California Creatives: Gianna Dorsey Part 1

Apr 27, 2016 | Art

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Gianna Dorsey is one of the brightest young talents in the photography world.

A self-described “okay” photographer, Gianna’s photos capture a level of intimacy and authenticity that belie her youth and modesty. Even before graduating from Brooks Institute with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Professional Photography she was working with reputable publications such as Ebony, Jet and VIBE.

I was lucky enough to speak with Gianna on a range of topics including her education,  moving to California, working with children, working with new models, faith, and American men vs. European men.

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I feel like we’re here to serve…Whether you give back because you believe in something higher, or you don’t, the point is that we’re here to serve.

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator el_width=”10″][vc_column_text]Black Voice News: How long have you been shooting photos? When did you first become interested in photography?

Gianna Dorsey: Since 2010.

I got a camera for Christmas from my dad. My boyfriend at the time bought me a camera as well. And my former mentor gave me my first professional camera.

I was never into photography. I was never the artistic one or knew anything about light.

The night I got the camera from my dad, a point-and-shoot Kodak camera, I was playing with my roommate and I was like ‘let’s hang this blanket on the wall as a background, and let’s pretend like we’re in a photoshoot.’ By the end of it I was like ‘Oh my God, I actually love this.’

So, the next morning I emailed my financial aid advisor and my academic department and told them I would only be getting my associates from here and would be moving on to pursue an entrepreneurial degree. I graduated with my associates from Lincoln College, moved to downtown Chicago, went to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) for one and a half semesters…bored as hell.

I remember calling my mom and dad and telling them I need to pursue a degree in photography. They were both very supportive. So I dropped out of UIC and moved to California a couple of months later to attend Brooks Institute.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]BVN: When you first started teaching yourself photography, where were you getting your information?

Dorsey: YouTube, it’s free![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]BVN: Did you do any professional photoshoots before you enrolled in Brooks Institute?

Dorsey: I started getting paid very early by a lot of the administration at my old college. The first time I got paid I was a student worker and my boss needed engagement photos. She hired me, and I was like ‘whoa!’ She ended up printing them out and getting them blown up and they were really good. I was like ‘this is definitely what I want to do.’ So I would consider myself a professional back then.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”44253″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”44247″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BVN: When you began taking classes at Brooks Institute, what was the difference between what you taught yourself and what the professors were teaching?

Dorsey: Everything was different.

Brooks is that type of school. It breaks you down.

I always knew about photography, but I didn’t know the core of it. I wasn’t trying to learn about things like aperture or the details of how a camera works. All of that is really important. I’ve never learned so much about light in my life. That’s what photography is, it’s light. It’s how you see light.

The school has changed my life. It has given me opportunities I never thought I’d have. It’s let me network and meet people. And I have personal relationships with the teachers. When I was at UIC I was a number–a number I couldn’t have memorized myself–and I hated it. I can’t learn like that. I have to be one-on-one, I’ve got to be in your face. You’ve got to know who I am, you’ve got to know my weaknesses, my strengths. You’ve got to know me in order for you to teach me. Brooks professors really take the time to do that.

I would like to teach as a professor at Brooks. That’s like a dream of mine because I love the way they operate…it’s cool.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”44250″ img_size=”750×500″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]BVN: When you’re not working on professional gigs or going to school you take photos for your Church.

Dorsey: The media team at The City Church Ventura includes photography, audio, visual, everything. I’ll show up on Sunday and take pictures of the pastor on stage, or of the volunteers, and then what they will do is put them on their Instagram page, to have a more professional look to their social media presence.

I love volunteering my work, more than getting paid for it, and it sounds weird, but I love helping people. There’s a fine line between being taken advantage of and volunteering work, but when it’s for the church there’s nothing I could do to out give God. So, I feel like that’s the least that I can do is give back with my talent that He blessed me with.

I feel like we’re here to serve. No matter what people believe, spiritual or not, I feel like we are here to give back. Whether you give back because you believe in something higher, or you don’t, the point is that we’re here to serve.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]BVN: Smaller churches tend to be family-oriented, but large churches with 300-500 members–like City Church Ventura–can feel intimidating for some members. How do they reach out to individuals to address their spiritual needs?

