Documenting Detroit Fellow, during which time he created the series No Time to Worry.  I spoke to Steve in light of Documenting Detroit's upcoming deadline for their 2017 fellowship, you can find out more about that here.

 

Tell us a little about your background, where did you grow up and how did you end up in Detroit? 

I grew up in Lake Orion, and after a couple years in the Air Force, I came back to the area. I had a choice between majors to continue an Asian Studies degree, or continue with a growing passion for photography. I wound up choosing the photography, and attending CCS.

 

Tell us a bit about your recent body of work, No Time To Worry.

No Time to Worry, is a look at Detroit through a couple different nightclubs throughout the city. The work was really about exploring spaces, and the people who occupy them, touching on the various subcultures and communities that utilize the spaces. It is a mix of both 4x5 portraiture, and 35mm candid photographs.

Did you know the people in the photographs, or were they strangers?

They are of people I met while I was photographing. Sometimes I would have to ask if they would like to get a portrait taken, and I would tell them about what I was doing. Other times people would walk up, and take interest in what I was doing. The big camera, and large lighting set up would peak peoples interest a lot of the time.

 

How did you take these images (what camera, film, etc) and how does your process affect the resulting images?

I usually use film for most of my personal projects. Most of my ideation begins by choosing a medium, that way the medium becomes part of the process throughout the work. For No Time to Worry, 4x5, and 35mm film where the mediums of choice. The larger camera and strobe used definitely had an effect on how the portraits were made. For instance the photography is a much slower process, leaving more time for the photographer and subject to connect. It was also created out of the idea of slowing the subject down, and creating a sense of isolation, the kind you can only get in crowded spaces. Other projects like American Dream, instant film was used, as a way to speak to the instant candid photograph, and the idea of the snapshot that fills so many shoeboxes, scrapbooks, and photo albums in the U.S. Even now I’m working on a project that is all square, using 2 1/4 film.

 

How was your experience working with the Documenting Detroit fellowship program?  How did it impact the final work?

Documenting Detroit was a great experience over the summer. They definitely had a big push in my continuation of 4x5 photography. Krissane Johnson, who was my mentor, had a large impact as well on the work, and made the contribution of me utilizing 35mm. I was feeling like something was missing with just the portraiture, and those candid photographs really helped to round out the environments. The intensive week was really an eye opening experience, and still has a large impact today. Also the community that has been created out of the fellows, and members is really supportive, and helps to connect people who all love, and see the value in photography.

 

Can you talk a bit about how you decided on the title of the project?  It implies both crisis and comfort; either we have no time to worry because things are so bad we have to act, or we don’t need to worry because things are ok.   How do you see it?

I named the price no time to worry because I was really looking at how bars and places like that work. When times are bad we go to bars and when times are good we still go to bars. The title is really about letting life fall away for a couple hours, whether things are good or bad. 

 

How do you see these images in relation to other work you’ve made?  Your past work seems to negotiate with the reality of an idealized American ideal.  Many images are also composed in a way that obstructs us from entering the space.  We can’t place ourselves within the landscape, often due to fences, highways, crops, etc.  Where do you see your viewer in this work, or yourself, in this work?

I think a lot of my work is focused on symbols, and how meaning, is generated by culture, or a larger social subconscious. The work for Document Detroit is really looking at culture and places, and the symbols, and language, which not only creates an identity for that social environment, but also exists between everyone. A large intent of mine is to show not only the things that separate us, but also how those same things can connect us.

Photography has a long history of creating differences between people, and exploiting those differences. I hope that within my documentary work that connections can be made between subject and viewer, and that some understanding can be reached that we all live with the same basic emotions. The landscapes of the neighborhood in Hazel Park where I was living at the time were about connecting to memories and nostalgia. It’s really about the places that everyone has growing up. Landmarks that only kids create to navigate their neighborhoods. I wanted the viewer to connect with those, and remember their own places that have become their personal historical landmarks. That is why the scenes are devoid of time, and location, they are tiny sections that would otherwise have no true importance, much like the landmarks we create as children, and like memory you can never really enter again.

I see a similar comparison between your American Dream collages and your found objects in Detroit.  One re-imagines past pictures from a jaded or satirical space, while the other is an almost scientific study of remnants in the isolated space of the studio. One is forwardly collage, while the other is a dis-assembly.  What role do you see collecting and found imagery playing in your practice?

The still lifes of cut paper, that where then photographed for American Dream, where a way for me as an artist to touch on issues that I may not be able to speak to in any other way. The narratives created by the photographs came through playing, and seeing what would happen when ideas are contrasted. I created about 42 of them in total, some where aimed at specific ideas, like latent homosexuality caused by ideals in a society, or American dormancy when it comes to world politics, and the wars that our country is fighting/involved in. While others were about just being funny, and experimenting with symbols, tropes, and ideals of a culture. The found objects where more of a quick experiment looking at how we understand documentary photography. I have become more interested with exploring how we can tell stories visually that exhibit a truth without being what we normally think of when we hear the words documentary photography. I think there is a lot more freedom afforded to those working in the documentary film genre than there is for still photographers. Overall found imagery, and objects, just becomes a way to speak to larger ideas, without directly involving subjects.

 

How do you define the American Dream?  And how healthy do you think it is in our current climate?

I think the American Dream exists, and it really isn’t so bad, who doesn’t want their own house? But you have to realize that is a constructed narrative. In the same way our idea of Santa is constructed from illustrations from Coca Cola. The American Dream as the baby boomers knew it, and some of my friends still subscribe too, is something that needs to be rethought. I think at some level the narrative is changing, but at the time whatever takes the place of the picket fence, or the big car, consumerism will be close behind.

What other photographers, artists, people or things influence you? Where do you find inspiration on a daily basis?

Well television and movies are always a big influence on me, especially because I hate and love it at the same time. I can always say Magnum too, but more specifically in photography Martin Parr, Walker Evans, Lewis Hine, Alec Sloth, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Eugene Smith, Joel Meyerowitz, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston, Ruth Thorne Thomsen, to name a few. Other than photographers, Errol Morris the Director, Henri Matisse. That’s just some people that I have found helpful. I think I find inspiration a lot by driving, this may sound bad, but it's this great way of being focused, and not being focused, it really helps to split my brain, giving it one activity, while the other half can kind of wonder in thought.

What drives you to live and make work in the Detroit area now? 

I am still in school at CCS, so that makes staying here a little bit easier.

 

Finally, what advice do would you give to an aspiring photographer?

The most influential thing that I have realized by working with other photographers, and listening to them speak, is that no one actually knows what the hell they are doing. So don’t feel bad that you don’t know at the time either. Also, the old phrase still holds true today, F8 and be there, so keep a camera with you all the time, and just enjoy taking photographs of whatever. Those will probably be the ones that mean the most later on anyway.

 

To see more of Steve's work, contact, or follow him on social media, visit his website.

Detroit Voter Portraits

In light of the 2016 presidential election, Darkroom Detroit put out an open call to photographers in the area to photograph their fellow voters at their local polling places on election day, November 8th.  The resulting images show a diverse body of voters, proud to be exercising their democratic right. "I Voted" stickers are presented prominently as proof of action, but are similarly held up by those too young to vote as a promise for a future ballot one day cast.  

Selected images here by Samantha Mannino, Razi Jafri, Dejuan Hayes, Angela Williams, and John Davis.  To receive updates of future open calls, you can sign up for our email list here.