Our People: Q&A with Deonté Wilbourn

Photographer captures beauty in small moments and big ideas

Some artists strive to be glamorous or chic, to make money and become famous. Deonté Wilbourn of Beyond Deon Photography aims at something a little different: to be relatable and accessible. He wants his work to be a part of your daily life — to hang in your home, your places of comfort.

Currently a bank teller by day, Wilbourn’s goal is to advance his creative work and career, but he also uses his talents to connect with others and communicate ideas. With a down-to-earth quality and naturally charismatic personality, this artist will make you feel at ease before his lens. He aims to shine a light on the beauty of his subjects, just as photography allowed him to see the beauty in his own identity as a proud pansexual man.

What inspired you to pursue photography?

You want the sentimental version? Time and light are what inspired me to pursue photography. I remember my mother having all these photographs of family, friends, my siblings and myself. She had like six huge three-ring photo album books. I used those photo albums to go back. “Throwback,” reminisce on moments captured. “My greatest joy in life is capturing precious moments and making them long-lasting memories.” That’s my motto.

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Does your LGBTQ identity influence your work as a photographer? How so?

It does in a way. I struggled during my adolescent years, with being a man who likes men…It took me some time to appreciate that it is okay to push the standard “man” status quo. It’s the same in my photography. I think sometimes you must push the normalcy of the normal frame of a man or object.

Of all your photography projects, which did you do for personal passion (as opposed to assignments you weren’t super interested in)?

“Modern Day War,” a six-series project that consists of 36 pictures. This project is very powerful to me because it captures the daily wars that we as mankind face and fight on a daily. I try to capture that through the lens of Beyond Deon. [That’s] opposed to other projects where it’s the normal family portrait, wedding, baby shower, etc. This excludes fashion shows and gowns.

Who in your life has been especially influential, inspiring, or supportive?

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My mother and my father, always telling me to do whatever I want to do…My gay father inspired me when he first let me put my hands on an over-$5,000 Canon EOS camera. That’s when I really saw a different world in the lens I look through. My best friend, Christine, whom I watched grind at an early age…My business partner and friend, Tevin, has played a role in inspiring me and challenging me by expanding my mind beyond some of the things I’ve learned in school. My boyfriend, Stephon, who believed in me from day one, two and three. He stresses how I need to shoot for bigger and better things in this world. He believes my photography is love. So, it takes a village. The support is everything!

If stranded on a desert island (with minimal food, water, and shelter), what could you not go without?

Lip Balm! I have to have my lip balm. I can’t go without lip balm. I don’t have none now and I’m losing it!

What’s your ideal way to spend a Sunday off from work?

My idea of a Sunday off is relaxing. It’s Sunday Fun Day. I get to sleep in with my boyfriend. Sit in bed [and] plan what we will eat. Cook breakfast and watch cartoons, or go get brunch. Then we have to prepare for the upcoming weekday: go do laundry, clean and try to stay off by not editing pictures.

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