Sitting in the library during reading time at Welborn Middle School in High Point, a younger Daniel White flipped through pages of National Geographic and outdoorsy magazines, relishing the striking visuals as post-hardcore band Enter Shikari’s latest likely played in his mind’s ear.
A few weeks ago, 13 or so years later, White published 80 copies (no longer available) of his first book of photographs, Frances, named for his paternal grandmother who is navigating the challenges of her husband’s worsening dementia. In one of the most stunning portraits, his grandmother takes a momentary break from marking up a book as she sits at what appears to be a white-clothed kitchen table, creating shadowy weightiness as she hunches forward to give a rather frank look at someone across the room.
White took photos outside of school for years — his first portrait was of his older sister Monitra —but began taking the form seriously in 2010 with enthusiastic support from his family. Four years later White earned a bachelor of science in information technology from UNCG but the closest he gets to tech these days is his compact Fujifilm X-E1, always at the ready, and his Nikon D610 camera, his plus-one at concerts. Informal hangouts turned into photoshoots with friends, progressing into formal freelance work for frolicsome graduation and family photos. He never let go of his free-spirited approach, though.
“I think it’s best if you show your personality, and mine is definitely out there, joking around,” White said. “I don’t want to be some kind of stiff thing. I want to leave the session gaining a good friend if I don’t know you already.”
To pay the bills, he works somewhat unpredictable hours as a vehicle-condition assessor at Carmex, where he started during college in 2012, but finds joy as part of a tight-knit web of young artists in the Triad, many of whom he interviews on Free Pizza, a podcast he and recording engineer Jacob Beeson launched in a room in Beeson’s house last February. White is also head of photography for Amplifier, the podcast’s affiliated digital magazine that aims to promote underground creatives from tattoo artists to illustrators and writers, as well as nascent small businesses in North Carolina.
“We give creatives a platform to speak on their journey, their process and to explain what they want to do,” White said. “Me and Jacob saw the need for something like that to happen… in Greensboro because there are so many talented people here and we know it’s hard marketing yourself. We also see the importance of a creative atmosphere around here and we’re trying to make it a little better.”
White himself is an up-and-coming artist, though, currently apprenticing with Jon Black, a local freelance photographer who is teaching White the fundamentals of studio photography such as setting up and testing new equipment. The training marks a divergence from White’s mostly self-taught career development and his preference for candid photoshoots in the street, libraries and, of course, at concerts.
“I love doing shows because everything is spontaneous,” he said. “I just went to a lot of punk and hardcore shows around here and took my camera with me one day, and I went from there.”
Learn more about Daniel White at danielwhitephoto.com.
An adventurous nature often coaxes him out of town. In 2016, he fell in love with the people, art scene and cityscapes of Chicago and Detroit, visiting those cities twice that year — first to see a friend, then This Will Destroy You, an experimental atmospheric rock band, on their tenth anniversary tour. The cityscapes stand out because he manages to capture Chicago in ways that demonstrate its differences from other metropolises with black-and-white compositions of tightly-squeezed cars and delivery trucks next to century-old skyscrapers still separated by frighteningly close railways.
His favorite musician to photograph recently, though, was rapper Denzel Curry at Durham’s Moogfest. From below, White captured Curry catching his breath between verses, chin heightened upward and eyes closed, looking as though he was reveling in the divine with the stage lights emanating from behind.
His partiality to black-and-white photography over the delightful vibrancy of his many color photographs might surprise those first encounter White, assuming color might align more closely with his energetic demeanor.
There’s no denying that a playful air moves through much of his work, especially his portraiture, but White compels with mystery and the poignant moment of silence when finger presses the shutter button; in the half-breath of a friend in a moody woodland scene; in the splinter of a second a presumably homeless person in the streets of Chicago locks eyes with his camera; the moment the frontwoman of Bleed the Pigs thrashes her neck, propelling thick hot-pink braids flying through the air of a dingy basement.