For HBCU grads, elaborate fashions and photoshoots are par for the tradition — Andscape

For a lot of faculty seniors, the previous couple of months main as much as commencement are filled with stress and anxiousness. There are finals and job interviews. However for seniors at traditionally Black faculties and universities (HBCUs), it’s additionally about getting ready in your commencement shoot.

For some HBCU college students, the method of documenting commencement has lengthy surpassed the custom of simply taking the usual studio image with a bookshelf within the background with a level in hand. HBCU college students are spending numerous hours and 1000’s of {dollars} to memorialize their huge day. HBCUs have set the bar for numerous traits in popular culture, together with on the style and glamour stage. So, it ought to come as no shock that commencement shoots have adopted swimsuit. From the Rattlers at Florida A&M College (FAMU) to the Aggies at North Carolina A&T to the Tigers at Tennessee State, HBCU commencement shoots are huge enterprise and sometimes go viral for each commencement season.

“I really feel just like the HBCU fashions and commencement picture shoot tradition is big,” mentioned East Dockery, a graduating multimedia journalism senior at North Carolina A&T College. “Even now with the entire movies, commencement itself is big however particularly as a result of our colleges maintain a lot historical past and its solely proper to have fun ourselves. Plus, what we’ve got achieved at these establishments that have been constructed as a result of others wouldn’t permit us at one cut-off date to attend.”

NC A&T Multimedia Journalism Main East Dockery’s commencement look included a stole that honored her work with the NBA on TNT and with NBC on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Davonte Anthony

Along with her photoshoot, Dockery additionally created a video montage, highlighting her most memorable achievements and experiences main as much as commencement.

“My video actually solidified that N.C. A&T has at all times been my future,” Dockery mentioned. “I’m honored to have the ability to share that story.”

Taking It To The Subsequent Stage

For many years, Florida A&M College has been on the forefront of placing the “Additional” in extravagant HBCU commencement shoots. Between the hair, make-up, a number of wardrobe and placement modifications, planning a shoot can take months of concept-creating and 1000’s of {dollars} to make all of it come collectively.

FAMU grad Kendall Simmonds spent over eight months planning the small print for her numerous commencement appears.

Ernest Pierre

Kendall Simmonds, who graduated from FAMU on April 30 with a B.S. in Pre- Bodily Remedy, booked her commencement photographers in June 2021 and commenced planning the small print for her shoot two months later. For one among her appears, she wore a pair of $1,200 Rick Owens sneakers. Nonetheless, the shoot’s actual showstopper was the 9-foot albino ball python that she wore to decorate her rustic orange ground size robe. Channeling her FAMU Rattlers satisfaction, Simmonds took to Twitter and requested if anybody had a snake that she might borrow for her shoot. One in every of her followers responded and mentioned his roommate had a pet python. She later acquired in touch with the proprietor and was in a position to hire the snake freed from cost.

“I needed one thing that was going to make me stand out and naturally my snake would make anybody cease scrolling,” Simmonds mentioned. “I do even have a concern of snakes, however we took the images shortly earlier than I allowed my concern to take a seat in.”

In all, Simmonds’ picture shoot included pictures within the studio and at three totally different areas on campus. Nonetheless, she was not the one FAMU Rattler who took their photoshoot to the following degree. Maya Porter, who graduated in December 2021with a B.S. in Public Relations determined that she needed to recreate the Nightmare Trip album cowl for rap artist Rico Nasty.

“I used to be sort of late with planning my shoot and reserving my photographer,” mentioned Porter. “I waited till like two weeks earlier than commencement to get all the pieces completed, so I used to be past burdened. I selected mimic the Rico Nasty album as a result of it was launched [in 2020] throughout a interval of rebirth for me. Being a first-generation graduate and doing it at an HBCU was such a scary, however life-changing expertise and Rico’s music and creativity together with her album covers felt excellent for me to make use of as my inspiration.”


Porter’s childhood good friend, 2021 FAMU enterprise administration graduate Ryanne Taylor, is the CEO and govt producer of Gradzillas, a well-liked YouTube present that captures behind-the-scenes moments of graduates as they put together for his or her photoshoots. Taylor was impressed to start out filming behind-the-scenes pictures of commencement shoots by an in depth good friend’s mini-meltdown throughout one among her shoots.

“Not everybody will get to see that aspect of it,” Taylor mentioned. “Simply to see how everybody’s character actually comes out and generally modifications when it’s ‘go’ time. You see everybody smiling, and glad of their images, however that’s not at all times the case throughout filming.”

Throughout her fours years at FAMU, Porter served as Information Editor, Managing Editor and Chief-of-Employees for The Famuan, the campus newspaper.


Porter, who’s the pinnacle advertising and marketing and social media supervisor of the present, added, “Gradzilla is a good thought to seize the stress that college students placed on themselves for his or her shoots. For mine, I attempted so arduous to not be a Gradzilla however I used to be undoubtedly burdened.” (THE GRADZILLA video beneath is experiencing technical difficulties. I alerted Maya Porter, and the workers is working to repair it.)

Chazriq “Chaz” Clarke, who just lately graduated from FAMU with a double diploma in Theatre Performing Arts and Enterprise Administration, is featured in the newest episode of Gradzilla. In all, Clarke had 10 photoshoots ($1,500) and wore 10 totally different fits ($200 every). In a single look, Clarke is seen in a gray swimsuit and carrying a steel briefcase, whereas taking pictures lots of of pretend payments from a gun machine.

“I had so many various appears,” Clarke mentioned. “I needed to sum up my 4 years at FAMU in 10 photos. So I gave a bit little bit of all the pieces. I’m all about enterprise and earning money. In July, I’ll be beginning a job at Capitol One of their Administration Rotational Program, so I needed to do a glance devoted to that.”

