D-Nice: Hip-Hop Portraits at photokina 2014

This series examines the photographers who exhibited at the Leica Galerie at photokina 2014. The focus of this year’s exhibition concept was on impressive photography from the world of music. It embraced all facets of music photography, and today we’re featuring D-Nice, a hip-hop artist and photographer whose images of his famous friends give those of us who do not know them a more personal look into their lives and personalities. The following interview is a compilation from our live Twitter chat with D-Nice on Friday, September 19 during photokina. Thank you to all who participated and submitted these thoughtful questions!

D-Nice was born Derrick Jones in 1970, in the Bronx, New York. His career has many facets. In addition to being a hip-hop artist, he was successful as a DJ, beatboxer, rapper and producer before adding photography to the list.

Like few others, D-Nice and his Leica get up close and personal with the stars of the American hip-hop, R&B and rap scenes. D-Nice started his solo career as part of the New York hip-hop community when he was 19. “Call Me D-Nice” was his first hit in 1990. By the time he had completed his second album, he had had enough of the business conditions ruling the music industry. Still, he remained faithful to his surroundings and started working for other musicians. In the following years he made himself a name as a DJ. He also discovered photography, not least as a response to the fast pace of the music scene. Initially he was simply documenting his surroundings, but then he quickly received assignments to shoot campaigns and covers. The fact that he has been part of the scene for years ensures that he has direct, informal photographic access, because he has the trust of his colleagues and friends. In addition to the pictures taken on stage, his private, direct portraits are impressive, offering an authentic glimpse into his world of music.

Q: When did you first fall in love with hip-hop and Leica?

A: I fell in love with hip-hop in 1984 and in 1999, I fell in love with Leica.

Q: How did you get into photography?

A: In 1993 when I was no longer able to sell records and my rap career was over. I didn’t document it. I had nothing tangible to show my family so I picked up a cheap camera. Every day I took pictures until I felt they were good enough to share with my friends. That’s it and here I am able to travel the world again.

Q: How would you describe your photography in three words?

A: (1) Honest, because that’s what I really enjoy about taking pictures, (2) insightful, because I want people to see other recording artists the way I do and (3) raw.

Q: Musicians have a sound. Photographers have a style. What tips can you give for developing one’s signature?

A: I had this problem when I went to school for photography. They wanted you to shoot the way the teacher did. I wanted to shoot in my own perspective. I kept shooting and went out and captured images until I found a few I loved. And then that’s the way I would take pictures.

 

Q: You shoot photographs of your friends, who are musicians and celebrities. How does that affect your shooting style?

A: Being in the entertainment industry has its advantages. People trust me and know I won’t share an image that would jeopardize them. They want me to photograph them really because they trust me. And because they trust me, I tend to take less photos. I take the camera out and take only one or two shots.

Q: Musically, you’re down with BDP (Boogie Down Productions). Which photographers would you like to be down with?

A: I’m a huge Jim Marshall fan. I’ve met him and talked photography with him and also have his books. I love Anton Corbijn – I have all of his books. Most of the photographers that I love have passed on. Gordon Parks pretty much inspired me to be creative with music and photography. One more I can’t forget is my good friend Jonathan Mannion. He’s been supportive of my photo career from the very start.

Q: Hip-hop and photography have changed so much in the last 40 years. What changes do you embrace/disregard?

A: I’ve embraced it all with photography – digital and film. I am going to buy the Leica M Edition “Leica 60” because I hate looking at the screen.

Thank you, Derrick!

– Leica Internet Team

To view more of D-Nice’s work and learn more about his career, please visit his website. You can also follow him on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram. See #DasWesentliche impressions from photokina here.

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3 comments

  • As a photographer I was able to capture some of hip hops most memorable album covers in the 90’s. I had a solid brand of photography up until 1999. From there I evolve into another art platform for me to express myself, the motion picture. I share this here because I relate to D-NICE in so many ways, going from one platform to another. Art is Art. I have tremendous respect for him and where has taken his photography. I feel that he has that new perspective with the old school photography approach. Perfect combination for the world of capturing imagery today. Keep doing it D. Your fan, Danny Hastings. Maybe one day he takes my picture.

  • I really appreciate these wonderful portraits by the Human 808:) I can feel the honesty and the warmth. Even the posed pictures are relaxed and at ease, much like D-Nice. Thank you Leica for featuring D-Nice and Hiphop:)

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