Dorsey: The City Groups are a huge aspect of our church, they really emphasize small groups. When Jesus was on earth He had a small group, his disciples. He still preached to thousands. But the emphasis was on His small group. We believe in raising leaders in the church and then sending them out, so I am one of those leaders, and I run the Photography City Group.

Every Saturday is nice because God can work through me to pour into kids, or whoever wants to join the Photography City Group. We all come together and talk about life. There are a lot of different City Groups at the church, but I decided why not do something I’m passionate about?  I meet with other photographers, whether they are spiritual or not, and that’s the great thing. We’re not going to be in there preaching, but we are going to talk about how to incorporate God and spirituality into our business. How do we increase our talent? The only way is to trust God with it and give back to Him who gave it, and I always have a photo challenge for my members. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s also building me.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”44254″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”44255″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BVN: On your website you mention that you plan to open a photography school for Autism. What experiences have you had with Autistic children that inspired this goal?

Dorsey: When I was in Chicago, I taught basic photography to kids. I think they were all under the age of 13. Right before I moved to California in the summer I got this autistic girl, her name is Marie, and she just completely changed my life.  She would always show up to class with her iPad.  That was the only way she communicated with her teachers, her parents, anybody. She did not verbally speak, she only spoke with pictures…So the photo assignments I would give to everyone, I included her in, it wasn’t any different. ‘Take a picture of your mom every day for seven days,’ for example.  And everybody would always take pictures of the faces, [but] she would take pictures of the hairs on her mom’s arms, or the back of her head, or her toe. It was always such a different perspective than everyone else, but she communicated, and that was the point. Her mom told me she has started making noises when she responds now, instead of going and taking a picture of it.

She changed my life, and now I really want to see what I can do with this. I want to start working with Autistic kids. God gave me the idea for a photo school for Autism. It hasn’t been done, and my ultimate goal is to open a school that caters to Autistic kids.

I love helping. I love seeing the progress in these kids. It’s incredible.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]BVN: You also mention you want to open a modeling agency for first time models.

Dorsey: When I was in Paris I realized the [fashion industry] is very superficial. I was submerged in Paris Fashion week. I was front row at these fashion shows, backstage, I was photographing, acting as paparazzi, and then I would go to another show and be seated front row with these celebrities. I’m grateful for it. I would love to live in Paris, but the shows were over in like 10 minutes, and these designers spend millions of dollars for these extravagant shows. I could not stop thinking, ‘God, there are things you could be doing with this money.’

But the best part of the time I was spending out there were these agency visits…and during these, the fact that I get to spend one-on-one time with these newborn models, and they’re not brainwashed by the industry yet, so I can have conversations with them, and I can connect with them. And it’s not to deter them from going. I want to know why you want to get into this, and how can I help you?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”44248″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”44249″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”44251″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”44252″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BVN: Slightly off topic…what is the difference between European men and American men? 😉

Dorsey: Everything!

European men are amazing. I feel like they appreciate women a lot more.

I think American men are a little too obsessed with pop culture, as far as, what a woman should be. I feel like [American] men are brainwashed by society…by themselves because men are part of society. Society is all about advertisements and they only show particular women when it comes to advertisements. I don’t feel like it should be the new rave right now for a plus size woman to be ‘okay’ with her body. The new 2016. It’s like ‘wow women are finally coming into their own.’ I don’t feel like it should be like that.

In Europe it’s very different. There are a lot of thin women. But it feels like men just appreciate the women more. I feel like because of what the media puts out there as far as what a woman should look like in America, men are drawn more to that image.

I’m shapely. I’ve got my hips, my ass, ya know?  And I love myself. I hate that it’s a fad now to love your body. People make it a fad when it should just be a normal part of life.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Next Article: California Creatives: Gianna Dorsey Part 2[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text el_class=”small”]All photos © Gianna Dorsey[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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