Along with honoring his new job within the Administration Rotational Program at Capitol One, Chazriq Clarke additionally needed to pay homage to his Divine 9 fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, for his picture shoot.

Brandon Adlam (@GuyXPhoto)

Clarke experimented with pictures of duality in a number of of his commencement shoots.

Nick Jonas (@stretchlifevisuals)

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took in-person commencement ceremonies away from tens of millions of graduates, leaving photos as one of many solely methods to commemorate their joyous accomplishment. For Passhur Quarles, who’s a first-generation faculty graduate and who earned a B.S. diploma in Interdisciplinary Research, it was his love of sneakers that fueled his commencement shoot and helped ease his thoughts about not having the ability to stroll throughout the stage.

In his ode to sneaker heads like himself, Pashhur Charles is sporting a pair of $350 Nike Air Concern of God 1 Orange Pulse footwear, created by FAMU alumnus Jerry Lorenzo.

Corey Wheeler

Sneakers have been part of Quarles’ life since his first day of elementary faculty. He defined that as a “sneakerhead,” the very first thing he appears at is what footwear somebody has on. He at the moment has over 100 pairs of sneakers, valued at over $30,000.

“My father frolicked in jail so I didn’t have any father figures round aside from my uncles.” Quarles mentioned. “All of them had the most recent and flyest sneakers and I needed to be similar to them. My grandmother can be effectively linked in any respect the native sneaker shops. Generally, she would even exit and camp in entrance of shops earlier than they might open to make sure I acquired my pair. So for my shoot, I needed to honor all of that.”

In his image, Quarles is holding six of his favourite pairs of footwear from his assortment, valued at $5,400. When he first posted the image, he solely had 400 followers on Twitter. After, he gained over 1,000 new followers. He defined he couldn’t use his cellphone for just a few days as a result of it continued to freeze from Twitter notifications, calls and texts from household and mates. The submit obtained 3,142 retweets and 34,567 likes.

Derrick Younger, who just lately graduated from Howard College with a B.S. in Political Science, needed to make use of his commencement shoot as a chance to indicate how he’s nonetheless fulfilling his grandfather’s legacy. In his will, he requested that every of his grandsons, who have been his satisfaction and pleasure, have customized fits made. In one among Younger’s commencement appears, he’s sporting a $1,200 customized hand-made, three-piece swimsuit and his grandfather’s boots from 1963.

Derrick Younger’s grandfather was the inspiration for his commencement picture shoot.

Malachi Sommerville

“The swimsuit may be very near my coronary heart,” Younger mentioned. “As an alternative of sporting a daily swimsuit, I knew I needed to take it up a notch and get a three-piece swimsuit. The stole that I’ve is crimson combined with magenta and the liner of my swimsuit is similar shade.”

The graduates behind these intricate concepts put their belief of their photographers and videographers to make their visions come to gentle. Younger’s photographer, Malachi Somerville, CEO of Visualized by Mal and senior movie scholar at Howard, is without doubt one of the hottest photographers for northern HBCUs.

Throughout his time at FAMU, Somerville says didn’t take any commencement photos. As an alternative, he needed to watch commencement season and shadowed many photographers as they labored with their graduating purchasers.

“I believe the rationale why HBCU commencement photos are executed so effectively is as a result of they’re usually taking by different college students or HBCU alumni,” Somerville mentioned. “It’s simple to assist somebody execute for those who’re dwelling in the identical imaginative and prescient or have been there and completed that. It makes me glad to see that college students belief their fellow friends to carry all the pieces collectively.”

Due to Somerville’s success throughout commencement season, he has been in a position to fulfill one among his wildest desires, shopping for a studio in Philadelphia, PA.

“I do know if I cannot do the rest, I understand how to make Black magnificence look good,” Somerville mentioned.

One other in style HBCU photographer is the mastermind behind the corporate Ttsenre, Ernest Pierre. Pierre graduated from FAMU in 2018 with a level in felony justice. His commencement portraits have gained tens of millions of social media retweets and likes. Different photographers even admit that the majority of their purchasers carry Pierre’s photos to them as a method to start to generate an idea.

Pierre first picked up a digital camera in center faculty, however didn’t start taking images critically till 2018. From 2018-2020, he started taking pictures birthdays and maternity bulletins. Then in 2020, he began getting inquiries about commencement photos. In slightly below two years, he has change into one of the vital in style HBCU commencement photographers, and books over 100 purchasers every season. Earlier than his shoots, Pierre asks his purchasers to make temper boards to assist talk their ideas and concepts. A lot of his purchasers additionally rent a artistic director throughout the developmental phases of their shoot.

“Having the ability to not should work for anybody is a sense that I can’t substitute,” Pierre mentioned. “As an alternative of being down about having to go to work, I get to create recollections with others. I by no means anticipated any of this. I’m generally in disbelief on the quantity of people that belief me with this huge milestone.”

All throughout the HBCU Grads spectrum, college students are trending for his or her creativity withe their commencement shoots Listed below are just a few different appears and concepts that caught our eye this season, together with Alabama State’s Darreon Miller, who remade rapper Future’s I By no means Appreciated You album cowl, and a few behind the scenes pictures of writer Alexis Davis.

Mallory Moore – Tennessee State

Ilyria Johns – Florida A&M

Alexis Davis – North Carolina A&T

Ernest Pierre

Ernest Pierre

Zemry Ivory – Grambling State

Darreon Miller – Alabama A&M

Nijel Hawley-Newkirk – North Carolina Central

Justin Longstreet – Clark Atlanta

Alexis Davis is a senior multimedia journal journalism scholar from Prince George’s County, Md. She is a sports activities and tradition contributor for The A&T Register, the campus newspaper at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.