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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Third Eye Vision": Hip Hop's Phesto Dee's Solo Photography Exhibition

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 8:00 AM

  • Self-portrait by Phesto Dee

As one quarter of the hip-hop group Souls of Mischief, Phesto Dee found musical prominence at a young age, as the group released its classic record, '93 Til Infinity, when he was just one year out of high school. He has spent the last two decades solidifying his reputation as one of the most complex lyricists in the Oakland-based hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics, as well as releasing three solo records and making a name for himself as a producer. But while Dee was building an admirable career for himself as a musician, he was also honing his eye as a visual artist, creating an collection of work that paints an intimate portrait of life on the road and his daily life in the Bay.

Dee will present a selection of these photos at Third Eye Vision, a solo exhibition at Fort Gallery, a “pop-up gallery” in Noe Valley, June 27-28. In addition to tour photos and behind-the-scenes photos of recording sessions, the exhibit will include mostly black-and-white landscapes and cityscapes from around the Bay Area.

“Nature is a big influence on me,” Dee said. “I love the contrast between man-made things and nature, and often times I try to capture that. The Bay Area being as beautiful as it is, every day is different. We don't really have seasons out here, and I think that really works in a photographer's favor.”

  • photo by Phesto Dee

While this is Dee's first solo photography show, he considers himself a visual artist at heart. It was graffiti art that first drew him to hip hop culture, and he spent much of his childhood drawing and painting. He was always taking photos with “little random cameras”, but it was actually when he bought the first iPhone that he started to increase his volume. He did buy a full-frame camera two years ago, but still takes about half of his photos on his phone. In recent years, he has began to study the basics of composition, but says that when he went back to his old photos, he could see that he'd been following many of those rules instinctively.

“A few people told me I have something that you can't teach,” he said. “Photography is similar to music, as in there are rules but the rules are there to be broken. I'm always trying to push the envelope creatively.”

Artist Bilal with producer Adrian Younge - PHOTO BY PHESTO DEE
  • Photo by Phesto Dee
  • Artist Bilal with producer Adrian Younge

Dee also has plenty of musical endeavors brewing, as Hieroglyphics just began the process of recording a new studio album and Souls of Mischief is planning another tour. Hieroglyphics has also begun to organize its fourth annual Hiero Day, the Oakland music fest and block party that has been doubling in attendance almost every year, for Labor Day 2015.

Photography certainly does not distract Dee from his musical productivity; instead, it's a way for him to express himself artistically that also allows him to get out in the world after spending days inside a dark studio.

“Often times with music, you get trapped in your mind, and you're in this closed space, with no windows, no air, and you're often in isolation, where as photography is almost the polar opposite,” he says. “You can be doing almost anything and accomplishing photography, and that's what I love about it.”

Third Eye Vision, Saturday and Sunday, June 27-28, 12-6 p.m., at Fort Gallery, 3906 24th St. Free.

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