Influencer: Dee Speaks

This Rhode Island photographer dedicates herself to celebrating the Black experience, both in her personal work and the collaborative she co-founded


How did you get into photography and what inspires your work?

My interest in photography started when I was a teenager. I always hated getting my picture taken, so I would always volunteer to be the person who took everyone’s picture. After I graduated from high school, I wanted to enroll in photography classes, but unfortunately, I allowed the opinions of others to deter me from doing that. A few years later, I started thinking about photography again and finally decided to begin my journey with taking pictures. Some of the things that inspire my work include fashion, movies, music, and everyday people and activities. I get a lot of random ideas for photo shoots while listening to music.


You are the co-founder of The Vanta Guild – can you talk more about that group and how it started?

The Vanta Guild was created by myself and [fellow photographer] Jonathan Pitts-Wiley. The two of us met at a photography meetup last year, and at the beginning of this year, we came up with the idea to create a community of Black photographers who unapologetically celebrate and depict the experiences and imaginations of those of the African diaspora. What we’re trying to create is something that is missing here in Rhode Island. I want the Black photographers who are a part of The Vanta Guild to be collaborative rather than competitive. There’s enough room for all of us to thrive without feeling the need to compete with each other. I’m really excited about it and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.


Can you describe the significance of celebrating and documenting Black experiences through photography?

Photographers play a major role in capturing historical moments and taking people on a visual journey. In the past couple of months, many Black photographers have drawn attention to the traumatic side of the Black experience. Although many of those images are difficult to look at, it’s necessary that people see them and acknowledge what’s going on and what has been going on for years. However, it’s also important to document the moments that aren’t disturbing. The Black experience is full of love, joy, and creativity. The images that represent that should be seen and circulated as well. Some of my favorite photos to take are of people laughing and dancing. As a Black photographer, it’s my responsibility to capture the joy and beauty of the Black experience.


Learn more about Dee Speaks on her website, and follow her and The Vanta Guild on Instagram. 


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