Interview with Trotter and Jantae’ Spinks: The Creatives Behind Someday Receive Motor City Match Award
Photographer, entrepreneur and creative director, Trotter and long-time partner, muse and model, Jantae’ Spinks are creatives in the truest sense of the word. Born and raised in Detroit, graduating Cass Tech High School, they have pushed the boundaries of creative work and developed an extensive and growing portfolio of clients, projects, and awards.
Announced on August 30th, the duo has been awarded the Motor City Match Award for their latest collaboration to date, Someday. Someday was awarded $40,000 to fund the ‘community art gallery and tea shop offering decadent pastries and award-winning art, soon to be located at 2857 E Grand Blvd.
Most recently, Trotter received the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022, beating out fellow competition including David LaChapelle as Samuel Trotter won the Award in Editorial for a picture of Polo G and his son.
What are some of the highlights you’ve had in your career?
Jantae’: Trotter and I met in high school and kind of always knew what we wanted to do. The very first time I stepped in front of his camera was for a student led fashion show at our alma mater, Cass Tech. Years later he captured me walking at the MOCA Geffen in LA for No Sesso, a Black-owned fashion house that means ‘no gender, no sex’ in Italian. Our wanderlust of time together has consisted of so many full circle moments of us both molding, witnessing and taking part in each other’s wildest manifestations.
Trotter: I’ve been blessed to have followed my passion for image making since finding it in 8th grade. My highlights then were peer related; creating my own digital yearbook for my graduating class when I wasn’t allowed on the school’s team, skipping class at Cass Tech, photographing various students’ birthdays as their personal paparazzi.
As I got older and began to educate myself on the “commercial world” of photography, my highlights became more goal oriented; joining the Disney Dreamers Academy, photographing a campaign with Adidas & Big Sean at CT, moving to NYC and then LA with my best friend and forever muse, Jantae’. I’ve exhibited works in Milan during fashion week, and photographed surfing gods in Brazil… I’m from 6 Mile Road and Greenfield Road…. If you’re not aware, there’s not a whole lotta surfing going on up McNichols.
I’ve lensed legends, leading icons in every industry – bringing the stoniest of characters to tear jerking laughs. Now, my intent is to venerate Black existence, paying homage to those who came before as well as those who live today. My greatest highlight is waking up daily knowing that I’ve been given the unique opportunity and space to pursue this ideal.
What’s it like working as a young, creative person in LA as a Detroiter?
Jantae’: A funny thing about being a transplant is that you’ll always find someone from Detroit and the longer you stay you’ll find someone who went to Cass Tech. Trotter and I met an amazing woman from the city named Tiffany Persons and she owns a casting company in LA. Through working and connecting with her, both Tiffany and Trotter casted me for a commercial on Black Love for Tinder, by Director X.
We experienced many full circle moments on this project as Trotter was also hired to photograph the stills campaign. This opportunity along with many others came years after we decided to both jump for our dreams together.
As a reflective thought, being back in Detroit is to roll with the ebbs and flows of balancing community and work; as they come and go- this is when having hobbies or time-consuming interests that will save your psyche in those dry spells! I encourage everyone to live elsewhere from your hometown, because it constantly puts you in uncomfortable and unexplored positions that’ll elicit you to discover and reinvent yourself.
Trotter: The year-long warm weather truly creates an atmosphere where no matter how new you are to LA, you’ll be able to find a pocket or community to vibe and grow with at any time during the year. I remember couch surfing at a friend’s spot during Christmas time. Within the two-three weeks I stayed with him, another homie pulled up to crash on his other couch.
Now, again being from 6 Mile & Greenfield Road, I never had a friend stay over at the crib, and definitely not during the holidays. LA, depending on how you’re introduced to her, can be very welcoming and open – showing all that glistens and it can also lure you into more downcast scenarios testing your integrity and survivability. We made a lot of friends who became family, people I hope to know for the rest of my days.
LA is a leyline where you experience this sort of melting pot of some of the highest (pun intended) level of thought, artistically and spiritually. Iron sharpens iron and pressure begets diamonds, from my experience so far there isn’t another place that’s forced me to undergo so many evolutions personally and artistically.
What concept or theme and medium – as creatives are you most interested in currently?
Jantae’: Recently I’ve been inspired to be in the kitchen and play with the concept of layering textures and smells to generate euphoria on the tongue. I force myself to make as many things as possible from scratch, I believe the ingredients you use and the intention you put in makes a world of difference.
Being a model, with interest in both the culinary and music worlds as a chef & DJ, my hope is to create spaces with Trotter where we can access and invoke responses by targeting multiple human senses; sight, taste, smell and hearing in addition to giving a memorable experience that triggers provoking and moving conversations.
Trotter: Developing concepts that consider and console the Black experience and those living within it. I’ve been working to bring more utility to my works, with amazing support from numerous peeps in my creative family. We’ve designed large format mosaics depicting certain aspects of Black struggle and resilience that were physically made out of postcards. The viewer could participate in the project [image: Wish You Weren’t Here – Detroit is the New Black 2020 ] by removing a piece of the artwork and sending it with a message to a loved one.
