About six weeks ago I was able to sit down with Derick G. Who’s DG? Get Familiar: he is the Creative Engineer behind all of DerickG.com. For the most part you’ll catch him… Working! Enjoy our conversation were we talk about photography, videography, branding and change. Get Familiar!
WIT: For people who are not familiar with you, what’s your name and where are you from?
DG: I’m Derick G and I’m from Hialeah, Florida. I’m a photographer videographer. I’m a Creative engineer. That’s the title I like to be called.
WIT: How did you get started with photography?
DG: Photography was a hobby turned into a career. I’ve taken pictures since I was a little kid. I’ve never taken a class. I can’t remember when I started. I’m 28 now but I’ve been shooting since, literally I was Seven or Eight years old.
I was little kid. I would take my mom’s camera and go take pictures of everything. I spend god knows how much money on those 35mm rolls of film. I remember, I would just take a camera and take pictures of everything…
WIT: Did you ever learn to develop your own film?
DG: NO, I never got into that. Since I never went to school for it, I never learned dark room. I’m self-thought so at the time I used Walgreens and Eckerd’s for all my developing… I would pay a little extra money so I could get them back in an hour…
WIT: Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?
DG: Nah, like I said. It was a hobby turned career. It was something that I did for fun and it just blew up.
I used to do other production work on sets so I used to bring my camera to take photos just for fun. As I kept doing it directors became familiar with me and it just blew up…
WIT: How did you start being the photographer behind the scenes?
DG: Well, I have a company called Reel Ridez. The company provides cars for all different types of productions movie, commercials, music videos, etc. My background is on cars. I love cars! That’s my passion!
So two passions combined… I came up on some money so I bought my self a little camera. I would bring the camera on set to take pictures of the cars on set and the celebrities in the cars and what not…
It was this one specific job. I was on my way to the beach to drop off a package. I was working at the time. I was going over the main bridge. I see a bunch of production trucks. I pulled over just to see what was going on so they happened to be shooting DJ KHALLED’s “WE TAKING OVER” music video. I saw a bunch of photographers and artist just walking around, hanging out. I saw Bun B, Akon and a bunch of people so once I saw the photographers there; I was like this is my chance…
I took the camera out and started taking pictures… I was there for like half hour to forty-five minutes because I was on the clock… So after taking a couple of pictures I went about my day. Did what I had to do and went back to work but I was so amped at the pictures that I started editing them right away.
At that time MySpace was still the shit! So for some strange reason I happened to run into the director. There was this one tall guy on the set. He was the one interacting with every body else. At the time I didn’t know who he was but I figured he was the director… and it was. As I’m on MySpace I happened to click onto his MySpace page.
I took the opportunity to send him a message. He responded right away. He said he loved the images and if I had any more to send them to his email, so I did. He was very appreciative and he said: “If you’re ever around, come through”.
You know how it is people a lot of times say things and don’t mean them so I took it as a conversation ender… Two weeks later I get a call that they needed 32 cars for a music video. I start making the calls so I can get all the cars I need. I show up to the set to see how the cars are on set so I see a producer (Judd Allison) that I’ve worked with before… After saying hello I asked who was the director and he pointed to him. I notice it was the same guy I had spoken to.
I walked over to introduce my self. The director had only spoken to me via email he had never seen me. After I said hello he asked if I had my camera. Of course I had it… So he asked if I wanted to take some pictures to go ahead and if anyone said anything to say that I was with him…
The guy happened to be Gil Green. At the time I had no idea who he was… I saw his videos all the time but I never paid any attention to the directors or any of that… (Laughter) I always liked videos but I never thought about anything like that. I was all about the cars, the cars… That was my dream… And that’s history. I’ve been with them since…
WIT: Oh, wow. That’s crazy!
WIT: How long would you say that was?
DG: About Five years ago!
WIT: That was all still shots, how did you get into videos?
DG: Video started when Cannon created the Cannon EOS 5 D MARK II! I had a handy cam when I was younger but I never took it seriously. It’s funny I was looking back and actually found a VHS of my filming my friends in High School. I was filming my friends at lunch.
I find it funny that I do for a living what I did for fun at school with my friends… Which was just documenting my friends talking shit and joking around with girls. I was known as the person who always had a camera to the point that we would go to car shows and I was the only person who had a camera… My friends would always have me take pictures… They would always ask me for doubles or to duplicate the tape.
It was not like now that everyone takes out their cell phone back them no one brought anything to document anything, is like they all depended on me to do that…
At the end it would work out cause everyone will give me money for me to get them doubles. So even back in school I would film stuff and people would ask me to dub them a tape. It’s funny how I never saw all that as a career path.
WIT: It looks like life had already chosen for you!
DG: It’s a crazy opportunity that whole thing created for me today…
WIT: Were your parents supportive of your career choice?
