DeAudrea “Sha” Rich is a Richmond-based graphic designer, photographer, and dear friend of mine. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.F.A. in Graphic Design and a B.S. in Creative Advertising in 2017, and she is currently the owner of Rich Methods, a design and fine art photography business.

Sha’s photography is refreshing, powerful, and full of heartwarming spirit — a direct reflection of who she is. Every interaction I’ve had with Sha, from having classes together — to unexpectedly sitting in the same row at the B2K Millenium Tour — to now, has always been full of genuine laughter and unmatched energy. It’s energy that is reciprocated and has always left me feeling seen. Whether she’s around a friend, client, or anyone at all, that is how Sha makes people feel: seen, heard, and loved.

Read below to learn more about the who, what, and why on the inspiring Sha Rich.

What have you been up to lately?

Appreciating work that shows Black normalcy.

Specifically Carrie Mae Weems’s work and how she captures escapism. I feel like no one gets to see what I see. People forget that we’re human. When you think of a Black person, what comes to your mind?

Probably a rapper. Or an athlete. Or one of the names turned into hashtags connected to an ever-growing list of people injured or killed. And that’s fine. My question is what about the normal ass Black human being sitting on the corner playing dominoes? What do they look like? What does their smile look like? What’s on their heart? In their eyes?

And now looking at my work, it really shows an intimate peek into Black normalcy

People forget that we're human. When you think of a Black person, what comes to your mind?”

Reading and listening

Currently Reading:

  • The Courage to Create by Rollo May
  • Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker by Audre Lorde and Pat Parker
  • Soundless Cries Don’t Lead to Healing: A Critical Thinking Guide to Cultural Consciousness by Valencia D. Clay

Currently Listening To:

Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin interviews when I go for my daily walk/jog.

 

Holding off on making new work and thinking through how I want my work to be viewed in 10-20 years from now.

I’ve been thinking about how our “stories” will exist 10-20 years from now since most things are heavily digital these days. About how important making books of work… something tangible… is. Something that can be passed down and reinterpreted by the next generation. It’s important to think about what stories we’ll be passing on and how those stories will be recorded. An important outcome is that the work can physically live beyond us.

 

How has your identity influenced the work you create?

I make work that I want to see. And what I want to see most is Black people being portrayed as the dimensional, multifaceted, and layered people we are with all of our edges and quirks. Black normalcy is the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

I make work that I want to see. And what I want to see most is Black people being portrayed as the dimensional, multifaceted, and layered people we are with all of our edges and quirks.”

Is there a person (artist, activist, etc.) that inspires you the most? Why?

Oh there are so many. The top four that come to my mind are:

Amy Sherald, a painter whose work dissects interiority. I listened to this interview she did and she spoke the words “The tradition of portraiture has become a way to reclaim time for me, as a Black figurative painter that paints Black people. The work really deals with interiority and steps away from the idea of a public Black self. Public Blackness has been culturally codified as something that’s always attached to resistance, which essentially limits our humanity and the ways in which we can imagine ourselves existing. I oftentimes say that the paintings are a resting place for people to see a reflection of themselves that is not in resistance or contention… it’s just a Black person being a person.”

And I felt so… seen.

Gordon Parks, a photographer whose work is raw and shows Black life in the most beautiful way. My favorite photo that he created is Boy with June Bug. This image is what inner peace looks like.

Kendrick Lamar, an artist who gives pain a voice. He is willing to be vulnerable and has a demeanor that’s just… honest. Every time I go back to listen to his music, I find something new. He encourages his audience to sit with his work and I appreciate that. My favorite song by Kendrick is called “u.”

James Baldwin, a writer who penned my favorite book, The Fire Next Time. Ta-Nehisi Coates said this book is, “basically the finest essay I’ve ever read… Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.” 

 

What has been your favorite project you’ve done so far?

Mothers of Color — A project created by RichmondHER that focused on highlighting and celebrating Black motherhood and the beauty of postpartum bodies. I was the second photographer and I believe it’s my most stunning work that I’ve created this far. It took so much courage for the mothers to allow me to create photographs of them at such a vulnerable time in their lives.

 

What advice would you give to other freelance photographers?

If you can’t show up as your full self, don’t accept the project. If your client’s vision does not align with your style, refer them to someone else. Not every client is the client for you. As much as a client is selecting you, you are also selecting them.

 

As a Black woman in the Richmond creative community, what has been your biggest challenge?

For me, it’s been truly connecting and developing deeper relationships with other creatives. The great thing about college was that there were always groups of people to critique your work and to bounce ideas off of in-person. I’d love to start something in Richmond based off of what Kamoinge Workshop developed. The Kamoinge Workshop is a group of African American photographers. They selected the name Kamoinge, which means “a group of people acting and working together” in Gikuyu, the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya. They met weekly, exhibited and published together, and pushed each other to expand the boundaries of photography as an art form during a critical era of Black self-determination in the 1960s and 1970s.

I think what Shannon Bass, a really good friend of mine and a dope designer, is doing to connect Black creatives in Richmond is going to help tremendously. She’s such a visionary and is working towards creating space for Black creatives. The initiative and other information can be found at blackcreativesrva.com.

 

If you could change one thing during your experience in the workplace so far, what would it be?

I wish that companies weren’t afraid to take a stand when they know it’s the right thing to do. And if they are taking a stand on a certain matter, I would want their workplace culture to be firm examples of what they say they stand for. 

 

Do you have any upcoming projects or events that you’re excited about?

Our show for the Don’t Touch My Hair RVA project at the Valentine has been postponed due to COVID-19. I was super excited to showcase my photographs in September but it’s in the process of being rescheduled. 

I recently shot some work for Richmond Magazine that will be in print soon. I can’t really talk about that until it’s released but I got to shoot at two mansions and that was super dope. The images I created are gems. One of my favorite photographers in Richmond set it up for me and I think it was executed perfectly. 

I’ll be working with V, a visionary, unlocker of possibilities and operator of all u need naturals, come ‘bucha workshops and the founder of the earth workers’ eclectic (e.w.e. or ū for short), this year to document the earth workers’ eclectic and more importantly the beauty of Black beings, connection and environment. We’ll also be working on a book that will hold her poems and my photographs.

To see more of Sha’s work, visit deaudrearich.com or follow her on Instagram.