Behind the lens

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Durham native and 2012 alumnus Chioke Brown is a photographer and multimedia specialist in the Office of University Relations at N.C. Central University. After earning his GED, Brown moved to New York and went to school to learn recording and engineering.

Following that, Brown began producing music at a prominent studio in the city that worked with artists such as Maxwell, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Naz and others. In 2006, Brown was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, and spent most of the year going through chemotherapy and radiation treatment. 

“Due to cancer, I spent a lot of time at home and in that time I got involved in heavy blogging,” said Brown. At the end of 2006, Brown’s cancer went into remission and he started to consider attending college. In fall 2008, Brown moved back home and enrolled at NCCU as an English major. “At first I thought I wanted to be a writer, but I soon found interest in other areas,” he said. Prior to coming to NCCU, Brown owned two companies, one an eBay power seller and a photography and video company called Cyclopedia Creative Media.

While working for the Echo, