Pictures Worth a Thousand Words: Bree Gant

Bree Gant is a renowned photographer who has been featured in Fader Magazine, Metro Times, Essence Magazine and more. She is known for her projects like Lost and Crowned, work with Rock City Lookbook, and helping many artists ideas come to life.

With an eye for fashion, a creative will, and a drive to bring beautiful diasporas to life, Gant has not only been making a mark in the photography world but every art world in between. She has a plethora of amazing ideas and is not afraid to do whatever she has to, including riding with Aunt Ddot to do so. Gant continues to show the world the beauty she sees within her camera lens, and personally, I cannot get enough.

What inspired you to become a photographer?

My dad got me a pink Fujifilm point and shoot digital camera when I graduated from Cass. I got to Howard and never put it down. A friend at the University paper suggested me for the photo department and within the semester I was Photo Editor. I started blogging portraits of students on campus, and the opportunities just kept coming. I found not just an audience, but a mutual support system in women of color across the diaspora, and the world. We were in need of a new reflection of ourselves. My photos allowed me to communicate across time and space. I felt so powerful and when other Black women told me they felt the same just experiencing my work, I knew I could never give this up.

You are also a stylist; does that make your job as a photographer easier or harder?

I’m not a stylist. I’m glad you mentioned this because a lot of people think I am. I love aesthetics and adornment and fashion. I’m actively exploring my style, and even doing a little sewing these days. Having an eye for fashion definitely helps when shooting, though–especially with portraiture. It also really helps to work with dope professionals like Stephanie Blair and Lord Tini 🙂

You are a black female who is also openly queer, how do you think those elements of yourself influence your work?

It makes everything about politics, for one–whether I want it to or not. I remember going to an artist talk while I was in undergrad and hearing a white hipster chick who did embroidery in southeast DC say the phrase ‘art for art’s sake’ and mention how she keeps politics out of her work. I was heated. At the time, I thought it was because she didn’t use her work to make a statement and because gentrification was suffocating Chocolate City, and this white girl who landed a funded residency in the hood thought politics had nothing to do with her art. Later I realized I resented her ability to choose, or maybe her agency in choosing. ‘Art for art’s sake’ sounded like a fantasy to me. I never politicized my work. If I’m being honest I never even identified as a lesbian, even though half of campus thought I was. All I ever did was what I wanted to do, and let the pieces fall where they may. But one day I started carrying other people’s pieces…I guess the influence has been how to manage that weight, what it looks like to manage the weight of the world.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I’ve been so blessed to attract like-minded clients and collaborators it’s hard to choose favorites. Shooting with Beads Byaree always felt like home. Working with Aree Goodwin and her team was peak Black girl magic before that phrase was even a thing. GirlTrek, Inc. is another client turned family. When founders Vanessa Garrison and Morgan Dixon approached me about documenting their movement that was my first time I felt like I could do this as a career. Beads Byaree and GirlTrek, Inc have literally been with me my entire 8+ year career.

Detroit Clothing Circle and Rock City Lookbook are also ongoing collaborations that have taught me how to let projects live and grow bigger than me or a brand. It is exciting to see the fashion photography we produce shaping the city.

Your work has been featured in many art galleries, and even the Detroit Public Library, where do you hope your art will be featured one day?

I want to see my photos in public archives and private collections around the world. Many saw my work at the library, but few know that the exhibit catalog is archived in the Burton Historical Collection. I am so proud to literally make history ^_^ and private collections–especially for marginalized artists—[they] are necessary to protect work for generations to come.

I would also love to produce an afrofuture series and see it featured on the Syfy Network, and exhibit my documentary photos of the art scene in Detroit at Red Bull House of Art. I’m pressed to shoot for Jones Magazine, Grand Circus, Dance Magazine, and Hycide, too.  

Your Afrofuturepast project recently received the Knights Art Grant, what will you be doing with this project?

I will be doing dance films, zines, community events. It will be reimagining historical context for black women. It is a visual artist statement/autobiography highlight African diaspora visual culture in Detroit.

Who do you hope to work with in the future?

Siana Treece, Amandla Baraka, Jay Katelansky, Kimberly Drew, Arts.Black, Kelela, Jungle Pussy, and Black Orange.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

Touring [with my project] Afrofuturepast. Fashion Week in Lagos. pitching a show to SyFy, and doing a cover of Jones in February.

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