Darryl Terrell | Capturing History One Photo At A Time

by Paige Watkins

Darryl Terrell is a 23-year-old photographer from the Eastside of Detroit. A soon-to-be graduate of Wayne State University, Darrylhas been learning about the history of photography, as well as practicing the techniques and skills, for the past 3 and a half years. As a student and community activist, he uses his photography to speak on his personal feelings along with race and the pressing issues important to our communities The Archives talked with him about his beginnings and how he sees his future.

“I want to make art that makes people cry, that makes them confused, that makes them get off their ass and do something.”


Darryl hails from the Eastside of Detroit. A graduate of Kettering High School, and Wayne State University, this 23-year-old's passion is his art and photography. He's gained his experience through personal shoots and the Art department at WSU, but also through his volunteering at local galleries. Much of Darryl's work is street and beauty photography, although he also deals with race and community activism. What started off as just an interest in fashion and beauty magazines, grew into an interest of the art behind the photos in the publications. 

"When I was in high school, I used to always buy Vogue and Elle and Essence. I was always so interested in how they would capture the movement of clothing and how the models moved...the lighting...It was so dramatic to me. I was drawn to that because I've always been a dramatic person."

“I had never done anything serious with photography. I just loved taking pictures.”

why photography?

Darryl's interest in fashion led him to attend college with plans of being a fashion journalist. But, his dyslexia wouldn't allow him to commit to that much writing. He, instead, began looking for alternatives to traditional journalism and found his calling in photography.

"I had never done anything serious with photography. I just loved taking pictures."

He started learning the skills and techniques, as well as the history of this form of art and his interests changed drastically. His second year in the photography department at WSU, he began getting more involved in the art organizations on campus. The Fashion Design and Merchandising Organization was Darryl's first step into the Detroit fashion scene. He started off with the FDMO as their modeling coach. At their annual fashion show, he was the show's photographer.

"I had my 50 mm camera and was taking pictures of them getting their hair and makeup done, during their last-minute alterations. I loved it."

Through his connections made by FDMO, Darryl was chosen to be the student photographer at a fashion show held at Neiman Marcus in Somerset - a large event that allows one student photographer every year. This experience allowed him to network even more, making contacts with people who would help him with other experiences down the road. 


Darryl is inspired by music.

 "i grew up in a musical house. My Dad used to be a DJ, and my mom and sisters used to always play all different kinds of music. Music plays a big part in my art, along with how I'm feeling."

He is also constantly inspired by the history of photography and those who came before him. Among those trailblazers are Carrie Mae WeemsGordon ParksLorna  Simpson, James Van Der Zee, and Kara Walker. He studies their work and using their art as an inspiration to the work he tries to do. Darryl truly believes in the strength of history. He sees photography as "capturing history as its happening."

“If you weren’t there to take that picture, no one know it’s happened. Once you capture it and show it to the world, that moment really happened. You captured a part of history.”


Darryl is in the process of applying and interviewing for several graduate art programs, and is determined to go forward in getting an advanced degree. 5 years from now, he sees himself traveling around the world - taking pictures and showing his work.

"I really want to go to Botswana. I could see myself working for National Geographic as a photographer, or even Vogue or Essence."

But museum and gallery work is where his primary interests lie. Darryl wants to be able to have exhibits of his work showcased around the world, and possibly even be a curator for a museum. He gained a bit of experience in curation and restoration when he first got into photography.  

"My first art show was at the Hellenic Museum, where I did restorations of photos from the 20s and 30s. I took all the grains and cracks out of them and made them look new."

But, the truth is Darryl is still open to figuring out what's in store for his future with photography.

"I really wouldn't mind teaching at the college level."

Darryl believes that real art moves people. It makes them go into action, or cry or become angry. It makes them talk about what issues the artist is bringing to the light. 

"I want my art to build dialogue. I want people to look at it and really think and question. I really just want to educate through my work."

You can see an exhibition of Darryl's body of work entitled, "Suspicious," at the upcoming "Black Lives Matter" showcase in Holland, Michigan.


Check out Darryl’s Website & Follow him: Twitter Instagram | Facebook