Q&A: Durham Beat Editor Matia Guardabascio on Community Involvement

Matia Guardabascio, editor of local arts publication Durham Beat, talks community involvement and the founding of the magazine.

At the opening of many a classic Disney movie, the first shot is of a storybook flipping open to an illustration of the setting of the film, with a voiceover from a narrator droning, “Once upon a time…” Violins play, we zoom in on the illustration to see the main characters- you know the drill.

Let’s imagine a new movie opening. That the narrator says, “Once upon a time, in a town called Durham…”

Rather than violins, there’s distorted guitar. And the storybook flipping open to images of Durham’s grit and glory…well, it might look something like a ‘zine from Durham Beat.

Founded in April of 2018, Durham Beat is a print and online publication devoted to telling the stories of the Durham arts scene from a first person perspective. The Durham Beat staff are narrators and storytellers actively participating in the Durham scene as artists themselves. The artist profiles, show and album reviews, and food and beer coverage are all from an intensely and intentionally personal perspective.

The magazine’s mascot is called the Owlephant, and she does look a little like a Disney character come to life. A symbol of the magazine’s commitment to Gonzo journalism, it’s easy to imagine her wandering Durham’s streets, taking it all in, writing stories featuring the diverse array of artists she encounters.

The Owlephant

The remarkable commitment to community involvement goes beyond the lens of reporting at Durham Beat. The magazine has hosted a series of exciting art and music community events that emphasize equal opportunity for local artists. The Beat Market, the magazine’s signature event, returns to Fullsteam Brewery on Friday, April 12th, with a local art market and live local music.

Durham Beat will celebrate the magazine’s first birthday (delightfully, on 4/20) with a raucous show and party at The Pinhook.

And if you’re hype for Moogfest but haven’t been able to snag tickets yet, Durham Beat is giving away one general admission pass to two different winners of their Instagram contest. Submit an original image based on what Durham means to you with the hashtag #durhambeatmoog and you could win. The contest runs through Saturday, April 13th.

I spoke with The Editor (as she is formally known) of Durham Beat, Matia Guardabascio, about the founding principles of Durham Beat, the magazine’s commitment to community involvement, and where she and the staff find their favorite talent.

It’s safe to say that by Durham Beat’s launch in April 2018, Durham wasn’t a secret anymore. The art, music, and food scenes had blossomed, the startup scene and STEM jobs exploded, and many people who might’ve dismissed Durham just a few years ago have taken notice.

While launching a magazine documenting the city from the inside, others might have chosen to define Durham Beat as an objective voice in the midst of outside forces. Durham Beat deliberately went in the opposite direction. Why the emphasis on Gonzo journalism, personal narrative, and subjective experience? Why is that important for chronicling Durham?

Matia Guardabascio aka The Editor

Objectivity is easy. It’s cold, distant, and boring. There is no shortage of “objective” reporting in the media- writing devoid of passion and flavorless content that strives to separate fact from feeling. It’s impersonal observation posing as gospel and offers little more than a prosaic imitation of something I could have Googled. Anyone with a smartphone and the ability to form a coherent sentence can present perceived facts “objectively.” This is not my way. In my experience, engagement and participation take courage, and often yield greater creative rewards. I want to feel a connection to the stories I read. I want to be moved by them in the same way that I’m moved by the people and places they are about. And I know I’m not alone in this.

Fundamentally, the idea that objective journalism is free from bias is total bullshit. Every writer experiences the world individually, that is, subjectively. The Gonzo approach embraces and elevates the experienced over the informational. Where traditional journalism creates distance between subject and writer, Gonzo instinctively connects them, yielding a philosophy of writing that I think naturally lends itself to coverage of the arts.

Like the Durham Beat staff, we all come from different backgrounds, levels of education, areas of interest, political leanings, and cultural influences. The way I interact with my surroundings differs from how Zoe or Stephan interact with theirs because each of us looks at the world through our own little key hole. Gonzo isn’t the regurgitation of information from a personal perspective; it’s about participating in the moment, becoming part of it. The writer is the character, therefore the stories we write are decidedly human- deeply honest and totally authentic.

In the eleven years that I have been working as an editor and writer, I have always been heavily involved in the arts and often dreamed of starting my own publication, one exclusively dedicated to local arts coverage. When I moved to Durham, I realized this was the place. The creative energy here is incredibly powerful. The people who have become involved with Durham Beat and joined the staff are all local artists (most born and raised right here in NC) who were seeking a flexible platform to pursue their own artistic ambitions. The subjective model empowers them to pursue those ambitions in a free and open space, while also building a portfolio and experimenting with new ideas.

What we’re doing at Durham Beat- what Durham Beat practices– is not news. We write stories. In so doing, we offer our readers something more than mere coverage- we offer the opportunity to feel connected, to share in the experience of and appreciation for the creative community thriving here. Anything less would be a disservice to Durham.

In the editorial philosophy of the magazine and in organizing events like The Beat Market, community involvement is a pillar of the Durham Beat brand. What motivated that decision, and how does Durham Beat go about implementing it?

