In today’s social media world, there’s two types of art that, in the eyes of many, are oversaturated. In the city of Atlanta a phrase I’ve heard often, and have even used: “throw a rock in any direction and you’ll either hit a photographer or a soundcloud rapper.” But while I was sitting there, scrolling through her instagram, I felt nervous, because the woman that was about to sit down with me isn’t just any photographer. I was sitting down with Deseri Rice, one of the best photographers in Atlanta.
To me, Beyonce, Solange, Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, Janelle Monae, Ava DuVernay, Lupita, and Deseri Rice, are top of the list when I think of the phrase Black Girl Magic. Each of these women are trailblazers, visionaries, and undeniable talents. For anyone who ever modeled for Desi, the feeling of being in front of her camera is completely different from other shoots. Normally you’re focused on giving a look, or appearing to follow a certain aesthetic. Desi frees you from that, and is one of the few photographers who truly captures you as you are, as your truest self. After a friendly hug I decided to dive into some questions.
What got you into photography?
I’ve always been into the fashion ads in magazines and editing my profile pics for myspace. It wasn’t until my Intro to Photography class that I discovered it as my passion. After learning the controls I took it and ran with it.
How do you pick your people? Ever turn anybody down that got mad about it?
I feel as if everyone has their own uniqueness about them. It may not be as evident as some but I take it as a challenge. I haven’t really turn anyone away. If it’s not one of my concepts then it’s a paid gig and usually that filters out the ones I’m not creatively connected to. Honestly if my models are passionate about the project and really into it, it always works out. I will say I’ve had a few that aren’t on the same creative plane and I just let that dissolve on its own naturally. But I encourage everyone to find themselves in front of the camera.
Your tag is deseritheartist but every time I hear people talk about you they say “Desi The God”. Why not take that handle?
I’m honored of the title honestly. I don’t mind others calling me that but I rather not call myself a God for personal reasons. I played around with the spelling and still felt uneasy. Also I don’t want others that don’t know me the wrong impression of me calling myself that.
I honestly find this part fascinating. Myself included, ego has always played a major role in the world of entertainment, from the justified confidence of Grammy winners, to has beens like Bow Wow and his lies about private jets. The concept of “fake it ‘till you make it” and showing out for an audience has always seemed extremely important, but from what I can see, faking anything is beyond Desi. She’s real, she’s honest, and she’s kind. That’s a major breath of fresh air, one I think everyone who meets her appreciates. As usual, I start to lose focus after my strawberry pancakes arrive, so I went back to asking questions so I wouldn’t have to do much talking.
At what point in a shoot do you look and go “Oh shit, I did that!”? When do you know you’ve taken the perfect shot?
During photo sessions I get this high feeling like mid session after me and the sitter(s) have warmed up and I just let go. This feeling doesn’t happen every session which doesn’t mean those shots weren’t good but some of my best shots comes from that feeling. It’s like I’ve caught the photo holy ghost lol.That feeling man, I can’t explain it. After i see the result from that feeling, that’s always my reaction. I really be in awe sometimes while editing, that’s when it hits me the most.
Top 3 models/celebrities you’d love to shoot?
There’s not many I follow. But i find Kiko Mizuhara, Luka Sabbat, and Kwollem style very intriguing. There’s more but definitely my top three.
Desi laughed when I passed on my idea that a collaboration between herself and Zendaya would probably snatch every wig in existence.
Top 3 magazines you’d love to do a cover shoot for?
There are a few that I’d like to work with like Blanc, MODZIK, and Pause Magazine. I’m actually working on my own, AU COURANT, be on the lookout.
Desi has recently announced that AU COURANT is still in development but a release date has not yet been chosen. Check her social media for updates on that via her instagram @deseritheartist
Cosmo? Essence? Or Vogue?
It would be cool to have a spread in all of these.
For your IG followers, your story is always lit. Seems like you always find the dope events and shows. In Atlanta there’s an event every 10 feet, so what’s your secret to avoiding wackness?
I really love these questions lol I’ve had several people come up to me like “Yo, Des what’s the move?” There’s tons of things to do in Atlanta just gotta be plugged in. If the vibe isn’t right I leave immediately. My secret is follow the DJ’s lol the ones you really like have a following with similar taste and you can never go wrong with the crowd.
One example of this that any follower of Desi’s knows is her friendship with an incredible DJ known as Thrice Groove. Thrice is slowly but surely taking over Atlanta, and Desi has been there to witness the way he dominates a room with his amazing sound.
Top 10 songs on your playlist right now?
Out of a trillion? I flip flop a lot between decades and genres so I revisit a lot like the song just dropped. Lol in no order.
Blossom Dearie – Ravyn Lenae
Supposed to Say Goodbye – Etta bond & Raf Riley
Pick it Up – Famous Dex
Dam Girl – Frills
Vogue -Full Crate
Mi Gente – J.Balvin & Willy William
Due to Me- Jean Deaux
Distractions I: The opposite sex – Kilo Kish
Hold It Down – Mia Gladstone
Get Money – Michael Da Vinci
Despite my extensive music library I feel a tinge of shame for not recognizing a single name listed, and make a mental note to download every single artist later. Aside from a great photographer’s eye, Desi also has an amazing ear for music, so anything she reccomends is usually dope.
So in today’s social media age, there’s photographers who literally get paid to live with and follow influencers. What’s the dollar amount you’d do that for? Or never ever?
Depends. If i really f with that person’s vision and I have full creative flexibility then I’d do it as long as my living expenses are taken care of. I’ve actually never heard of this.
At this moment I pull of my phone and show her my favorite example, a talented guy out of LA known as Brendan North, who until a few months ago, would follow Logan Paul. With a simple “oh, cool” she goes back to her food.
3 breakfast must haves?
Eggwhite Omelette, all the veggies and pepper jack cheese. Breakfast potatoes with veggies. My mom’s grits with cheese (very particular about my grits)
I laugh a little because while she works her way through her healthy omelette, I’m still waging war on the Colorado Omelette, which is the exact opposite of healthy. If I wanted to I could probably come up with some correlation between her talent, incredible vibe, and responsible eating, but I’d rather pretend there’s unrelated and not give up my Colorado Omelettes.
Last month Desi put on an amazing event called Only On Thursdays. She did one last year that went amazingly well, and this one also did not disappoint. In fact, Lilac Sky had the honor of being one of the vendors. It was the perfect place for artists to represent themselves on an equal, and supportive, playing field.
What is “Only On Thursdays”? Only On Thursday’s originated from me wanted to showcase my work gallery style but also involve the music scene in Atlanta that I want to share with my friends. Also to bring back that portfolio review feel from college. I felt like I lost my creative mojo once I graduated because projects aren’t forced on me anymore. My main goal is bring together everything I love and give local photographers and artist a platform to present their work. Many are scared to take that step. This event is for everyone to get inspired and take that leap. So far I’ve helped maybe 4 artist showcase their talents for the first time and hopefully it doesn’t stop there.
How do you decide what artists to put in your show? I do not do open calls for artist. They are carefully picked by what I believe will flow well with the collection and from whom I gain inspiration. They aren’t super famous artist, they might not have a collection by the time I contact them. Really just your everyday artist coming together for something awesome.
You have this crazy soulful element to your photos, it’s like, you can identify a Desi shot out of a group. So, my last question: Do you realize how dope you are? Lol i’m just me.
I believe with all my heart that someday, Desi herself, and the world, will realize her greatness.