‘I love shooting men’

Based in Brooklyn, NY, Dana Scruggs is in the midst of preparing the first issue of Scruggs Magazine.

Scruggs makes dynamic, elegant photographs that focus on the male form and men’s fashion.

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“I love shooting men,” she revealed in her campaign pitch video.

The crowd approves.

Two weeks ago her fashion magazine raised  $8,000 on Indiegogo to get off the ground.

Meleán: What are your favorite shooting locations in Brooklyn?

Scruggs: I really love shooting on handball courts. Since I prefer to shoot outdoors with natural light, the courts are a perfect backdrop. There’s a lot of space to move around, plus every court has it’s own personality (some are clean, some are gritty). I always get something different from each one. They’re synonymous with the culture of New York. Players are always gracious – they don’t mind taking a break to allow me to shoot!

Meleán: Why did you decide to make an independent magazine?

Scruggs: To be quite honest, I got tired of people saying “No” to me. When I would reach out to magazines that I wanted to contribute to – I wouldn’t get a response or I would get a “No”. That was frustrating. I also got tired of not being able to shoot my concepts without first finding a magazine willing to publish it. I wanted to take control. Starting my own magazine allows that because, I can shoot what I want, when I want – on my own terms. Not having to depend on someone else in order to publish my work is freedom.

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Meleán: Will the first issue be all brand new, or a compilation of your favorite photographs?

Scruggs: All of the images in the first issue will be new. With Scruggs, I only want to look forward – not backward. Pushing myself creatively and making new work is one of the main reasons why I started Scruggs.

Meleán: Why do you only take pictures of men?

Scruggs: I mostly take pictures of men. They’re my main focus but, I do shoot women from time to time. Either for commissioned work or for paid testing. I love shooting men because I’m enamored of their masculinity, their athleticism, and their bodies. They’re beautiful creatures. As a woman, I’m intrigued by them – just as many male photographers are intrigued by women. Women and their sensuality, have been the muses of male artists and photographers since the beginning.  I think it’s great that as a Woman, I’m capturing the power and sensuality of the male form. I’m a bit of a rarity.

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Meleán: How do people typically react when you tell them you only take pictures of men?

Scruggs: I either hear: “Wow!” or “Really!?”, but always in a positive way. Most female photographers focus their work on shooting other women (i.e. beauty, fashion, lifestyle, etc). I understand that it’s surprising for people to hear me automatically identify myself as a photographer who focuses on men, men’s fashion, and the male form.

Meleán: What do most of the other photographers in your industry look like?

Scruggs: If I narrow it down to just photographers who shoot fashion, and are shooting top level campaigns and editorials – it’s very very white and very very male. In comparison to the men, there’s a handful of women who are shooting at a high level but, I really only know of 1 or 2 that are “of color” – and none that are black. If I look at the industry with a wider view, there’s a lot more racial diversity, at least amongst the male photographers. We still need more women.

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Meleán: What challenges have you faced as a black female fashion photographer?

Scruggs: I can’t say that I haven’t gotten certain jobs or opportunities because I’m black. Maybe I’ve faced racism – if I have, it was never overtly presented to my face. As a woman in this industry – I’ve definitely felt minimized and held back from opportunities because of my gender. In one particular position, even though I worked just as hard (or in some cases harder) than my male counterparts, I was never promoted. At the point when I had been working there longer than all of the men who had been promoted instead of me – I decided to leave. That was a great lesson. That experience taught me to value my worth, and to not give my time and sweat to people who aren’t giving me anything in return.

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Meleán: What advice do you have for photographers launching their own crowdfunding campaigns? Please share 2-3 things you learned during your campaign. What surprised you? What worked? What didn’t work?

Scruggs: There’s two things that I feel were key components to the success of my campaign.

The first component was my story. I was completely honest about my struggles and my triumphs in my life and in this industry. My success was rooted in people empathizing with, seeing themselves in, and being emboldened by my journey. My goal was to raise funds to create my own dreams, and in the process inspire others to go after their own. The second component was shameless promotion. I’ve built up a lot of friends and followers on Facebook and Instagram, and I used those platforms to constantly promote the campaign. Posting about the campaign, at least 3 times per day, really kept everyone engaged with me, the magazine, my funding goals and achievements. Sometimes I felt a bit douchey for posting all of the time but, I got over it once I started seeing results. Also, asking people to post the campaign on their social media pages was extremely beneficial to raising awareness. It made my friends and followers feel like they could contribute – even if they couldn’t afford a monetary donation.

One of the main parts of promoting a campaign is asking people for money. It’s not a comfortable thing to do but it’s necessary. With every post, I asked people to contribute. Messaging people directly and asking them to contribute was the most uncomfortable aspect for me. But, what also surprised me the most was how willing my friends and followers were to contribute – once I asked them directly. Even people that I hadn’t seen or talked to in 10+ years or who I had never met at all. Basically, “He who asks not, has not.”

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Lover of coffee, books, golden hour and plane tickets. Freelance writer, photographer and videographer based in La Paz, Bolivia.

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