First Impressions x The Great Discontent focuses on quick, candid conversations with emerging creative voices. Let’s discover and celebrate new ideas, voices, and sources of inspiration together.
Dee Dwyer is a photographer and educator from southeast Washington, DC whose work defiantly celebrates the humanity of historically marginalized communities. Whether it’s a scenic shot from the streets of Havana or a haunting portrait from the southside of DC, Dee’s photographs capture and convey the magic of the human experience in all its bewildering forms.
You’ve been labeled the “The Visual Voice for the People.” What does that description mean to you and how does it inform your approach as a photographer?
Being the “Visual Voice for the People” means I am responsible for clarifying many misconceptions that the world has dumped on the “Misunderstood” through photographs. The “Misunderstood” are people that aren’t socially accepted into society and/or are economically disadvantaged. This informs my approach as a photographer by always putting “humanity” first before I hit my shutter button.
Photography has been a constant in your creative journey. What sparked your fascination with your craft? What has sustained you?
As a teenager, I developed a fascination with photography. I never left the house without my disposable camera to document the daily life of family and friends. I enjoyed watching their excitement as they saw their images. Fast forward years later and my BFA in Filmmaking and Digital Production helped develop my keen eye and technical skills. While taking a required Black & White photography class, I had to shoot and develop my own film using the Canon AE1 camera. This is how my love for photography blossomed. I’d be in the streets taking pictures of people, and later that day I’d go to the dark room for hours to develop my rolls.
As I document the “Black Experience” throughout the diaspora, watching the impact that an image has on people has sustained my fascination. I love to inspire people and show them their inner beauty. It’s our duty as humans to do this for one another.
There is an intimate, piercing quality to your photos. You have a gift of bringing us closer to individuals and communities that are often silenced. In your mind, what are you trying to achieve through your work?
By photographing raw and compelling moments I unveil the souls of people. I want to show you their beauty, truth, adversities, and culture. I spend most of my time photographing the communities that are often silenced because I want the people with resources to see what’s happening and share their resources with these communities to better them.
Your work has taken you around the globe. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot from those experiences. If you had to condense it all into a paragraph, what is the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself, your craft, or the human experience through your journey as a creative?
While traveling around the globe, I learned that photography is a powerful weapon and that there is beauty and struggle everywhere. What’s ironic is that there is beauty in the struggle. It’s a part of life. The camera exposes the truth. It provides physical evidence of what exists. The biggest thing I’ve learned about myself is that I spend time trying to understand human experiences. This is essential to my process. I create photographs that show people in their element. My goal is to expose all aspects of human life with the primary focus being humanity.
You had a chance to photograph Zykera Tucker, a designer from Southeast DC who is featured in The Great Discontent magazine. What was that like for you?
Photographing Zykera was inspiring. Seeing how much she’s focused and fearless on creating a change in her community has inspired me to stay dedicated to my mission. It amazed me to watch a child from the same place I am from, Southeast DC, be more innovative and solution-oriented than most adults. Politicians and school leaders can learn a lot from her. As I shared a day documenting her journey, I enjoyed Zykera’s unique spirit. She’s witty, passionate, calm, and highly intelligent. A very woke young lady. Since spending time with the young Queen, I’ve been reading a lot more and coming up with ways to be more purposeful with each and every thing I do in life.
This series is made possible by a spontaneous friendship between Holiday Matinee and The Great Discontent. Learn more about our pals at TheGreatDiscontent.com.