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Black History Month in SWFL: Chris Daniels

Antonio Reyes
Chris Daniels

We're now more than halfway through Black History Month. So, in honor of those of black heritage here in Southwest Florida, WGCU is featuring local African Americans from across the region — from all sorts of professions, genders and backgrounds. This is a recent conversation between WGCU’s Rachel Iacovone and a local artist who’s highlighting his community this month, in a visual way.

Chris Daniels is a well-known photographer in Southwest Florida. That’s even though he only just picked up a camera in late fall of 2018.

Since then, he’s amassed thousands of Instagram followers with his vibrant portraits and crisp videos highlighting, mainly, millennials of color in the area. This month, Daniels is using his newfound talents to highlight members of the black community in a project he calls “28 Days of Melanin.”  

        View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Truly Chris | Portraits & Film (@trulychrisportraits) on Feb 1, 2019 at 8:00am PST

Iacovone: So, tell me a little bit about – it was kind of like a sizzle reel -- that first one, it was like your launch video. Here it is, and it was very short clips it seems like of all the models by the end of the month we’ll see.

Daniels: Right. So, this was the start of the vision. I didn’t know I wanted to do a 28 Days of Melanin. I just knew I wanted to do a project where I just showcased us in this fun and happy and powerful way. And, I reached out to one of my fraternity brothers, Chad-Anthony Schloss. He’s amazing, and he’s been working on his poetry. And, I said, “Man, just give me something that gives me that fervor, that feeling, and we’re going to capture it. And, I had been listening to this song, “Black” by Buddy, all 2018. And, I felt like there was some people who had utilized it in their projects, but it hadn’t got the highlight that it needed to for what it was doing and how it made me feel. I listened to that song almost every morning. And, you know, I did a couple photoshoots, and then, I realized, I said, “Just walk for me.” And the more people I started asking to walk the more I started loving the feeling of that and how it made me feel. And, I put it together in this video, and every time I watch it, I just smile. I just think about those moments, and I’m just happy for everyone who was a part of it.

Iacovone: So, how did you choose which spoken word to use because listening to it, it kind of starts, you know…

Schloss: They brought us in chains and locks, but didn’t foresee the greatness we were developing. They hung us from trees, and still, we didn’t let the feeling of settling settle in.

Iacovone: …in someone’s face, like, yeah, this happened. People were lynched, you know? And, then, by the end, it’s the line of, you know, “If God gives you this much melanin…”

Schloss: If God gives you this much melanin, it’s impossible to let the devil in.

Daniels: I think that I kind of told him to run to the races with it, and I think that that’s the beauty of who he is. He can be very serious, and he can have a very strong tone to him; but, I think he also understands us and people, and he also understands fun. And, just as much as you had those bad times and you had those moments, don’t just linger on those in this moment, but linger on, also, what you can give to the world and, just, be bold. And, I just think he was able to put that together very well. That’s just the genius of him though.

Iacovone: So, what do you want people to remember from this project?

Daniels: I want people to realize that we’re all models, you know? As a photographer, my job is to capture you. And, if you’re in focus of my camera, you are a model, and you have something to model. And, that is your life, your story, your journey, your narrative, what you are, what you’ve experienced in your life. And, I just want people to know they’re beautiful in all their beautiful imperfections, and it’s so easy to capture you when you’re just being yourself. And, so, don’t look on your Instagram timeline and not see you and feel left out or feel like you’re not pretty or you’re not beautiful enough. And, it’s not just because we’re black that we’re beautiful. Everybody is beautiful. I just want to make sure that you know that you’re not left out of that equation.

        View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Truly Chris | Portraits & Film (@trulychrisportraits) on Feb 10, 2019 at 8:00am PST

Iacovone: Going back to that point a little bit, with representation…

Daniels: Right.

Iacovone: You know, it’s like, growing up, I’m sure you felt the same way

Daniels: All the time.

Iacovone: No one had curly hair like me in things, you know? There’s no Latina princess. So, what is this in a long-term?

Daniels: I always want to make sure that anything that I do, whether it’s music or it’s photography, it’s videography, I’m using it to showcase my community. And, my community is very diverse. But, I also want to make sure I showcase the community that I grew up in and the situations that I grew up in that might not have been showcased as well. So, yeah, people of color, but people of all kinds of walks of life I want to make sure that I’m showcasing. And, I just think that I’ve started to kind of call this more like narrative photography. And, I want to just get into more of that, and I want to tell more people’s stories. And, so, yeah, this is going to be more. More to come of this, a lot, yeah.

        View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Truly Chris | Portraits & Film (@trulychrisportraits) on Feb 11, 2019 at 7:59am PST