DG: My mother has been there through everything. She is my biggest supporter. She loves everything that I do. She always gives me encouragement to keep going…
WIT: Where is you mom from?
DG: She is Colombian and Costarican. It has always been my mom and me. I have a great stepfather. I love him! He helped raise me. He has been a great person. My mom is it, tho! She is my everything!
WIT: Photography not as simple as people think. What’s your work ethic? How much time you put in?
DG: I think that’s what sets me apart from everyone else, my work ethic. I don’t stop working. Granted, I don’t have kids and I don’t have a girlfriend. This is what I do Twenty-Four hours a day. I don’t stop. I get here at nine or ten in the morning and I’ll be here till one or two in the morning… I go home sleep shower and come right back here or to a job. I may have to go around the city or jump in a plane to meet with a possible client…
WIT: What keeps you motivated? What keeps you in the game?
DG: The fact that I get to show the world how I see it. This is the only way that you get to show the world how you see it. I’ve been known as a journalist who is hip-hop based. I do all that glamour stuff but what I’m known for is the exclusivity of just getting in the door with who I’m down with; however, at the end of the day it all comes down to work ethic.
When I’m there, I’m there to work. I’m not there to try and be friends. Don’t get me wrong I’ve grown some great relationships some of this people are like my family but I go in and play my position… A lot of people get mixed up and they are worried about being as cool as the celebrities that they are around and forget that they are there to work. They are not the superstars. You know what I mean..?
At the end of they day we are workers. We are there to get a job done. Some people get lost in the life style and forget that they are there to do a job. For some it doesn’t last while others luck out and it does work. Fuck it, that’s good for them…
That’s one of the big reasons why I’m so big on my face never being anywhere on the Internet. My brand yes. Branding equals dollars… But I’m not trying to be famous. I like my privacy. I like making moves alone… I want to go to Walmart, I want to be able to eat at a restaurant and not be bothered. Some of my clients cant even breath, there is always someone in the room… There is always somebody around them. I can’t be like that personally. I like to have my privacy. I like it! I’ve always been like that.
Don’t get me wrong every now and then I like to ball out but I also like my alone time. I mean I have life long friends who are people who I love and are the closest to me that I may have gone to Egypt last week and they would have no idea. I like that. They know I’m working somewhere and they are not my friends because of what I do, they are just my friends… I love that…
As you get into the business you get to meet more and more people. People approach you for different reason. Some time is obvious they have ulterior motives but some times you have to learn how to turn things around and see what you can get from them… Some times is worth it, some times is not but at the end is just business.
Don’t get me wrong you do find some friendships but then some times it’s bullshit too…
WIT: Is it true what they say that once you do something you love it doesn’t feel like work?
DG: That’s bitter sweet because at the end of the day it does take up your time. It can be overwhelming some times. You would like to please everyone. You would like to do so much…
I’ve found my self lost at times when I’m trying to provide for what’s in demand… Video, Video, Video but my first love is photography! So at times some jobs need you to drop the video right away. Granted editing a video takes time but it doesn’t take as much time as photos… So some times I’ll have to edit a video over night and drop it and some times I get lost on going back and editing the pictures from that specific shoot so I don’t get to post the pictures that I really wanted to because by that time they might be irrelevant…
Maybe in a couple of years I could drop them. It could be like never released pictures from this or that. Then they might be worth something but to drop them like a month later it would not matter. With viral media, blogs, etc. Everyone it’s got ADD so if it’s not current or it’s not happening right now they don’t care for it! So, I lost my self on doing that and I made a promised to my self to focus more on my photography that’s what I love.
WIT: Being a photographer first and a video journalist second, how do you feel about video and how do you feel about photography?
DG: Photography over video any day of the week!
WIT: Define video and define photography?
DG: Video you can watch it twenty or thirty times and be sick of it. You can hang a picture for twenty years and it wont bother you! Videos wont bother me but I’ll be annoyed by it, a picture won’t bother you… You might even enjoy it every time you see it.
Photography has longevity. Photography has history. Photography has value. You catch the story and tell the story by one frame. A video if you missed a part of it you’re lost but a picture you see that frame and it takes you back to that moment.
That’s what I love about photography it brings you back to that moment every time… Imagine you could get a picture of you and your mom when you were old enough to remember and that picture will bring you to that moment…
Photography over Video any day of the week!
WIT: I see you’re very specific in your branding, how did you learn that?
DG: To me it was stating the obvious. I’m a firm believer that if you make something greater than it is, it will eventually become it! So it’s like logos. You see yellow and red. You see golden arches you think McDonald’s. So it’s like obvious. You see Mickey ears on anything, what do you think automatically? Disney! You know it’s like epic.