AWAY MSG at Raund Haus party 2019; by Dalvin Nichols (@8bit.photog on Instagram)

First of all, thank you for pointing out that “community involvement is a pillar of the Durham Beat brand.” I feel pretty good about how folks are perceiving Durham Beat because yes, community involvement does live at the heart of what we do. In fact, community involvement stems naturally from the type of storytelling we do. But ultimately, it goes beyond content. The broader vision is to create and grow a platform for empowering local artists- Durham Beat contributors included. In the process, we’re trying to redefine the scope of what a magazine can be.

Among the staff we have writers, musicians, designers, models, photographers, educators, poets, and dancers. We all have stories to tell and we all want to create, share, and connect. Why shouldn’t those sensibilities inform all of our endeavors? As a business made up of active members of the creative community, Durham Beat is uniquely suited to collaborate with, organize, and represent the interests of local artists.

The Beat Market is a perfect example of this. In my travels through the art scene, I have noticed over and over again the same struggles for working artists. One key issue is the ability to get the kind of exposure they need in order to sell their work. While Durham hosts a number of farmers markets and craft fairs (some on a regular schedule, others as “pop-up” style events), nearly all of these opportunities require registration fees or some kind of investment up front from the artist. This is problematic for the working artist, especially those in the DIY scene (which I daresay is the majority of artists in Durham). I created The Beat Market as an alternative model that offers guaranteed minimum payments for performing musicians and a no cost regular vending opportunity for our fellow working artists.

Durham Beat handles all of the logistical planning and participates as one of several vendors. As a business made up of artists, our interests are directly aligned with the interests of our collaborators, our local business partners and hosts, and our performing and vending artist partners. In the same way that the Durham Beat publication is a platform for the artists on staff to pursue their artistic ambitions, The Beat Market is its own platform, the beginnings of an economic infrastructure meant to create opportunities for and investment in local creatives…the very same people who are responsible for the creative energy and steadfast edginess that give Durham so much of its persistent cultural authenticity and appeal.

Artistic collaboration is a major tenet of our community involvement. A good example of this is the REUPCYCLE Lookbook Zine and party we did with local fashion artist Cool Boy 36. He was interested in making a lookbook for his new fashion line and I wanted to do an artist profile and make a zine. So we combined all of those ideas and ended up creating a totally original work of art that included his designs, my writing and photography, and the opportunity to host a launch party featuring an exclusively local lineup of musicians. Within the project itself, we also created opportunities for other local artists to be involved: paid modeling gigs, paid music gigs, paid photography gigs. Through this kind of collaborative work, we are able to imbue that subjective sensibility into the very business structure of Durham Beat, while simultaneously investing in the local creative community.

The work we have done with The Beat Market and Cool Boy 36 is only the beginning. We have some serious plans in the works right now to create regular paid opportunities for artists to showcase their work, participate in events, and interact with the community at large in a meaningful way.

Where do you and the the staff look for local talent? Any favorite venues or online resources you can share?

At Free Things Fest 2018 by Riley the Photographer (@odetomyday on Instagram)

Discovering talent requires effort, certainly. I always comb through the calendars at all of the venues and galleries and event spaces. I sift through Facebook event pages to find things I might not otherwise hear about. I pick up flyers on the street or take pictures of show posters on bathrooms walls or community bulletin boards. I will also often go to a show blind, without any knowledge of who or what I am about to see. I have been happily surprised, totally freaked out, and deeply inspired in my adventures following these methods. I enjoy the unexpected.

Of course, sometimes artists write to us too and invite us to their shows. We do our best to make it to as many of them as possible. We are only limited in our capacity to cover events by our numbers. And we are steadily growing…in fact, there are eight of us who make up the core staff now.

To get to the crux of your question though, the “resource” on which I rely most is participation. I go to the shows. We all do. Because everyone on staff, myself included, is an artist, we exist naturally within the art scene, broadly and within its various niches. We all have different backgrounds and tastes, so inevitably what each of us will find will be different. What’s the best way to find local talent? Go to the shows. Participate. Be surprised. Follow the night wherever it leads.

If you could throw a city-wide party with one beer, one vendor, and one band, who would you choose?

Behind the Scenes of REUPCYCLE with Cool Boy 36. By Riley the Photographer (@odetomyday on Instagram)

My initial reaction is this: for a party of this size with only one beer, one vendor, and one band, the keg ought be bottomless, the art’s a-gotta be plentiful, and the band would have to play a four hour set and be well paid for it. This is a very challenging question. But, being decisive by nature, and relying as I do on stream of consciousness methods, my answers at this particular moment are:


Beer: Green Man ESB

Vendor: JoRose.

This question, however, begs a collective response. So I sent this one out to the Durham Beat staff and collected their answers:

Zoe says:

Band: Reese McHenry

Beer: Wicked Weed

Vendor: Worthy Women.

Ari says:

Band: The Wiley Fosters

Beer: Starpoint Kingadanoff

Vendor: Boriqua Soul (folks gotta eat.)

