A couple years ago, photographer/filmmaker Diamond Dixon was invited to a friend's photo shoot where she met his roommate, an aspiring producer named Justin and a genuine connection was established from there. Eager to learn about what Justin was working on, she visited his place in the Belair-Edison neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore and learned that he lived amongst many talented and passionate artists -- ones who were facing the everyday struggles of living in Baltimore City while trying to remain creative. A couple visits turned into Dixon -- a Norfolk, Virginia native who moved to Oxon Hill, Maryland as a young child -- documenting the young men on Justin's block and, in the process, learning what fueled their need to create. The result is her film, "B-More", which will be released in stages starting this summer and into 2017. To get a feel for what influenced Diamond to start the film, what she learned about Baltimore in the process and what narrative she's trying to shape, I caught up with her to chat.
You're not originally from Baltimore so what led you to making a film based on life within the city?
Diamond Dixon: I moved to my dad's house and visited Baltimore often for events and the flea market. I enjoyed the energy here. It was inspiring to visit and see the culture. I became curious to know what the experience was like living here. I was searching for anything that went against the negative things I would hear about the city. You know things like, “Oh, its dangerous, ”or whatever people like to say. I just wanted to know more about the city's history and the people that create it. I recognize everything has balance. I just knew I would document something here about the younger black experience and how the conditions affect them. I gravitated towards finding the answers to my questions. I planted the seed literally in 2012, just driving around one day. I told myself that there is more to know than just what I hear and see.
What perception did you have of the city and culture before pursuing this project and has it changed since?
I’ve always viewed this city and culture as beautiful. One day I met an older woman who is a Baltimore native. She literally has hundreds of documents and newspaper clippings about the Black experience from the 50’s-present in the city. She helped shape my perception of the city. She also told me about the history black people have in Baltimore, which allowed me to appreciate the city on another level. My perception has not changed much though.
Freddie Gray's death brought national eyes to the plight of black people in Baltimore but your film detailed some of that prior to the uprising. Was it your intention to highlight that?
I intend to highlight what they’ve personally experienced by the police, definitely. When I first began this project, those were some of first questions to them: “How do you feel about police and brutality towards Black men here, and beyond Baltimore?”…you know? I want to get down to how that affects the psyche of young black males and how can we transcend that as well.
Why did you choose the subjects that you did in the film? Did you sense something special?
I chose to focus on them because, in my eyes, I felt they had a story to tell from day one. From the first day I met them you could tell they are all very passionate people. Even looking in there eyes, you can tell they want more, they want to build, create, etc. I definitely saw something special in all of them. I realized that they all had drive and hunger for creating more.
By getting to know them, what did your experiences make you realize about yourself? Did you see yourself or close family in them?
I realized that art takes time. Justin often says that to me. Patience is truly key. I learned to take my time and to let things unravel naturally. I definitely see myself in all them. We’re all on the same journey to be honest. Which is striving to create a legacy and building inner wealth. They are like brothers to me. I like to help them with anything they may need. I can definitely talk to them about anything, which makes me feel like family for sure.
Subscribe to B-More's YouTube channel to stay updated on the film's progress.