She Got Game
Photographer BRYAN MELTZ catches the moment before it runs away.
(Originally Published in RESPECT. #20. This Feature highlights Bryan’s B/Ws)
Words: Jasmina Cuevas
They say, “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” And when it comes to Bryan Meltz’s work, nothing is more true.
Meltz has been fascinated by photography since she was 18. Working part-time for a photographer, she was amazed by the darkroom and the transition that the photos took from the camera to prints. Wanting to further her expertise in photography, Meltz moved to California and majored in visual journalism at a photojournalism school. It was the start to a very promising journey.
As time went on, Meltz not only became quite the experienced photographer, she was on everyone’s radar. Her enticing photographs caught the attention of The Fader magazine, and in 2006 they asked her to photograph rapper Blak Jak. It was Meltz’s first photo shoot, and of course everyone was beyond confused why a woman with the name Bryan showed up instead of a man. Much to Meltz’s surprise, the confusion broke the ice and the shoot ran smoothly. This was the beginning of a long-standing relationship between The Fader and Meltz.
Meltz continued to photograph quite a few rappers and artists, but one of her most beautiful pieces became a project that she has been working on for 10 years. While working on a documentary for PBS, Meltz met a family from Somalia that was moved to Atlanta from Kenya. As time went on, the family grew and Meltz grew with them, and they became a family. A family that started out as a project became a staple in Meltz’s life.
By now, Meltz’s résumé has grown to the extent that everyone knows who she is, and she comes highly recommended. But with such a humble aura, Meltz still has aspirations and goals that she would like to accomplish. She hopes to spend a day with André 3000 and photograph him at some point — which, for Meltz, shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish. In the meantime, she has just wrapped up her first short film, for the Centers for Disease Control on cancer survivors, and is looking forward to creating many more.
Meltz has become a seasoned photographer that many have come to look up to. Her work is in some ways magical and easily tells a story that many can understand. She has kept herself humble and in love with photography for quite some time — and for that, her work is unique.
“Big Boi photographed for Rolling Stone in 2012. This was the second time I had the opportunity to photograph Big Boi in the Stankonia Studios in Atlanta’s Westside. He was wrapping up his solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. It’s always my favorite type of shoot when I can just be a fly on the wall and photograph people in their environment, in their element. It allows you the opportunity to find those moments when they forget you’re there.”
Decatur, GA, 2007
“B.0.B photographed driving around Decatur, Georgia, for Vice magazine in the U.K. in 2007. This was early on in B.o.B’s career, and I spent the day riding around Atlanta with him and a friend for Vice. He took me to his father’s house in Decatur, where he grew up, and then to some of his favorite spots around Atlanta. This was one of my favorite assignments because I had amazing access and just [got to] shadow him for the day. He was so open and down to earth — really a great guy.”
Atlanta, GA — 2008
“Shawty Lo photographed for XXL magazine in 2008. This photograph was taken at the Bowen Homes Housing Project off the former Bankhead Highway on the Westside of Atlanta. Bowen Homes was the city’s largest public housing projects and also considered one of the most crime ridden – it was demolished the following year in a citywide effort to remove all of the city’s public housing.”
“Bow Wow photographed for XXL magazine in 2010. This was also shot with large-format Polaroid film. It was during a snowstorm in Atlanta, and I didn’t have enough light to shoot inside the sneaker boutique where we started. But he was a great sport and sat for me out in the snow as I fumbled with the giant 4×5 camera.”
Decatur, GA, 2006
“Blak Jak for Vibe magazine in 2006. I had been using the large-format 4×5 view camera for a lot of my personal work and was really excited about using it for this portrait shoot for Vibe. The pace of shooting with this camera is much different than shooting digital, and I shot black-and-white Polaroid film, a type that is now discontinued and pretty much impossible to find. We shot this around Decatur, Georgia, where Blak Jak grew up, and I think we were shooting on the back side of a convenience store.”
Main post image by Bryan Heard:
“Rapper Diamond photographed in 2007 for Mass Appeal magazine. This was for a larger feature on Diamond and Princess, formerly part of the group Crime Mob. I had spent the weekend with Diamond, and this was while she was getting ready for the BET Hip Hop Awards in an Atlanta hotel. It was a chaotic couple of days, but Diamond gave me great access — as I’m literally in bed with her for this shot.”
All images Copyright Bryana Heard
More from Art
Please join XXL veteran journalists and contributors on May 9, 2023 — Sheena Lester, Datwon Thomas, Bonsu Thompson, Larry Hester, …
"We just shot a series of images at Pan Pacific Park. And obviously one of the images that I wanted …