Stephen says:

The beer…well, it has not been brewed yet.  We need a collaboration of Durham Brewers. I would name the beer the The Bull City Backslap…it would contain hints of artistic innovation, a fine blend of culture and a wallop of civil disobedience and revolt!

I would hold the release party…unannounced with no permits in front of the prison.

The Vendor…Runaway with single print t-shirts designed by one hundred Durham artists…representing brown, white, black, multisex identified however we like…ARTISTS!

Oh yeah…weed would be legal…

Riley says:

Cider: Bull City’s Steep South

Vendor: Pincho Loco ice cream

Band: BANGZZ or Corroder. Or Cosmic Punk! Or H.C. McEntire! Gosh, I don’t know.

Adair says:

Beer: Ponysaurus Don’t Be Mean to People. The beer itself is pretty good, not my favorite, but I feel that the reason it was created is a good representation of who Durham is.

Vendor: Runaway (I miss them already) or Chaz’s Bull City Records – maybe a collaboration of the two!

Band: Severed Fingers. I fell in love with them when I covered their show at the Pinhook.

Behind the Scenes of REUPCYCLE. By Zoe Carmichael.

All images courtesy of Matia Guardabascio. Featured image by Zoe Carmichael.

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New Vegan Eats: Earth to Us and Vegan Community Kitchen

Earth to Us of Durham and Vegan Community Kitchen of Apex offer vegan cuisine to satisfy any foodie.

Vegans and omnivores alike, rejoice! Two new additions to the Triangle dining scene are doing vegan versions of beloved cuisines with flair that foodies of any diet will appreciate.

Earth to Us of Durham does comfort food with a Latin bent, and Vegan Community Kitchen of Apex takes on Turkish cuisine. Both family-owned enterprises are taking root in the Triangle vegan scene, but anyone who loves a delicious meal will feel at home- this omnivore included.

Earth to Us

Cauliflower wings.

You’ll find Earth to Us tucked just outside of Northgate Mall in Durham. The space is cheerfully decorated with a bicycle installation, framed photos of the food, and chalkboard drawings.

Firstly, all of the appetizers are tempting, but I think you can’t go wrong with the cauliflower wings. With a satisfyingly crunchy fried exterior, the spicy bang bang sauce and drizzle of ranch fulfill every wing craving. The loaded nachos, topped with a mound of guacamole, are infinitely Instagrammable and delicious.

The chicken and rice plate.

Next, I went for the generously-sauced soy barbecue chicken, served with pigeon pea rice and slaw. The well-spiced barbecue sauce complimented the soy chicken’s convincing texture. Plus, I have a weakness for arroz con gandules, and this was a great version of that Puerto Rican treat.

The Impossible Burger

Finally, I had to try Earth to Us’s take on the Impossible Burger, the bona fide fad by Impossible Foods. I can add my voice to those lauding the patty’s realistic texture. I love me a good burger, and this is as close to a red-blooded texture and taste as I’ve ever had in an imitation. The Earth to Us version comes piled high with fresh lettuce and tomato, spicy sauce, and cooked onions.

Although the Earth to Us menu has more favorite American comfort foods, the arepas are also yummy. Accompanied by a creamy garlic sauce and daiya cheese (a substitute made from cassava and arrowroot), this arepa addict gives them a big thumbs-up.

Vegan Community Kitchen

Just a few minute’s drive past downtown Apex, the mother-daughter team at Vegan Community Kitchen serve vegan Turkish cuisine.

Right at the door, you’re greeted with an enticing case of brightly-colored fresh salads and grains. Make sure to return to this case after you walk past down the counter to order, because tasty options abound.

Red lentil balls and tabbouleh.

I sprung for the red lentil balls and tabbouleh. Peppered with fresh parsley, the tabbouleh was one of the best I’ve had- uber-flavorful. It was my first time with red lentil balls, but based on the Vegan Community Kitchen version, I’d order them again anywhere.

The Iskender kebab platter.

Next, I hit up the Iskender kebab platter. Seitan, a wheat substitute, stood in for traditional meat. The seitan, cooked to a beefy consistency, was a great base, but took a backseat to the yogurt and fresh tomato sauces. Served on pita triangles with herbs tossed on top, this is a more-than-worthy meatless alternative for those of us with a doner kebab habit.

Falafel combo

Finally, the falafel combo cemented Vegan Community Kitchen as a foodie destination for me. Light, flavorful falafel, classic hummus, and traditional stuffed grape leaves served with fresh veggies? Yes, please. This is a Mediterranean classic done right.

The welcoming atmospheres and diverse menus of Earth to Us and Vegan Community Kitchen make them exciting additions to the vegan scene, and the Triangle food world at large. Forks and knives at the ready, everyone.

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9 Alternative Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019

Alternative ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019 in the Triangle.

Not to knock the candlelit dinner or staying in with your fellow single friends, but for this Valentine’s Day, wouldn’t you rather do something a little different? The Triangle has plenty to offer for Valentine’s Day 2019…it’s just a matter of choosing your own alternative adventure.

Axe Your Ex

If you’re looking to let off some post-breakup steam, the folks at Epic Axe Throwing and Social House have a solution. This V-Day bash will include drink specials and a taco bar. Don’t forget to brush up on your throwing skills… every bullseye gets a box of chocolates!

Space is limited, so nab your ticket here.

Local Band Local Beer: Heartbreakin’ Ball

Raleigh favorite The Pour House is hosting a Valentine’s Day edition of Local Band Local Beer: a Heartbreakin’ Ball. If dancing to Lonnie Walker, AUTOSPKR, and Echo Courts and imbibing Foothills Brewing Co. beer sounds like a good time, grab a ticket here.

Goth Prom at Arcana

Whether you live a goth lifestyle year-round or just want to go goth for a night, you can groove all night at Arcana. This Valentine’s Day 21+ dance party has 20th Century Boy spinning classic goth, dark dance, and industrial music and tarot-themed cocktails.

Suggested dress code: black. Maybe a touch of red. And more black.

Check it out here.

Carolina Skies: Valentine Edition

It’s always a starry night at Morehead Planetarium. Get a love-themed tour of the universe in Chapel Hill on one of four dates, including February 14th. There’s even a special heartbreak edition on February 9th, if you feel so inclined.

More info and tickets here.

Okapi at The Cave

Asheville duo Okapi will light up The Cave with the upright bass and cello. With Ciera Mackensie opening, this is a night not to be missed.

Check out the Facebook event here.

SAD Valentine’s Party at Boxcar

Celebrate the single life with your friends AND support the Hands for Hearts Foundation at the Raleigh location of Boxcar Bar + Arcade. With DJ Chaperone spinning, artisanal cotton candy from Wonderpuff Cotton Candy, and a percentage of the night’s sales going to a good cause, this is fun you can feel good about.

Learn more here.

Crazy Doberman at Nightlight

Spend Valentine’s Night in Chapel Hill with Crazy Doberman, a “midwestern psycho jazz unit.” Nightlight is one of the best spots in the area to hear experimental tunes, so hit up W. Rosemary Street for a quirky, great time.

More info here.

Dream Date 90s Dance Party at Ruby Deluxe

If you want to get in your feelings with the music of your childhood, head to Ruby Deluxe at 10 PM. DJ Luxe Posh and DJ DNLTMS will spin 90s favorites at this 21+ dance party. Sweets, drink specials, and maybe some Whitney Houston- this is what Valentine’s Day should be.

Check it out here.

PHK is for Covers at The Pinhook

The Pinhook is hosting a night of covers of apathetic/anti bands and fundraising for the NC Women’s Prison Books Project. Come donate to this worthy cause and rock out/chuckle to covers of The White Stripes and Weezer. Good time + good cause = a great Valentine’s Day.

Read up on the event here.

For More Inspiration

For more date ideas that won’t break the bank, check out The Triangle Guide’s Cheap Date series: Durham and Raleigh editions.

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Get Hype for Local Web Series

In Hype, a new web series, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

To say that Durham itself is a character in Hype, a new local web series, would be a cliché…and an understatement. In partnership with Runaway, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham as only someone who’s lived here could, with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

The Durham of Hype shapes its characters, rocks them to sleep, cracks them open and gets cracked open by them in return.

The protagonist, Smiles, ends up embroiled in Durham’s rap and startup scenes. His motivation? To buy back the house his sweetheart’s family was forced out of by rising rent costs. The irrepressible Ava (Andie Morgenlander) latches onto Smiles as her partner in the startup business.

Meanwhile, a fixture in the local rap scene, Bulldoze, and his younger brother Cris (impressively played by Dartez Wright and Melvin Gray Jr.) butt heads with Rakim Wilde (Leroy Shingu).  Wilde lacks Bulldoze’s talent, but is getting radio play.

When the parallel stories collide, fireworks ensue.

Shot on site, the scenery and rhythms of the city are right in ways an outsider couldn’t capture. The wide shots of local favorites Alley Twenty Six, The Durham and Motorco are fun anchors to Durham’s geography. Hype also captures the specific, lopsided lilt of a Durham house party to a tee. It doesn’t hurt that the rollicking soundtrack is packed with local talent.

So, is hyper-local Hype worth…you know…the hype? Yes. Easily so. Strong writing, direction, and cinematography would make this a series to watch in a market laden with good offerings. The acting doesn’t always hit the mark, and sometimes the writing could be a little tighter, but that’s okay. Hype has to be considered as the first of its kind. It makes a formidable launching pad for new series to be shot in the area.

When thinking of Hype as pioneering media for the Triangle, consider Hype as a title. Referring both to excitement and to the inflated self-marketing required to succeed, the characters in this web series confront the need to hype themselves up to the outside world.

In Hype, as in the real Durham, the bristling creativity that makes the city so exciting may also condemn it to being ruined by gentrification.

While that conflict is rarely directly addressed in the dialogue, it is keenly felt. The characters risk their livelihoods as underdogs in an underdog city. When you fail, you fail yourself, your family, and your hometown. Hype is a living, breathing portrayal of a struggle the city hasn’t resolved yet.

