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?
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.
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!