Many people are content to master one skill and stick to it exclusively. But a combination of youthful exuberance and creative energy drives 21-year-old East Nashvillian DeAndre Holland, who has long been interested in both graphic design and photography.
He not only has a foot in both worlds, but in the past, has pursued each vigorously. Despite being passionate about both, photography now seems to be inching ahead of graphic design as his primary obsession. While visual appeal would seem the obvious thing linking these fields, Holland maintains there are still plenty of differences between them.
Well, yes, you can see some connections, but for me, the approach and the appeal are very distinctive,” Holland says during a recent lengthy interview. “Graphic design’s appeal for me was through illustrations. You are drawing something and now, with digital a big part of graphic design, there’s also a mathematical component. Photography on the other hand is about something more stark, trying to capture something special and unique. But with both, for me I’m interested in trying to make things more interactive, get a reaction from the person’s who is viewing it.
“I come from a family of artists,” he continues. “I’ve been drawing since I was 10. It’s something that comes naturally, the images I see and the impressions that I get from them. One of the things that I don’t want to do with either graphic design or photography is something that’s obvious or conventional. I’m always looking for something that the average person wouldn’t notice.
“One thing with ads for instance, where you do layering with the designs digitally — that’s something I enjoy. I don’t want to just do a static setting or pattern. I want someone to see it and react to it, whether it’s positive or negative. Not so much to take attention away from the product, but to get them more engrossed with the total picture.
“I try to always look at scenes and scan them for the things that others wouldn’t notice. For example, if I’m taking a street scene, I’m going to look for someone standing over in the corner smoking a cigarette who’s not even really paying attention to the fact that they are on camera. What you can catch in that moment, the expression when it’s unguarded, that’s the thing that I want to get with the camera. Now there are some people who wouldn’t even notice someone smoking, and others who wouldn’t shoot it because they don’t like smoking. Me, not only do I notice it, but I try to see what makes it different, then shoot it to accent that difference.”
“I try to always look at scenes and scan them for the things that others wouldn’t notice.”
Although hardly a grizzled veteran, Holland’s had some intriguing experiences already. These include an extended trip overseas in 2012 that took him to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Barbados. “I was with my grandmother on that trip,” he says and laughs. “I was doing graphic design and taking photographs and also spending time with her. But I think that’s when I really began to get a feel for what I wanted to do. Even though I initially thought that graphic design was going to be my main feel, photography really began to attract me. Besides the incredible scenery and people, it was when I really started to get in my head the feeling that I could make a living as a photographer, and that it was really what I wanted to do.”
Ironically, Holland is actually trained as a graphic designer, studying design at Nossi College of Art. “I did enjoy doing illustrations for a time,” he adds. “I might even be interested in maybe doing some for magazines or for editorials, though I was never interested in being an editorial cartoonist or working on comic books. It was more I saw graphic design as an outgrowth of the drawing I’d always done as a kid.”
Holland learned photography on the fly, and since leaving Nossi, has worked as a freelance photographer on various assignments. He says he’s been heavily influenced by what he terms “street photographers, people with an eye for the unusual.” He’s equally influenced by both Chicago and New York photographers, and cites traveling among his favorite things.
“My ideal assignment would be to just go places and not really be looking for any one thing,” he continues. “For instance, riding on a train and seeing different locales, or walking through neighborhoods and catching shots of different houses or people not especially in a rush, just kind of going from place to place.”
He’s worked at both Frozen Design and the Nike Store in Opry Mills, with the latter being part of why he’s gravitated more towards photography lately. “I’ve produced a lot of shots for the advertisers, and really enjoy that even though you’ve got to test your imagination sometimes to find ways of making things stand out. But that’s the challenge and the joy of photography for me. I also do shots of the athletes, and that’s something else that I really enjoy.”
Oddly, for someone so keenly interested in scenes and visuals, Holland has no desire to be a photojournalist, at least not in the standard sense — or in the news or political vein. But he is very much interested in having his own magazine. “That’s a major goal, to have a publication of my own that combines the best of the things that I’ve learned from photography and also graphic design, and one that incorporates the elements of social media as well. That’s something I think is really needed, a magazine that’s visually exciting, that can catch the eye, but also has the immediacy that you get with social media.”
He also enjoys commercial work, but wants to ultimately be in control of whatever he does. “I really want to have my own thing going at some point in the future,” he concludes. “Not that I have any problem working for or with other people, but I’ve got some very strong ideas about the types of things and subjects that I want to shoot and do in the future. I really think I have a vision and eye that’s unique, and I want to find the best way of showing that to people. I want to go to Columbia School in Chicago and complete my degree work, then take that and continue to develop something that really takes the notion of interactive visual art and photography to another level.”