Hype, at its best, is simultaneously a balm and a friendly grin to anyone who’s called Durham home, as well as a primer to the area for anyone unfamiliar with its joys and pitfalls.

Yes, watch Hype. Yes, talk it up for its hometown grit and charm. But this is a series well worth watching on its own merit. Fundraising is currently underway for the next season. Get hype.

Watch Hype


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Review: Nick Dahlstrom’s con(TEXTURED) at The Carrack

In his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom explores the importance of context through oil paintings of raw meat.

In (con)TEXTURED, his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom decks The Carrack’s walls with oil paintings that are both gruesome and beautiful. In his depictions of raw meat and dried flowers, Dahlstrom explores the essence of texture and the importance of context.

Paintings of Meat?

It sounds strange, but meat as a subject is not as unusual as you might think. Dahlstrom cites Francis Bacon as an influence, an artist who portrayed meat as a subject and symbol in several of his works, including the haunting Figure with Meat.

Victoria Reynolds also comes to mind. Her paintings of meat straddle the line between gore and beauty. They’re also displayed in elaborate baroque frames. Plus, the meat is highly stylized- check out Fat of the Lamb for a prime example. Dahlstrom takes a more restrained, contemporary approach than Reynolds. He positions raw chicken, beef, and bacon simply, in negative space.

The Devil’s in the Details

Examined at close range, the array of textures in Dahlstrom’s paintings are astonishing. Great globs of paint coexist with chunks of opalescent tissue. Skeins of fat are as delicate as gossamer.

Painted in bright colors, Dahlstrom’s flowers retain the gore of the meat- the frilly tubes of an orchid look anatomical. If the bacon, beef, and chicken are reminiscent of the human body’s insides, the flowers look quite a bit like sexual organs.

It’s easy to wallow in the textured details of Dahlstrom’s work… which is probably the artist’s intention.

(con)Textured in Context

Back to the title of the exhibition: (con)TEXTURED. The definition of the word “contexture” is “a mass of individual parts woven together.” With the title in mind, the viewer must consider that every individual texture in these paintings is part of a greater whole- in the painting, and in the exhibition.

Notably, a statement is missing from the display itself, but you can find it on The Carrack’s website:

“The photograph has become synonymous with truth. Freed from context, the mind is forced to fill in the blanks likely forming falsehoods in place of realities. In the age of the artificial image “are we reading too much into it?””

Dahlstrom, by not putting the statement in the space itself, frees the art from context. Without context, the viewer can prioritize whatever they want. (con)TEXTURED is all about the importance of context. And in our current political climate and the carousel of today’s news cycle, when anyone can prioritize any detail to form the bigger picture they want to see, context is more relevant than ever.

Pertinent, beautiful, intriguing, grisly- don’t miss (con)TEXTURED. You can judge the meaning of the exhibition for yourself at The Carrack until December 23. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.

Nick Dahlstrom will be giving an artist’s talk on December 21 at 7PM during The Carrack’s Third Friday reception.

You can find more information about (con)TEXTURED here.

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Q&A: Photographer Alex Yllanes Captures the Beauty of the Triangle

“I really like the idea that I can capture something that will make someone look a little differently at their surroundings,” says Yllanes.

It’s a striking image: blue-tinted suburban houses lining a curved road, the tail lights of a car glowing under a technicolor sunset. The diversity of color and texture, a quiet moment captured in the composition- it’s a quintessential shot from photographer Alex Yllanes, who searches for unique beauty in the Triangle.

His approach to landscapes carries over into his event photography- performer’s bodies are rendered as topography saturated in stage light. Meanwhile, candid moments are emphasized in Yllanes’s portraits- natural slopes and lines that draw the eye to the bright smiles of his subjects.

Yllanes’s style and his unique position in the Triangle creative scene have put him on the ground for some of the local music scene’s most exciting moments. I caught up with Yllanes on candid portraiture, how he represents the Triangle in his photography, and the most memorable concert he’s shot.

What is your origin story? What inspired you to become a photographer?

“Photography was always something that piqued my interest, the idea of creating/capturing images that, if you do it right, can speak to people in a way that’s hard to express verbally. A couple years back I started to really try and integrate myself within the Triangle creative scene, at first as a fan of artists’ work. From there just continuing to go to events and shows I started making connections with people who were doing music, photography, videography, etc.

I met a guy from NC State, James Huang aka Sakyboi, I had recognized from a film club when I was there, and he was working on photos and videography and he really gave me the first big push to wanting to create to just doing it. Once I actually got started going to street meets here and there, and then shooting the concerts I would be going to. Anyway, I just got a lot of joy from capturing moments that I found to be evocative.

The creative release was a pretty important part in the beginning, having something to focus on and challenge myself with that came with the reward of images I hoped others would enjoy as well. It’s still what will drive my photography now; the idea that anyone other than me could feel the moment I had caught just by looking at it. Being able to share images like that is a challenge, but anytime I get a response to an image that it really connected with someone, it means so much to me, that’s what keeps me pushing my knowledge.”

On your website, you explain that you “always work to capture candid moments with my subjects,” and it shows in your body of work. Why do you prioritize candid photography? What do you do to facilitate the capture of candid moments?

“I’ve always been drawn to the idea of being able to capture moments in time, however incidental they are. Practically, it largely stems from the first few concerts I shot and having to find the moments throughout without any directional input on my part. To this point, it’s been an easier way for me to tap into a creative vision and find what I’m looking to get out of the shoot; and not being able to control the subject at a concert allowed me to think more about what I would ideally like in terms of my own direction on a shoot. That’s something that I’ve gotten a bit better at over time, too, is not just letting the moment happen, but directing a subject to perform actions and still work on getting those moments in between.

I think it really stems from a personal desire to try and find the best in everything, so finding these little moments is a bit of a therapeutic way to approach a shoot. That mentality carries over into every aspect of life for me now, and I’d have to say allowing myself to be drawn to these moments in photography has helped me grow mentally and overcome a lot of my own mental obstacles in life. Essentially what started as a practical necessity evolved into a much more important viewpoint on my photography and on life; as that evolution took place I think it drew me in to that style even more.”

You’ve worked in many locations in the Triangle as a street photographer- Carrboro, Raleigh, Durham, and Apex. How do you want to represent the Triangle in your photography?

“Ideally I can represent it as a place full of beauty and character. Living here you can really find a little bit of everything in the Triangle, from nature trails to high rises and I really enjoy seeing how varied a region we have. For me it’s showing that variety in landscape but as I’ve said before, just how easy it is to find something beautiful in each environment.

I think everyone experiences things differently based on what’s going on in your mind at that time, and I like to think that I can show images of a place and people that not everyone sees, either. Sometimes it’s just marveling at a sunset in the suburbs or craning your head back to see up to the top of a high rise under construction; but I really like the idea that I can capture something that will make someone look a little differently at their surroundings the next time they’re out about town.”

What’s the most memorable concert you’ve photographed? What made it special?

“This is a tough one, but I’d have to say that taking pictures at the Kooley High show at Kings last year in April was a highlight. It wasn’t the first Kooley show I’d shot, but I remember that night Rapsody was in town and came to the show. She was mostly hanging at the back of the stage with DJ Ill Digitz and Sinopsis, and it was already crazy just having her there. When she joined in with Charlie Smarts and Tab-One it took the show to a different level, having the OG Kooley group back together on stage was incredible. I was just super psyched I had my camera that night and was running from the stage to the crowd that whole set just getting shots in between, soaking in the moment for myself.

After the show was done I chatted with her and the Kooley crew for a minute and got a shot of them backstage together; that was a really awesome moment for me personally. Having been a fan of the group for going on 6 years at that point, 7 now, I’d always been inspired by their drive and through photography getting to know them better and being able to capture that moment with them is definitely a Top 5 moment so far.”

When you’re in the field, what inspires you to take a photograph of something in the moment? Are you first drawn to the potential aesthetic appeal of a shot, or do the aesthetics serve the story you’re trying to tell?

“I’m definitely drawn in by the aesthetic appeal of a shot, it’s always easier in my head to find a spot that “looks cool” and gravitate toward it. I think it’s just been a matter of evolving my definition of what looks cool to me. I think as I’ve progressed, I’ve done a better job of trying to tell some kind of story in an image, whether it comes across all the time is a different story. But I feel like now I do enjoy taking shots of things I think look good, while also keeping in mind that I want to try and convey something about the space, or my subject, or for a concert the moment in time that artist is sharing with the crowd. To that end I think overall it’s become even for me to aim for the aesthetics themselves, or how they fit in within a story I’m picturing in my head.”

If you could ask one question of any photographer, living or dead, who would you choose and what would you ask?

“I’d be lying if I said I had an encyclopedic knowledge of photographers and all their works; that said, there’s definitely a few I try to draw inspiration from. I think even before I really delved into the history of photography and different photographers and styles, I found myself somewhat in line with what some of the characteristics of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He pretty much shot exclusively black and white film with natural light only, the latter of which has pretty much been my M.O. as well.

When I shoot I feel like a lot of the time I end up being too precious with my shots and my thinking, even with a memory card that can hold ~1000 shots, I can find myself getting in my own way. I’d love to ask him how he allowed himself to be comfortable with his decisions in the moment, or how he was able to get out of his own head for those candid moments. I feel like it’s a pretty loaded question, but it’d be really interesting to hear his mental process and try and glean something from that.”

What do you know now about photography that you wish you knew when you first started out?

“Looking back, I wish I had known that social media, namely Instagram, is not the be-all end-all for engagement with my work, or the objective quality of my work. Starting out I think I did use it well as a way to showcase what I was doing and interact with other creatives around the Triangle and outside of it. But I also know that I put way too much stock in how many likes all my pictures got, or trying to emulate a common style that was perpetuating social media at a certain time.

Ultimately I ended up finding myself highly overcritical of “underperforming” shots and posting less because I wanted and more to maximize the validation and “coolness” of my shots. At this point social media has very much taken a back seat in my head, not having posted in a while, but it is something that as I get re-engaged with it for it’ll be a much healthier relationship. Out of everything that’s probably the only thing I’d have done a bit differently from the get-go.”

