What happens when two of the more renowned, young Black photographers in the City of Detroit collaborate? They create a photo exhibit that is like none other in the 313.
That is exactly what Cyrus Tetteh and Dante Rionda did last November, curating a one night photography exhibition they titled “FRIENDS The Gallery.” The 24-portrait gallery featured 12 photos each by Tetteh and Rionda, capturing the essence of their beloved family members and friends, portraying them at their best.
FRIENDS The Gallery: Part 2 will take place Saturday, July 13 from 6-9 p.m. at the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard near Wilkins and Orleans. The free outdoor exhibit is supported by the Norwest Gallery of Art, which hosted the first FRIENDS event, and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. There will be music, merchandise, and a special live performance from up and coming rapper Chan Like Jackie, Tetteh’s younger sister. DJ LiftOff will provide the sounds.
“It’s so funny how this all came about,” said Rionda. “Cyrus and I were in his apartment just chopping it up and he brought up the idea of having a gallery and having his friends be the subject for every photograph. The idea blew my mind, because I’ve been wanting to do that since forever. So we decided we should do a joint gallery.”
“We literally leveled up our photography in such a short time span. We barely knew any studio techniques but in that process of learning and capturing our friends, so many beautiful moments were made and now here we are doing our second showing. I wouldn’t ask to do this with anyone else.”
The subjects of FRIENDS Part 1 ranged from chefs, to social media influencers, to family members and friends. The photographs were taken both inside and outside, at several locations. Part 2 will feature the same concept, but the setting will be much different. The Norwest Gallery event was sold out, with over 200 attendees. The Dequindre Cut location allows for an open space with plenty of room, complete with the downtown Detroit skyline in the background.
“We knew we would need a bigger space for the next one and The Freight Yard is a cool space because it’s on the Dequindre Cut and there will be plenty of people running, walking, and riding by to see our exhibit,” said Tetteh. “It’s also kind of an unknown space, so those that are coming will be able to experience it for the first time, and it provides a nice summer vibe for the exhibit.”
FRIENDS Part 2 will feature 13 portraits each by Tetteh and Rionda. And while there will be some familiar names around the city showcased as exhibits, what they mean to both photographers is far more important.
“Friends was never meant to be a grand presentation of who our real friends are. While all of our subjects are our real life friends, Friends The Gallery is more so taking time out of our lives to slow down and appreciate different people in our lives,” added Tetteh. “A lot of the time, high-level photography is saved for gigs and paid photo shoots. Who says we can’t use our powers to celebrate ordinary people? Except our goal is to portray them as more than ordinary. Our goal is to portray them as the art they deserve to be.”
Tetteh and Rionda are both proud graduates of Detroit Cass Technical High School, although Tetteh is a few years older. They actually met through social media a few years ago, when Tetteh was graduating from the University of Michigan. The two first collaborated on a photo shoot for Tetteh’s clothing brand, Cool Club Clothing, as well as a number of other projects. From there, they built a friendship that goes well beyond their love for the camera lens. The two will even have portraits they took of each other at the event.
“As a friend, this dude is always there for me no matter what,” Rionda said of Tetteh. “If I need something, he’s there. If I have to borrow a lens, he’s got it. If I can’t pay for something, he’ll handle it. He’s the definition of someone that has your back. As an artist ,I think he’s amazing and he’s not even at his final form! How much he’s grown since the last gallery is insane. Being around Cyrus has made me become a better artist and person overall and I’m beyond thankful for that.”
Tetteh shared the sentiments for Rionda.
“Dante is a genius,” said Tetteh. “He brings technicality and creativity together in a way I’ve never witnessed before. He’s so far ahead of his time and his standard is excellence. Back when Dante did shoots for my clothing line, the shots were so good that I challenged myself to get better with the camera so that I could always have dope shots. Fast forward to now, I’m a full time photographer for the City of Detroit and I’m still learning from Dante. And I’ll never stop learning from him. He’s the best photographer I know.”