Danielle A. Scruggs
I am a photographer, photo director, artist and cultural producer. Meaning: I shoot and edit photos (specifically portraits and food) in addition to assigning other photographers for editorial work and give them direction on what to shoot or how, depending on the assignment. I also make gifs from photos and videos, and commission original videos and multimedia essays for the Chicago Reader.
Being a cultural producer entails everything from making websites dedicated to highlighting specific artistic and cultural practices (BlackWomenDirectors.co), giving artist talks, curating art exhibits, and publishing independent digital publications to highlight work by either myself or other artists.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
My path to where I am now has been circuitous but I am grateful for each step. I originally went to college to study print journalism. I interned at places such as Princeton University and the Philadelphia Inquirer with designs on becoming a copy editor. However, I have always nurtured an interest in visual art, photography in particular, and attended grad school at the Maryland Institute College of Art to further pursue that interest and refine my work.
FOR OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT DO THEY USUALLY LACK?
Follow-through. It is so important to take time to answer emails and return phone calls, even if the answer is "no" or "I'm not interested at the moment."
When I was first starting out, it was hard for me to reach out to people and to follow up with folks too. Part of that might have been insecurity.
However, the older I became and when I saw how many of my freelance gigs came from referrals, that's when I realized how important follow-through is.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Most of my energy has been going towards working at the Chicago Reader as their photo director. I have been focused on commissioning more video work, and running more photo essay features in print and online. I have also been focusing on hiring more women, and women of color photographers, in particular, for assignments.
When I do find the time though, I work on adding more content to blackwomendirectors.co, as well as its related social media channels on Twitter and Instagram. And I am working on a personal photo series that involves my family history.
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?
I'd say my style is relaxed, composed, and documentary by nature. I tend to shoot in natural light and I enjoy finding details in the surrounding environment that will enhance the subject I'm shooting.
WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?
Definitely web design and coding.
WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?
Lack of time and money. I would like to take on more freelance work and balance that with my current job to bring in extra income. I also work on artistic and cultural production projects that I would like to get off the ground.
IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HOUR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?
Sending my portfolio to different photo editors, art agencies, and exhibition and grant proposals to galleries and organizations that fund artists. Making the work is a full-time job, and so is self-promotion!
LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?
I would have told myself to trust in myself more when I was an undergraduate student. Once I knew I wanted to go into arts instead of print journalism, I should have transferred to an art school and taken on internships at art galleries or internships that focused on photo and video. But then again, I do believe my path led me to where I needed to be at the time.
IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
How to balance a 9-5 with personal projects and freelance work.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I am looking for freelance photography and consultation opportunities, as well as opportunities to travel as a visiting artist.
For consultation, I would love to work with organizations who might be looking to create a visual communications strategy using strong photography that tells the story of their organization, and how to map out best practices for content distribution.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL CLIENT?
My ideal client is one who is upfront with their needs and their budget right away. I also really enjoy working with arts organizations, organizations with a social justice aspect to their work, and start-ups in need of photographers for their apps and websites.
WHAT IS YOUR RATE?
Ideally, assignments would start at the $350-$400 range. And depending on deliverables and the intricacies of the project, it could increase. For consultancy, I would take things on a case by case basis.
HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
I respond best to emails! Let me know exactly what you're looking for and your budget, and we can take things from there.
HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?
"Work work work work work." - Rihanna
This member profile was originally published in August 2016.