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The Top Three Triangle Podcasts

The hottest voices podcasting from the Triangle right now.

The 919 Podcast

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the 919 area code, The 919 Podcast is your new best friend. Host John Carter interviews the movers and shakers of the Triangle- past episodes have included Patrick Woodson of Brewery Bhavana, Durham mayor Steve Schewel, and Kathryn Bertok of Carolina Tiger Rescue. Another highlight of the podcast is the “Dinner and a Movie” series of episodes, in which Megan Spell selects local restaurants and movie offerings around town for perfectly curated dates. With guests in an array of professions, Carter gets to the heart of what makes the Triangle unique.

Follow The 919 Podcast: iTunes Twitter Facebook

Damaged Goods Radio

Whether they’re exchanging repartee or interviewing a favorite band, genial hosts Matt Dunn and Seth Beard of Damaged Goods Radio are excellent guides through the local music scene. Interviewees include local acts and bands just passing through the Triangle- Carrboro band and Hopscotch alums Fitness Womxn are interviewed alongside Straight Arrows from Sydney, Australia. Come for the interviews, stay for the A+ banter and dry humor.

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The Nice Price

Nice Price Books and Records on Hillsborough Street has been a mainstay of the music scene in Raleigh for decades. Curl up in the stacks, browse the crates of vinyl- and, since 2017, listen in on employees and friends of the store discussing new releases on The Nice Price, the shop’s podcast. Enoch, Matt Phone, and Alli B pull from their vast collective music knowledge to riff on new tunes. Great chemistry between the three hosts, genuine laughter, and hot takes on music- what more could you ask for?

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The 8 Weirdest Things You Experience in Durham

Brent and Ashleigh are very concerned about gentrification.

1. Gentrification Blues

“Raylee for a girl, Jaxxon for a boy!”

You’re chatting with your neighbors, Brent and Ashleigh. They’re very nice, and they have a cute golden retriever called Kale.

Did you know Brent is a rapper? He’ll send you a link to his SoundCloud, he says, running a hand over his blond undercut.

Ashleigh is very concerned about gentrification in Durham. If the cost of real estate keeps rising, people who’ve lived here for generations are going to be pushed out, you know. Did they tell you they’re moving soon? Oh yeah, off Alston Avenue. Anyway, Brent and Ashleigh have got to get going, they’re heading to Home Depot to buy deadbolts.

Later, you get a text from Brent. It’s a link to his SoundCloud, and a link to an Instagram account.

It’s Kale’s Instagram account. @KaletheGoldenRetriever.

He’s verified.

2. Seize Life by the Horns

Nobody gets that excited about baseball.

Everyone in this city is hustling. Everyone in this city is grinding. Nobody is hustling and grinding more than Wool E. Bull. He dances, he hypes up the crowd, he loses his mind when the Bulls get a hit. This mascot is working harder than you think you’ve ever worked in your life.

You hope, whoever is in the Wool E. suit, they’re being paid well.

3. Craft Beer = A Hydra

Who wouldn’t want to try grape-flavored beer?

A new craft brewery is opening and you have to try it. A new craft brewery you have to try is always opening. If a craft brewery isn’t opening, a beer garden is. Or a bottle shop. Or a beer lab. You decide to try a different craft beer spot every day for a month. When you cross off every bar on the list, ten more craft beer places have opened up. Where do they come from? Why do you need to check them out so badly? You don’t even like beer that much.

You open up the group chat and click on a link. It’s an invitation to the opening of a new craft beer place.

You click “attending.”


“Pat McCrory is so sad. Alexa, play “Y.M.C.A.””

Your friend texts you a picture of someone who looks remarkably like Pat McCrory sitting by himself at a Bojangles. You tell her to dump her extra-large sweet tea over his head.

5. Start Me Up

“Vertical integration of miniature pigs is going to change the world!”

Your best friend is looking to crowdfund a startup. Your roommate is looking to crowdfund a startup. Nineteen people you knew in high school are looking to crowdfund startups. Every tweet in your feed is a link to a Kickstarter campaign.

That reminds you, you have an idea for an app.

6. Sports via Osmosis

“Nah, I’m not into sports. What’s the quarterback situation after the UNC suspensions?”

You don’t follow sports. But you know Duke is playing Virginia Tech on the 29th, Nathan Elliott has some leeway to start the season after Chazz Surratt’s suspension, and that many of the Wolfpack starters have been replaced. You don’t watch basketball, but you know that when the NCAA Tournament starts, you’ll have a bracket.

Your friend who went to Appalachian is still talking about when they beat Michigan. You think about reminding him that that game was in 2007, but decide against it. Let him have his fun.

7. A Menacing Conversation

“Please, Google Overlords, leave us be.”

A dark cloud hangs over Durham. Everyone speaks in whispers (or think pieces.) Amazon is coming here, maybe? Google is coming here, maybe? They’re not coming here, right? Because that would really screw things up for all of us. But there’s no way they’re really coming. 


8. You’re from Cary, Aren’t You?

I could tell from your haircut.

