Photographer Interview: Tyrone Brown-Osborne

Copyright Tyrone Brown-Osborne

Where are you from and where do you live/work now?
Originally, I'm a New Yorker, I was born in Jamaica Queens, but pretty much I was raised in Harlem where I still live, as for working, photography... Well, wherever my story is, I am, or something like that.

What was your first experience with photography and when did you decide it was a medium that you wanted to engage with artistically?
Now that's an odd question, experience, hmmm? I bought my first camera in the late eighties and began taking pictures of these Haitians dreads I knew then, some really crazy, far out dudes but very chic and very photogenic, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. A few years later I started working in advertising and I rediscovered photography, in a kind way. I became artistically engaged in the mid-nineties, wanting really to jump into film but it was too expensive then.

Copyright Tyrone Brown-Osborne

Were there any lessons learned during your career as a model that transferred to your training as a photographer?
You know, just looking at images all the time, mostly people portraits and standing in front of a camera really honed my sense of the "right moment." For me, so much of a photograph's narrative is either captured in the overall composition and/or directly in your subject’s eyes. That's your decisive moment, if you capture it.

Who are the subjects in your series Funky Black Angels?
They're fools like us... Visual artists, performance, audio, anything you can think of, but you must understand, each one of these artists has a certain visual flair, they're just a little bit odd, and they wear, literally their personality openly. It's quite humorous to see people caught up in that way, it's very up front and dare I say, liberating.

Copyright Tyrone Brown-Osborne

Why do you consider them heroes?
Because they live, mostly, within the bliss of being who they are without compromising themselves to conventional whims and trends, and that's not a very easy thing to do, personally speaking. It's a bit alienating and often I find that many people don't immediately get me and yet others who "don't get me," or people like myself (artists and dissidents, the everyday, run of the mill heretic) are rather animated when they begin to tell me who it is they think I am... so exhausting!

How do you define blackness in what is so often referred to as the "post-black" era?
I don't, I wouldn't know how to. The prevailing views are so overwhelming, limited in either imagination or truth, and has nothing whatsoever to do with experience, collective or personal. It's as if one were talking about some great list of statistical negatives, counter arguments to whiteness, or some mythical, magical past, in far off distant lands. America is too tough a place for me to honestly think I could make, even remotely, an objective assessment of history. The best I can say is that I'm Black and that I am Western.

Copyright Tyrone Brown-Osborne

Can you name any other artists/celebrities (dead or alive) that deserve the label "Funky Black Angel"?
Lorraine Hansberry. Nina Simone. Jimmy Baldwin. James Brown. Fela. Gordon Parks. Huey Newtown. Jean Michel Basquiat. Now, if all of these characters were together in a room, it would be crazy with a capital "K"! There would be no way for them not to dig each other spiritually.

Are there any photographers whose work you can't live without?
No, not really, but I will say that Delphine Diallo's work drives me crazy, she's crazy, very intense and her work is exciting. It has a deconstructionist energy behind it, very philosophical. But honestly, there are just too many wonderful photographers to ever be consumed by a few, though my heart is fond of Sara Moon and Deborah Turbeville and Poalo Reversi's photographs, they're more akin to paintings, that's a direction I'd like to travel... But to tell the truth, I'm principally influenced visually by literature.

Copyright Tyrone Brown-Osborne

What are three things that help sustain your art practice?
Curiosity. Faith. Discipline.

What's next for you - what are you working on now?
Oh, gee whiz... Too many things: an Internet radio station; a comic book; releasing a full length film, a documentary series on farmers and homesteaders... I should stop there.

Dodge & Burn is a blog dedicated to documenting a more inclusive history of photography and supporting the work of photographers of color with photographer interviews.

This blog is published by visual artist and writer, Qiana Mestrich. For regular updates on diversity in photography history, follow Qiana on Twitter @mestrich, Like the Dodge & Burn Blog page on Facebook or subscribe to Dodge & Burn by email.

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