Updated: Aug 17
Finally Free. Right? I can now share with you, with confidence, who I am and what I've done without feeling nervous (the bad kind of anxious). My name is Denzel Fleming, but I am better known online as "nonotwashington." Search engines would pair us together as Denzel Fleming and nonotwashington. I am a performer (in so many words). Where did "nonotwashington" come from? I initially started my 'social media phase' under different names with attempts to help others identify who I am; then I found it easier to tell others with less words who I am not. I thought it was a clever play on words as well. At the time, around 2010, 'trolling' started to become popular among the 16-22 demographic so "nonotwashington" seemed to be fitting. People found humor in finding out my actual name is Denzel. In hindsight, it's a mnemonic device used to help others feel happy about discovering (important details about me). I've always been into the Arts. My electives from K-12 were always arts and technology related. I first learned about personal computers and how important they would be in elementary school at Southeast Elementary in Kinston, North Carolina. Fast forward to today and I am writing this blog and taking a trip down memory lane to inform you about who I am while streaming music and exporting photographs. Let's start, though. Let's review my real working resume of photography; shall we?
When I was about 15-- In 2008, I was gifted one of the earlier versions of Adobe Photoshop, CS2, from a tattoo artist in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He said (to my mother) "If he's into the arts then [Adobe Photoshop] might help." Using Adobe Photoshop in my workflow did and does more than help (myself), but it helps others as well.
2008? 15? I was a sophomore in high school when I decided to take creating digital media a step further and pair my love for making music as a recording artist and creating images together. The images paired with this era are illustrated to our right. They are mixtape covers I created for myself. Keep in mind, around this time, online hip hop blog sites were big and artists needed "dope" photos to add a polish to their brand image. I didn't have the resources (at the time) to do a professional shoot like the artists I was watching online, but I did have access to a cell phone. I would upload the images from a microSD to my mom's laptop I used to do all of my creative work. My workflow looked like: a Dell Latitude laptop running Windows 2000, Adobe Photoshop CS2, microSD, Palm Centro phone and imagination. I used that 'set up' until it was time to graduate high school.
The above digital media is when I really started to experiment with [Photoshop] to make it happen. I photoshopped the black and white photo on the left to appear as if I had a crispy hairline, lol. I also blurred the background to make it look like my point and shoot camera (upgrade?) had a shallower depth of field. The digital media on the right was created while I was waiting outside of the beauty supply store with my mom. I photoshopped the birds in there to try to create some type of utopia. Most of my work mimics an introspective mental space. I would spend time editing 'selfies' after working at Sonic and K-Mart while waiting to be accepted into college. Interestingly enough, I was accepted into all of the HBCUs I applied to with a strong GPA of 3.5+. This is great to think about in hindsight, but while it was happening, I was more concerned about making money to help my community. I stayed behind and accepted the offer at UNC-Charlotte for a Spring 2012 start date. I moved to Charlotte in 2012 to start college studying Finance. I know you're probably thinking "art, photography, music.... finance?" Yes!
UNC-Charlotte is within Charlotte city limits.
I've always been a dreamer. While I sat in my college classes, I would draw and imagine me in different clothes. There was a day when a girl asked me to create a drawing of her. I did. She 'swiped me into the caf' as a form of payment. That's when I started to see some type of value system come from what I created in college. It has always been therapeutic for me to create whatever comes from my mind. Most of the time, I'm referencing from my mind and putting it onto a format where it's easy to share with others as I see it which explains why some characters have exaggerated features.
In my spare time, when I wasn't writing lyrics, doing homework, or meeting in the Union with my friends, I would spend time doing graphic design for organizations around campus. Our LGBTQA+ organization on campus was Spectrum at the time and we teamed up to do an AIDS Walk in Charlotte. I was in charge of creating the [publications] for our organizations of Spectrum and MERGE. I created the logo for MERGE which is UNC-Charlotte's first spoken word organization.
While exploring as many creative avenues as I could possibly think of, I walked past a sign which advertised for Campus Activity Board's school-wide talent show. It was the day before my birthday. I felt really good about the opportunity. I was like "Oh snap! Yo, I have to take this. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I know I'm going to think of something." I figured I would learn to play the guitar and share with others what I've learned. Okay, I didn't play the guitar, BUT what I did was lean on my talents of spoken word and rapping acapella . I won and announced the next steps of my career (while in college)... Photography! "In regards to his prize, Fleming said, 'Honestly I’m gonna save it because I’m a finance major, so I have to keep saving because I’m trying to get a really nice camera so I can work on my other talents as well.'"
I wasn't able to use the winnings for a really nice camera as I had to put money into salvaging my car. It broke down the following weekend. I had to sell it for parts. I used the profits of $400 to buy another car. It was a beater, but it got me to where I needed to go for two years.-- every performance and photoshoot. I transferred to North Carolina A&T State University in Fall 2014 to study Marketing (as a subject and Discourse). It was my first time getting a refund. You can guess what I did with a little of it... You guessed it! I followed up on the promise I made to myself and Claire Dodd to get that "really nice camera." I was in a new environment, Greensboro, NC and it was the change I needed as it seemed to feel like a place I needed to be for my entire life. I found a home at North Carolina A&T State University. I was able to find more interesting opportunities which aligned with who I am and what I would like to do with my life. I found the most inspiration when I discovered an amazing place called The Artist Bloc, LLC. I call it the Matriarch of Greensboro. Creativity thrives at The Artist Bloc. After all, it is a place where creative minds meet. I would spend hours on end listening to relaxing neo-soul music, drinking a caramel macchiato and editing photographs after a long day of school or in between classes. It wasn't until about one month later after transferring into North Carolina A&T when I was scrolling through Instagram only to come across an advertisement for a Marketing/ Media Chairperson.