Now, Jantae’ and I are working to sculpt a space that can help us strengthen Detroit’s creative community. Someday is a thought that encourages everyone to create their own realities and go for happiness, no matter what trials and tribulations may stand before them. In Detroit, our concept will manifest as an art gallery & bakery, nestled within a cozy tea-shop aesthetic.
Since the pandemic, we’ve personally witnessed the surge in Black commodification and allyship via media (movies, commercials, magazine covers) that’ve been used to pacify past groans for inclusion. Jantae’ and I want to develop a genuine and safe space for creatives who look like us, by us; creating opportunities that doesn’t involve an exchange rate of culture for a seat at the proverbial table.
What drew you to working with photography?
Jantae’: I feel like all little Black girls grow up with the struggle of believing or seeing their own beauty. I was no different. Pursuing a career in the modeling/photo industry has been hard yet so rewarding because you feel a light in your belly when a work truly uplifts your presence.
Over the years, studying various artists of different races and backgrounds with Trotter has sparked my interest in the power of a photograph and how the intent of a work can impact a person’s (my own) level of self-confidence and love.
This has grown into me wanting my thoughts and desires to be reflected in who I work with. Understanding a little of the history behind photography and the beauty industry, the racial constructs that have existed as their foundations makes creating new works that combat those origins imperative; not only for me but for all the little Black girls around the world.
Trotter: I was a troubled kid, at least that’s what all my teachers said. I remember hearing my grandmother say that DPS wanted to have me medicated. There were certain things in my past that were a bit difficult for kid Trott to handle/communicate, I was considered unfit for society, a liability who could cause others or myself harm.
People started treating me differently when I had a camera in my hand. This tool, used to document and ‘consider others’, made people more accepting and considerate of my own personality and presence. I wasn’t “drawn” to photography in the way a kid picks up a skateboard to learn, it saved my life – I don’t know who or where I’d be now if not for that first rebellious thought in middle school.
I’ve also enjoyed the “irony,” or rather concepts of irony that photography has helped me realize and see in everyday life. The poetry that geniuses like Roy Decarva, Gordon Parks and Dawoud Bey captured from their portrayals of honest daily life in America educated me greatly on how to “see.”
How does the process begin from initial concept to execution?
Trotter: Everyday is different, there are times when my freelancer hat is on and I’m documenting a person of note in a place I’ve never been with only thirty minutes or less to figure out my “approach”. Having the understanding that as an artist I always want to venerate Black people and Black aesthetics in the back of my mind has sort of trained my brain to always consider certain anecdotes mentally, searching for how they show up in real life.
When I’m working on projects that require more time and intimacy I heavily lean on historical and cultural research. I’ve referenced heavy concepts like ‘Lynching-postcards’ to memes like ‘Rev. Al Sharpton taking a selfie in his mirror’ as supporting anecdotes for decision making when creating.
We as Black people have a myriad of colloquial dimensions that we exist in, a multiverse with realities that have seen us as both owners of a grocery store and product on the shelves. I believe that this shared experience reveals an empathetic or kindred connection between Black people and all things in this world. This helps me as a creator see the poetry in our reality reflected in the stories of any other community or concept my practice may be considering at that moment.
What is the concept behind the show you recent installed?
Jantae’: The overall concept of the exhibition, Someday, was to showcase a culmination of Trotter’s work, as a self-curated homecoming show, surrounded by a few of our favorite things (food and music and people, of course). Someday is our budding dream that will uplift and unite the many communities we find ourselves a part of. Through curating consistent programming, we seek to initiate the collective thought that Someday our dreams won’t be deferred.
We’ve always loved connecting over food and conversation and have hosted many iterations of this in the past, but never here at home and ain’t no time like the present.
Trotter: Things I’ve Seen, is a culmination of experiences spanning the last 12 years of my life since I first picked up my camera. It is a homecoming reunion and ted talk lol, framing my thoughts on the following concepts of commodification, protection, resilience and death in relation to growing up Black in America.
What do you hope visitors to take away or experience?
Jantae’: Firstly, Someday is both our introduction and thank you to Detroit. Exhibit we hosted earlier this year was basically Someday’s birthday and soft launch, and we want to get people excited about the forthcoming opening of our brick and mortar!
What are you working on or looking forward to in the near future?
Trotter: Life is a roller coaster, I’m presently screaming at this peak hoping the ride won’t end anytime soon. So tag along, let’s see where it takes us! I’m excited, at the beginning of this year there was a doubt I had about moving back to Detroit… experiencing silence.
Things have definitely shifted, in numerous ways professionally and personally but I feel blessed to say that conversations are happening. I tell everyone that their consideration, to me, is the most important thing – the energy behind the thought, similar to speaking and sharing your dreams, attracts conversations and people to keep you going. I’m looking forward to bigger conversations with my family, friends and peers around the world… Let’s make magic.
Jantae’: That part!