Everyone in the Triangle, no matter who they are or where they’re from, trashes Cary. Everyone you know from Cary vehemently denies that they’re from Cary.

Here’s why:

You’re at work. A woman from Cary walks in. You have never met this woman, but you know that she is from Cary.

She’s talking very loudly on her phone. You gather that someone named Jill is trying to usurp her as the PTA president. She glares at the customers lined up to check out in front of her.

When she reaches your counter, you apologize for the wait to placate her.

She huffs and puffs. She’ll leave a bad review on Yelp, but in the meantime, she wants to speak to a manager.

You smile and politely tell her that you are the manager. You do not cackle in triumph at the way her face shrivels.

But it’s a near thing.

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Cheap Durham Dates

How to date in Bull City on a budget.

Maybe you’re a long-term couple and you’re saving up to buy Hopscotch tickets together. Maybe you’re single, mingling, and don’t want to shell out too much cash on a first Tinder date. Or you’re a student and you want to go out, but you’d also like to, y’know, eat food this month. Any way you slice it, we all want maximum romance at a minimum cost- so  The Triangle Guide presents the “Dates on a Shoestring” series. This week, I’m serving up the best the Bull City has to offer in terms of great dates that won’t break the bank.

Coffee Date at Beyù Caffè

The Oprah Mocha

Meeting for coffee is a classic first date for a reason. It’s low-commitment, and it feels perfectly natural to stay for half an hour, or to linger late if the conversation flows. But you can tip the scales in favor of the date going well if you choose the right setting- and, of course, if the coffee is good. And for ambiance and coffee quality, you can’t beat Beyù Caffè.

With its exposed brick and big windows, Beyù Caffè’s sophisticated, airy environs are low-key romantic. And the coffee is top-notch. Local roasts, plus cream and milk from Homeland Creamery? Yes, please! Grab one of their tempting lattes or mochas (shoutout to the Oprah Mocha!) or split a French press pot for $4.95.

Date at Duke Gardens

Love may just bloom at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

It’s harder to think of a more romantic, or more uniquely Durham date than strolling Duke Gardens with your beloved (or beloved-to-be.) The Gardens’s picturesque settings have seen many a Carolina date, proposal, and nuptial. You can bank on the romance factor- love has a long history of blossoming here.

Wander the Garden’s 55 acres hand-in-hand, plotting how to spend the money you saved on this date, because admission to the gardens is free! (Be aware parking will set you back $1 per half hour. More details on the Duke Gardens website here.)

Open from 8 AM to 5 PM, you may want to consider going to Duke Gardens on a weekday if you have the option, as things can get pretty packed at primetime on the weekends.

Ice Cream Date at The Parlour

Sweet romance at The Parlour.

Ice cream is an underrated low-commitment date, or a lovely little outing for a couple. The Parlour on Market Street makes phenomenal ice cream by hand, in classic and imaginative flavors, and all served up in a pretty, pastel environment. There are great vegan options, milkshakes, baked goods, and every manner of sundae customization you can think of. This is a great afternoon or evening date- The Parlour is open from 12 PM to 10 PM Sunday thru Thursday, and 12 PM to 11 PM Fridays and Saturdays. Yes, sometimes the ice cream line can go out the door, but that’s part of the experience. The ice cream is that good, and the line gives you more opportunity for conversation. (You’re right across the way from Major Bull, and if he’s not a conversation piece, who knows what is.)

Art Gallery Date at 21c Museum Hotel

21c Museum Hotel’s signature pink penguins are tucked all over the galleries.

Whether you’re a sophisticate, or you just want to look like one to impress your date, a wonderful way to take in modern art on a tight budget or a tight schedule is to visit 21c Museum Hotel on North Corcoran Street.

21c is part of Museum Hotels, a chain of boutique hotels with modern art galleries on the premises. The Durham version, housed in the historic former Hill Building, has rotating exhibitions of contemporary art on over 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. The sleek galleries are free and open to the public 365 days a year. If you and your date want to get some context for the art, guided docent tours are available at 5 PM Wednesdays and Fridays, and are also free and open to the public. So put on your finest (or not), impress your date, and get your culture fix for the best price of all- free.

Bathroom signs at 21c- for dates of all gender identities!

Drinks at The Atomic Fern

Let’s face it- pricey cocktail bars are a lot of fun. They’re also a guaranteed way to make your wallet weep, and chances are you won’t be focused on getting to know someone when you’re thinking about your dwindling bank account. Luckily, the remedy lives on East Parrish Street in Durham, and it’s called The Atomic Fern.

The Atomic Fern does have a membership fee… but it’s $3, and you can bring a guest. Beer goes for around $4, wine and mixed drinks for around $6. The focus at The Atomic Fern is on conversation- so no TVs, no loud music, and board games to settle into (bonus points if you bring your own!) The surroundings are cozy and quirky, the patrons are chill, and it makes for a great date spot if you just want to relax over a drink and really get to know the person sitting across from you. This is let’s-get-a-drink done right.

Major Bull is a romantic at heart.

Check out cheap Raleigh dates here!

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