Marking the first article of its kind on our platform, GRUNGECAKE debuts a new monthly series called ‘Person of the Month’ with Lomography.
Whenever the City of New York is brought up in conversations, it is usually about its captivating culture, its former grittiness, the gentrification, and the larger-than-life public figures who come from the infamous boroughs. We’re interested in adding to that narrative.
We wouldn’t say ‘Person of the Month’ is strictly about unsung heroes, per se. It’s what it says in its title. What we plan to do is recognise New Yorkers—of all ages, sexes, and whatever else we use as humans to classify one another—on the rise in whichever respective field/industry. It’s easier to profile, interview, or cover someone when they are commercially accepted. It’s better to be a chunk of someone’s start. We believe it is stories and reviews like ours that help future icons along with their professional journies, synonymous with a mother or father’s love during your academic years.
We’ve handpicked twelve individuals who we feel are interesting, putting in the work, and prepared for the next level. The first of the pack is Jeffrey ‘Deon’ Chambers. Originally from Queens, New York, the young photographer attends college at FIT. When he isn’t studying, he’s capturing celebrities and helmed musicians on centre stages, taking portraits of friends and colleagues, or helping someone else with their dream. If you have a big heart, you know how intense it is to juggle all of your interests, maintain a social life, and pass classes with flying colours. Our Editor Richardine Bartee has been there—and we think it is why she chose the young photographer and aspiring musician, who has helped her along the way, to be the first ‘Person of the Month’.
In an interview prepared by Richardine Bartee, you’ll get to know more about Jeffrey ‘Deon’ Chambers, what inspires him, the kind of work he does, and what he finds to be beautiful.
How long have been into photography/creative direction?
I’ve been doing it for about four years now, but I’ve been doing it professionally for two.
Where did you grow up? Is it a photogenic area?
I grew up in Queens, specifically, Woodhaven and Ozone Park. I usually shoot outside of Queens because it’s not that photogenic. Now that I’m older, there’s a wave of nostalgia that hits me when I walk down Jamaica Avenue. I’ll probably shoot the area soon.
What’s the most challenging thing about higher education? Has it helped with your photography?
The most challenging thing about higher education is managing time. I’ve had to pass up opportunities just to pass a class, but I weighed my options. If that opportunity were life-changing, I would have happily taken that loss. I’m thankful though because it’s brought my art to a whole different level. The hard thing about photography or art, in general, is finding your style and making it as original as possible. College helped [to] make that happen. The experiences expand and elevate your thought process.
What do you find the most beautiful?
I find people to be most beautiful. We are such a [complicated] species. The duality within us is intriguing. We’re so ugly and hateful toward each other, but at the same time loving and compassionate. I believe there’s a balance of that. It’s just that we’re shown the evil more than the good. That’s a big reason as to why I do photography, to learn and to connect with people. I want to explore those human habits and traits.
Why are you special?
I don’t feel like I’m special necessarily, just different. My work ethic is different, my motives are different, and the passion is different. There will be people [who are] better and worse than me, but there will always be one me: One Deon. I’m in my lane.
Do you like to listen to music when you’re working (shooting and editing)?
Man, if I don’t have music playing, there’s something wrong. Music is a huge part of my work process.
What is your best accomplishment to date?
In less than a year, over ten magazines including Billboard published my work. 2017 was the year when I lit a fire under my ass. I was like, “You know what Deon, you not fucking working hard enough. Get up on your shit or just stop doing what you’re doing because you’re wasting your time.” Also, shooting for Fool’s Gold Records the past few months have been a blessing too. I [have to] acknowledge that.
Who/what influences you as a photographer? Do you have any favourite photographers? If so, who are they?
It’s not a ‘who’ that inspires me. I draw inspiration from the world around me. I could be on the train, a lady could open a Nature Valley granola bar, and my mind will start processing. Next thing you know, my mind is creating a photo shoot combining streetwear fashion and the goddamn Amazon rainforest. Honestly, my favourite photographers tend to be my peers, because I know it’s authentic, you feel me?
I know who they are, where they are coming from and their passion for their craft. My top two right now would have to be my friends, Alex (@wangsw0rld) and Andie (@andiemclarkson). Alex shoots these insane celebrity portraits. You would think he gets all-access passes, but he just mastered the power of finesse. Andie’s work celebrates and empowers black and brown people—black and brown women—especially. She understands the importance of perspective and representation. Visual arts need more narratives from women of colour [and she’s doing her part].
What do you like most about this time in your budding career?
What I like the most is that I’m always learning something new. Most of the people I tend to meet lately has had something new to teach me or something of substance to share with me.
Most creative people have interests in other disciplines. What interests you outside of photography?
I have many interests outside of photography, but my first love is music. That’s my soul in sonic form. I’m currently working on a mixtape that I’m taking my time on because again, originality is important to me.
How/when did you find out about GRUNGECAKE? What does it mean to you?
A mutual associate introduced me to Richardine, the owner of the company, in 2015. GRUNGECAKE means everything to me. If it wasn’t for her guidance or the chance she took on me, my career, right now, would be in a different place. I’m a believer in the Universe. Things are working out.
What do you think about Lomography’s cameras? Anything that you like, in particular?
Lomography has some beautiful cameras. The craftsmanship of the bodies is A1. A favourite I’ve had my eye on is the Lomo’Instant Automat Camera (Playa Jardín Edition). The smooth black finish makes it attractive; the quality of photos on instant film is impeccable.
Proudly, our photographer used the Lomo’Instant Automat for our series. Find out more about the camera via the Lomography website.
And last but not least, please, have a look at Mr Jeffrey Chambers’ profile on Instagram to view some of his latest work.