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Meet renowned photographer from the DMV. UGLY is his name, but his photography is far from that. I sat down with him to discuss his journey in this realm and give him his much-deserved flowers.

TMP: When did you start photography?

U: I stole a Fuji Instax from Circuit City when I was 9 or 10. I used to watch my dad take photos at our family gatherings. I have so many photos of myself from my childhood. It became normal to always be always taking photos.

TMP: How did you come up with your brand name?

U: I’ve told multiple stories behind the name, but mostly, I chose the name because it bothered people.  It was also really memorable. Some folks would get angry at me for naming myself that; others would just laugh in my face. In some ways, it’s a Rorschach test on how you perceive me. 

TMP: How did you know you had the creative eye?

U: I don’t think I have a creative eye; I just think my mind was warped from watching music videos growing up. I always cite Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, Dave Meyers, and Hype Williams as my main influences. I’ve been copying them my whole life. 

TMP: When did you realize you had something to offer to the world of entertainment? 

U: I didn’t — I still view my photography as an unnecessary element in the entertainment world. If anything, I’m sponging off the eccentricities of artists in the DMV. They’re all so beautifully strange. They all interact with me differently.

Some folks want to pose for a few photos and dip, others want to tell me about the intricate details of their childhood. My invisibility is freeing to some people; I don’t really exist outside of the camera. Some people dm me asking if I’m the “dark skinned n**** with dreads” or “the tall light skinned guy.” NOPE. 

TMP: What was the moment that you knew you had something, and you were onto something with this photography world?

U: Some bro offered me money for a photo on the spot at Cloak & Dagger. The guy cashapp'd me 100 dollars for what I considered a mid-photo. He told me it was “the greatest photo of himself he’s ever seen.” He also said he loved me. I hope he’s doing well — saw him vomit on his girlfriend later that night. 

TMP: What are you learning about yourself as you continue in your career?

U: I consistently fail upwards. I slip on a banana peel, but somehow end up sliding into a pile of gold. 

TMP: What photographers have inspired you?

U: I went through a Richard Avedon phase over the last year. White backdrop, but without the underlying meaning and pain in his work. I do love that most his subjects hate him. I like Daido Moriyama; I basically stole his blurry street photography style but applied it to studio photography. It’s pretty obvious — you can see in the cover I made for rapper Damnshawtok!’s album Pandora. Moriyama’s work has an off-putting and euphoric energy to it. Lorna Simpson makes me want to embrace mixed-media art. 

TMP: Who have been some of your favorite people to take pictures of?

U: I like shooting with Alex Vaughn, she’s an amazing person, singer, she’s a capital-S star and in a few years, I’m going to print shirts with those photos and exploit her fame. Odd Mojo, because she always has some insane space idea. Hasani, because we mostly just yell about being Jamaican. Lust Nite and Damnshawtok! because they’re both bad people.


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