Starting October 9th, the EMU student center gallery will feature “Capture the Culture,” by 21-year-old Derek Dandridge.
“I chose the name to play on the popularity of the word ‘culture,’” explains the Detroit native. “On social media and in songs, the message is, ‘Do it for the Culture,’ without really knowing what constitutes our culture. I photographed the culture that people like to glorify, but don’t recognize as problematic. I touch on mental health, a huge part in the black community [that] we don’t focus on, (as well as) drug and alcohol abuse, how we, as African-Americans, are placed in society, and stereotypes and masculinity. The eight photos (in the show) each represent the subjects and the song I listened to when I captured the image.” The showcase provides an intimate look at black culture and life in Detroit, without becoming exploitive.
Being comfortable with the people
“It’s really about being comfortable with the people,” Dandridge, also known as Specs, explains. “A lot of friends, who are artists, are willing to let me capture them in their element. If I see someone smoking or drinking, I know he or she is attempting to mask something. You have people who come down to the city and take pictures of these things, but it’s exploitation. The media eats our culture up; it eats the rawness and grittiness of our culture. I’m here to offer the back-story, to say why this is happening.”
The EMU gallery hosted a Dandridge showcase last April, and the artists wants the new version to be different. “My plan this time is to make it an experience,” he says. “Besides the photos, I’ll have a cinematic medium. The gallery has surround-sound so I’ll be sound-directing for the first time and presenting what you’d hear around the neighborhoods growing up in Detroit.”
Dandridge plans to follow the October installment with a book in mid-2018 showcasing all his photos.
Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.