IDENTITY IN FOCUS: DANTE BOND

Written by Devyn Springer

For part 3 of my Identity In Focus series, I wanted to switch it up a bit and focus on a more up-and-coming photographer, Dante Bond, whose artistic style and aesthetic is still developing and growing. I first came across Bond's work on Twitter, when I scrolled past what looked like a Black queer version of Carrie Mae Weems' Kitchen Table Series, my favorite photo series of all time, and I was instantly intrigued to see more of his work. 

What I saw after diving into Dante's work on social media is bold colors seemingly inspired by comic book characters and an attention to the dark, strange, and unusual. Carefully walking the line between fashion photography and more fine art portraiture, Dante seems to be finding his place in the Georgia art world slowly but surely, as his wonderful photos garner may likes on social media and he seems to be putting out new work very often. I got the chance to chat with him, to talk about his art, inspiration, and influences. Check out the interview below!

Tell me about yourself; where you are from, your interests and hobbies, are you in school, etc.

I'm an army brat so I don’t really consider myself to be from anywhere, but I've been in Georgia since I was 13 so Georgia is the closest thing to home. I'm currently taking online classes towards a degree in business. As far as interests and hobbies, I love comic books, specifically Marvel and even more specifically X-Men lol. I love drag queens, tater tots, The Incredibles, Brother to Brother, fashion, anime, boys, and most of all art, which was pretty much everything I named. I also love television, it's been my best friend and teacher longer than anyone. 

When did you start getting into photography?

I actually didn’t get my first DSLR until about a year ago. I started shooting with my phone my freshman year of college and it just grew from there. I also have to give my mom a lot of credit, she used to give us a camera of some kind every Christmas so the interest has kind of always been there.

Is photography as your artistic medium an intentional choice, or did you just gravitate to photography because you were good at it?

I guess I would say a little bit of both. I didn't consider myself a photographer for a while it was just for Instagram, but I've always had an interest in the uniqueness of people and It just felt like I was having fun in a way, to shoot and edit but people thought I was a professional. I also didn’t really think I was doing anything and to a point I wasn't I was just taking cute pictures for my friends and wasn’t putting very much effort into it, but now photography is my lifeline and the best way for me to express myself.

When I look at your work, I get a sense of contemplation, one fixated on presenting the body as an art form itself within the photograph. It's like your work borders between fashion photography and contemplative, emotional artwork. How would you describe your work, and how would you categorize your style?

Well I would first like to say thank you because I've never heard my work described in such an elegant way, but I really don't know, you described it pretty perfectly. I consider fashion to be the biggest celebration of the body as an art form. To be draped in garbs perfectly measured to you and who you are, the feeling you get when you wear that outfit you spent hours putting together, and the new person you turn into when you put that certain pair of jeans on, can only be considered art. And I guess I'm just trying to capture whatever those feelings are. I'm also a huge nerd and I love comic books so anytime I'm shooting I'm always thinking of some grand story behind the outfit so I guess I would consider my photography fashion stories, but I also always hear my photography being compared to album covers, so who knows. It definitely borders between fashion photography and more fine art photography.

Dante's "Kitchen Table Series" next to Carrie Mae Weems' series of the same name.

Dante's "Kitchen Table Series" next to Carrie Mae Weems' series of the same name.

One of my favorite photography series of all time is Carrie Mae Weems' "Kitchen Table" series, and when I came across your body of work paying homage to that her iconic series, I instantly loved it, especially how it seems to exist as an intentional queering of her work. Can you talk about what made you want to do that project?

I've always been inspired by the Carrie Mae Weems of the world, although there is only one Carrie Mae Weems (lol), but the ones that can express themselves or what they believe in, in such an artistic and creative way have always been my guiding lights through life. This particular series has been in my life for a while but I never knew what stood out to me about it until I was older. I watched a documentary called "Through a Lens Darkly" and the kitchen table series was reintroduced to me. That's when I started to see the ideas it brought it up about race, gender, family, friends, power, and it stuck with me. That series also had a sense of pride in oneself while at the same time was a representation of unrequited love, which are two things most gay men have dealt with, or at least I did and sometimes still do; the feeling of "why doesn't he love me even though I know he's not good enough for me." I think that was the main reason I wanted to do this.

Aside from the obvious aforementioned Carrie Mae Weems, who are some people you draw artistic influence from?

The list could go on forever Storm, Rogue, Michonne, Drag queens, my mother, my friends, and honestly anybody who's unapologetically themselves.

In what ways, if any, does your identity play into your work?

No matter how hard we try, our identity is in everything we have a hand in creating. So I can't say how, but it does. Maybe in the future I'll be more aware of how but for now I'm just trying to create what feels right or even sometimes just what looks cool.

Being a Black photographer, I often feel like it is our duty to unpeel the history of colonial gaze, lack of autonomous narrative, and racial voyeurism that much of the photography would has approached us with. So when I see work like yours, that claims a narrative of the Black body independent of whiteness and colonial voyeurism, it feels important and powerful. Do you ever see you experiences and your artwork for the importance they might have?

I'm definitely aware that my photography is through a "darker" lens, which to a point is intentional especially with the way whiteness can so blatantly steal our culture, it feels like something we now more than ever have to fight to preserve especially as an artist. It also just so happens to be the clients, friends, and models that I tend to run into. I also have a background full of variety, I moved around a lot as a kid and I have a mom from Birmingham, Alabama and a Dad from Queens so at the same time my Identity as a black man was made apparent to me early on. It is something that I've recently been struggling with though, should I be more conscious of the reaction of my art or should I just keep creating and whatever happens just happens? I guess I'll just have to see where my mind goes. 

What are some upcoming projects you are working on that you can share with us, and where can folks find your work?

Me and my friend Lexus are working on a photo series consisting of avant garde-ish looks, which is really all I can say. I've also been working on an anime series with my friend Jevell, it's very early in its development but I'm excited for it. It's actually where I draw a lot of my inspiration for photography. Most of all, I'm really trying to develop my photography skills so I'll be shooting a lot and am always open to new clients! You can check out my work on my Instagram: @xbondfoto, Twitter: @I_jenius, and Facebook: XBondPhotography. Website coming soon...

Thank you so much for your time! Anything else you want to say to the people?

"When you become the image of your imagination, it's the most powerful thing you could ever do" - Rupaul 

IDENTITY 1B.jpg

A series exploring race and artistic creation

by Devyn Springer