Nia Marjani

How does Atlanta influence your photography style?

Atlanta is a huge part of who I am and why I started making images. Going to Georgia State really influenced my image making because I was in this new city environment that really made me feel like I could be whoever I wanted to be. Through the city of Atlanta, I was introduced to so many people who were their truest selves, being whoever they wanted to be, dressing how they wanted to dress. Meeting all of these different types of people inspired me to start my project "alternatives" where I make images of black alternative people. I wanted to show the untapped originality of alt black people.

Can you talk about every day Atlanta, the little things, and how they inspire you? The people, the smells, the places, what is about Atlanta that is so magical?

Like I said before, Atlanta is filled with so many unique personalities and places that I really had to start making images in different ways. I used to be really intrigued by nature and lush greenery, but now my photos are of goth and alternative people who I meet throughout the city and my landscapes are often of dilapidated architectural sites. I can drive down the street in any direction and find some hidden gem that I would kill to take a photo of, you're never lacking inspiration in Atlanta because all you have to do is look around.

Today more than ever, being southern and from Atlanta especially, a place where so many Black icons are from is very special... Can you speak on that?

Sometimes I actually forget that Georgia is such a conservative state because the city of Atlanta feels so overwhelmingly black. Growing up, I had so many black figures to look up to that came right out of Atlanta. Musically, we set the bar for black excellence. So, I always knew that I could do something great too, become one of my hometown legends like Usher, Ciara, Andre 3000, Big Boi, and countless other greats. I don't think I could be from any other place. Atlanta is like a cultural mecca for black people, all shapes, sizes, attitudes, and styles of black people are accepted here.

Can you give some words that describe Atlanta, that shows in your work?

I would say one word that describes both Atlanta and my work is alternative. I use this word in my work to define a group of people who go against societal norms in any way. That could be in the way they dress or speak or carry themselves. Atlanta really is an alternative atmosphere. There are so many different pockets of Atlanta where it is a weird, creative energy like at little 5 points, downtown Decatur, and Ponce City Market. There are more serious corporate sectors like the high rise office buildings on Peachtree. Atlanta also has a lot of impoverished areas that are still lively with a character like the West End, areas that the city doesn't take care of, but are becoming gentrified at an alarming rate. No matter where you look, Atlanta is “alternative”, it is not a binary city, it can't be defined as just one thing.

Where do you go from here? After Atlanta, where?

Honestly, I have been asking myself this question for years. I think the natural next step for a photographer would be New York because it is also like a mecca for black creatives. But, I honestly hate being cold so that leads me to either California, Miami, or Texas. I was thinking because the art scene there is amazing, it’s gorgeous and beautiful weather most of the time and there are so many black creatives down there. But, regardless of if or when I move out of Atlanta, it will always be my home. It is the place where I found myself as acreative and this city inspired me to be who I am right now. So, I am honestly not sure if I can part with Atlanta for good. Time will tell.

Nia Hemmitt recently graduated from Georgia State University where she received her BFA in photography. Her photographic medium consists mainly of digital photography, but she has a deep love of film imagery as well. Individuality speaks to the overall theme of her work. Hemmitt wants her images to give others the confidence to be whoever they want to be, like the subjects in her photos. Hemmits work has been shown in several exhibitions such as the 20th, 21st, and 22nd annual juried student exhibition at Georgia State’s Ernest G. Welch School of Art. Presently, Hemmitt is interning at Mint Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s furthering her knowledge of curation and gallery operations as she plans to have a gallery of her own one day. Her ongoing body of work titled “Alternatives” centers around people in the alternative community. Alternative in this sense being defined as “a lifestyle perceived to be outside the cultural norm.” Alternative is a blanket name for all who are seen as “weirdos; goths, emos, punks, and grunge”. These are people who dye their hair bright red and get their lip pierced because they are sad; people who are walking art and are their truest selves every day. “Alternatives” is about being unapologetically yourself.