Again, I thought to myself "this must be a sign!" Indeed it was a sign-- it was also the first flyer to make me think about creating positive propaganda. "Everything is propaganda," I was told shortly after by someone at an unrelated event. A week went by and I was contacted by the President and Vice President of the organization at the time to come to the next meeting where I was then appointed to the listed position of Marketing/ Media Chairperson! I've always been for the advancement of Our People. I was excited for everything.
I was so excited to stay involved in the community at NC A&T I joined Men on the Move with Isaiah Magett who would later become a 'Big Brother.' He was the Community Service Chair for Men on the Move and Vice President of the North Carolina A&T Chapter of NAACP at the time. He appointed me to create a new logo for Men on the Move.
With the help of Isaiah, I was able to navigate Greensboro with an understanding of how certain things worked in this world (in so many words). He would be transparent with me which allowed me to create to the best of my abilities when working with him. He was able to show me how to give and take constructive criticism in new environments.
When I created the graphics for NCAT NAACP I thought about how I could use my work to really communicate political undertones in a digital media landscape outside of placing lyrics over a beat. I saw how I could use images to shift narratives in favor of the viewer. My thoughts were "I want the viewer to benefit from this creation and have conversations about what I've made. I want my art to encourage introspection."
Are you excited? I am! I remember sitting in Communications class with Eniola as my partner. We were both new to the environment and each other. She was from New York. One day she asked me "Yo, would you like to be a model for my project?" She studied Journalism and Mass Communications. We figured out the logistics and were able to create the photograph above. She photographed it and I edited a few things. It felt good though. I never had professional photos done with someone I knew. It was the start of the rest of my photography career. I had a camera and was ready to work. She showed me the basics of photography. We would shoot 'street' style often of one another to help each other familiarize ourselves with the camera. Around this time is when I met DG; we were shooting street as well.
I started to find my style once I started shooting more. The year was 2015 and I was learning a new city, skill, style and temperament. I started to create in an expressive way through photography. The same way I would communicate on the microphone I could photograph. Photography and the idea of capturing a decent photograph were starting to make sense to me.
I would experiment with myself a lot to see what works, how long it would take and who would be interested in taking similar photographs. I'm not camera shy at all unless you ask me to talk about that one t--
Okay, you all; things are about to really pick up because I would shoot much more. In my spare time I would create digital illustrations like these:
2015-2017 were the years! I was wrapping up my studies at North Carolina A&T State University and really started to come into my own. I started photographing models at Hardpress Studio, a photo studio in Greensboro, NC owned by Don "NikonDon" Harris. Instead of sharing every photograph, I've decided to condense 2015-2017 into this scrollable gallery for viewing.
People really started to like my retouching style. I would create before and after images. I've went viral more than five times from photography. The most recent viral creation was this engagement photo of Mannie and Shai' Parris:
I graduated in May of 2017 and had to pursue photography full-time. I experienced a layoff by one of the companies I was working for in school and planned to work with after graduation. I guess that was God telling me to pursue my passions. It's funny how things work out, right? In October of 2017, I went to participate in the Annual Career Fair at North Carolina A&T State University with hopes of securing a marketing position. I was then recruited by Tamara Turner to be a Media Specialist at Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. From 2017-2020, my subjects were children, community events and clients from when I was photographing in Greensboro, NC-- mostly children in their element, at their greatest. It was there when I operated as if I was an in-house advertising agency packaged in one body. I was inspired.
I was also delighted to have the opportunity to work with North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University's Theatre Department to create media for Oedipus: The Queen.
Before I lead you all to my portfolio, I would like to share one of the best experiences I've had in my life. It was 2018, Guilford College had Waka Flocka Flame and Loudiene as performers on their line-up for Serendipity, an annual concert on their campus. I had no idea. Earlier that day, I was awakened by one of my colleagues messaging me "We're not going to Atlanta any more. Plans were cancelled. My bad, man." I was really looking forward to it. I felt bad, but instead of staying asleep and wallowing in what was a bad moment, I decided to take advantage of the day. I went to the mall to get my haircut (to restore confidence) and buy some shoes. I was standing in line looking at the sneakers I already had on my feet to take a mental picture of how the silhouette looks. Little did I know, Loudine was standing beside in Gucci tennis shoes as I scanned the floor until it transitioned into him smiling at the clerk showing every diamond in his grill. That was cool. Unaware of who he was at the time, I asked him who he is. He told me his name was Loudiene and he makes music. I asked about his BSM chain and he confirmed he was on the label with Waka Flocka and they were doing a show at Guilford College. I mentioned my photography and that's pretty much how we linked up. He shared the details with me of where to be and what I needed to do. I was on the way! I had the opportunity to photography one of my favorite artists and listen to his music at the same time. I rushed home, grabbed my camera and met with the team backstage. In walks Waka and he's standing at least 6'3". He's a down to earth individual. He complimented me on my outfit and started talking about how people might view us one way, but, at our core, we are completely complex individuals. At the time, [Waka Flocka] was vegan. It was interesting to learn that bit about him. I only heard his music. It just showed me how many layers we could really have as people and still maintain success and integrity. You know when someone does something and all you can do is nod in appreciation and say "... that's what's up?"