Q + A with Danielle Scruggs


She does it all, and takes some amazing photos in the process.  Get to know our a new member of the Fortique community, Danielle Scruggs

F: How does a typical day look for you?

D: I work as a photo editor at LivingSocial, so a typical day for me is researching stock photography, editing photos from merchants who run their deals on the site, and taking original photos to build our photo library as well as for content marketing purposes. We've been running special promotions centered around events such as the Super Bowl, and we recently started an Instagram account, so I contribute to that as well. I also work as a curator and cultural producer for two collectives I co-founded: MAMBU BADU, which focuses on emerging women photographers of black/African descent, and DDAY, which focuses on visual and performance artists in D.C. So, after my day job ends, my second shift begins---scheduling meetings, building and maintaining websites for both collectives, managing our social media accounts, conducting press outreach, and documenting our shows. In addition to this, I'm always shooting, and pitching photo essay ideas to traditional and online publications as well.

F: How did you get started as a photographer? Did you have another occupation before it?

D: I've been photographing pretty regularly since I was about eight, when my dad showed me how to use his Pentax K1000 camera (I think he wanted to make sure I didn't break it, so he showed me how to handle it properly). I also took darkroom classes in high school and made photography my minor in college. 

However, I didn't see myself as a photographer, as an artist, until after I completed my undergraduate studies at Howard University. I graduated with a print journalism degree, with designs on becoming a copy editor. But I soon realized that what I could really see myself doing all day for the next 40 or so years, was shooting and editing photos. So I took a year off, interned at various photo studios, applied to graduate school, and studied photography and video more in-depth at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore.

F: Why is photography special to you? 

Danielle Scruggs

D: Photography is special to me because it’s so important to document yourself, your experiences, your family, your friends, and to not assume that other people will tell your story correctly, if at all.

F: When you're shooting photos what do you look for?

D: It might sound like a cop-out but I don't exactly know what I am looking for until I see it in front of me. I try to take my camera with me as often as I can, and I also shoot with my phone to keep my skills sharp and to train myself to always be on the lookout. I suppose I'm just always looking for that serendipitous 1/250 of a second that I know I'll never see or experience in exactly that fashion, that light, that angle, ever again.

F: What makes your photography "yours"?

D: I'm still trying to answer this question for myself.

F: Do you have a number one tip/trick of your trade?

D: You have to know about more than your specialty, regardless of what kind of creative you are. In addition to photography, I've had to continuously hone my writing, editing, social media, and networking skills, in addition to knowing how to balance a budget, track projects using spreadsheets and Google Docs (ugh, right? But it's effective), and also being handy with hammers, power drills, and frames when it comes to hanging works for exhibits.

F: Do you have a favorite photo or photo shoot? If so, what makes it your favorite?

D: It's so hard to pick just one, but so far, I'm fond of the photos I took while I was an artist-in-residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in Woodstock, NY. It's about two hours outside of New York City and is a gorgeous place that, in a lot of ways, has been untouched by time. Another favorite shoot was when Matt & Kim and Amanda Blank performed at Black Cat in 2009, I believe. The energy was crazy and it was one of the best times I've had shooting.

F: From where/what do you draw inspiration? 

D: Everything, really. Going on long walks and hearing different accents and slang in D.C. (or another city I've traveled to); music; talks with my friends and parents; novels I've read. I'm always mentally Rolodexing everything I encounter. Only some of it actually makes its way into my work, but all of it informs how I approach it.

F: How would you finish the following sentence? Creativity is ...

D: a multifaceted, evolving entity.