Reading Derek Blanks' ’00 (Illustration B.F.A.) client list aloud is like calling out the names on the Hollywood red carpet. They include Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe winner Jennifer Hudson, multi-platinum-selling recording artists Usher and Ludacris, T.I., Olympians Gabby Douglas and Carmelita Jeter; entertainment icon Beyonce. He worked with fashion icon and entertainer Nicki Minaj for her Ebony cover shot and six-page photo spread. It’s not the client list that’s breathtaking, however. Instead, it is Blank’s one-of-a-kind way of capturing his subjects that makes him the photographer with whom the most well-known celebrities line up to work. His “Alter-ego” series juxtaposes dual images of celebrities with their naughtier hidden personas, which appear so real that the viewer has to do a double take to grasp the full scope of each picture. Each image in the series seems to be more spectacular than the last. It’s a theme that runs throughout his work, a clear determination to create art no one has ever envisioned. Blanks made it from Jackson, Mississippi, to MICA, where he studied fine arts and commercial illustration, graduating magna cum laude. In addition to the photography for which he is known, he still works as an illustrator, with work featured in the children’s book Up the Learning Tree, and in Communications Art magazine and America magazine. MICA, Blanks says, enhanced his talents and improved the skill set he would use throughout his career. He also credits the College with helping him develop his organizational and business skills.
Blanks is not resting on the acclaim his larger-than-life images have brought him. He has assembled a team of business associates and other artists that he leads in carrying out his creative vision. The Atlanta-based photographer is looking forward to building his brand and diversifying his clientele to an even larger degree.