Something so simple that becomes recognized even by sound like the airplane sound on my videos. You know what I mean? I had a friend of mine tell me that she heard the airplane sound at her house and sure enough her little brother was watching one my videos on the internet. Her brother doesn’t know that I known her since high school but it’s crazy how she knew it was one of my videos because of the airplane sound.
People that really know me know that every thing it’s always been red and black. It’s not gang affiliated. Those have been my favorite colors since I was a little kid. Even since before it was cool to be a gang member or affiliated with one I have always loved black and red.
Because of the clients that I have people think that I roll a certain way and that’s not the case. Since I was a little kid I have love those colors. My favorite power ranger was the red ranger. My low rider bike when I was 14 was black and red. My Cadillac when I was seventeen was red. It’s that I love it. To me red is a color that commands power. Red is a color that stands out day or night. A red car stands out like crazy! A woman in a red dress stands out. Red lips stand out. Red stands out and I love the red. As much as I love my privacy but when you want that presence…
When people walk into my office they say man you have a lot of red and make the gang affiliated comments but it has nothing to do with that. I have to explain to them that it’s a power thing… It has a presence. Anything that walks into a room on red commands attention it makes a statement. Boom look over here. Stop signs. Red is powerful!
To me it was obvious. I would look at how major corporations do it. While everyone is trying to be cool I look at what corporate people do and make it cool. That’s why everything you see has the same look and feel. Everything always looks the same. I don’t have altered versions of my logo. My brand is always the exact same thing.
WIT: So you found that familiarity in certain aspects of your business creates branding and you went with that…
DG: Look at Coca Cola. How many times have they changed their Coca Cola signature? Look at McDonalds. I think McDonalds has changed their look twice but they have always kept their arches. I mean really think back and see how many major corporations have changed their signature? Think of Ford, Chevy, etc.
Logos abc, nbc, cbs, the peacock you know what I mean?
WIT: Now its 2011 How open have you had to be to change and learning new things when it comes to technology?
DG: I think it’s like anything else it can make you or brake you. It comes down to how you use it. I believe that to much of anything could be bad for you but you definitely have to put use into to it. Like twitter for example. If you know how to use it, it can be a great benefit.
You know there are people who use it for stupid things. Others just want to get attention but as a person who markets and feeds content to the Internet Facebook and twitter are great outlets. Myspace was a little more personal in the sense that people could look at your MySpace and know what kind of person you are. Then came Facebook and made it more personal in the sense of privacy.
Twitter has been genius. I mean people just want to throw things out there so is the easiest way to get your information out there. I try to jump on everything as soon as it comes out. Lion is out now as soon as it was available we jumped on it. IT has some glitches but I know it will be fixed and they will revolutionize the game again. I mean they do it every six months…
But I try to never stay behind. I notice as I get older I feel that I’m never behind but then comes a one of the members of my team who is just 4 year younger and is on some shit that just makes you realize how fast technology is moving… I don’t want to be that older person slipping on the new technology so no matter how busy I get I try to keep up…
For example my stepdad I had to show him how to record things from VHS to DVD now I had to show him again how to use the DVR so he has graduated… (We Laughed) You take family and home experiences and grow with them. Like everything else you want life to be good you want your business to be good and it all works together…
WIT: I heard you say: My team, My ARMY, What’s next? Where do you see your self in the near future?
DG: I roll pretty deep and I’m not talking about the people I work for. I’m talking the people I work with on the daily. They range across the board. I have editors who help me. I have photographers who help me. I’ve done a lot to help build my name but of course when your grow you can’t grow alone. I’ve helped people and people help me and that’s how we all grow together.
I use this reference a lot: How fun is it when it’s five people with one Jet Ski or It’s five people with five Jet Ski’s? How much more fun is that. It sucks to eat at the table by your self. To a certain point you can help your friends but it’s a lot better to treat your friends to work and everyone is happy. There is friction some times. I mean even egos get in the way but you become family and learn to sit down and talk about it.
“I have a great team behind me who helps me in everything I need and I help them.”
WIT: Are you moving forward with all in one place?
DG: My title says it all. I’m the CREATIVE ENGINEER. It’s crazy I’ve been paid for my opinion before… Which crazy that I didn’t do anything but tell people what I thought it should look like. That was crazy! I got paid just because the client knows I understand what they like so they have me sit in and give my opinion on what I thought it should be like… It’s crazy to me how my opinion and judgement was trusted.
In the future I hope to create and also help people. I know photography is an art and so it’s videography. I mean right now I have 3 interns. They all want to fight to do what I do. But the way it works on my team that the ones who have been with me the longest are the ones who get the cherry on top.
People have to prove themselves. I’ve learned that in order to move forward you need to give people opportunities to grow. There is no way of growing by your self unless you’re cut throat. Being cut throat leaves lots of casualties and that’s just not my way. You can get a lot more Bees with honey than with vinegar so I stick to HONEY!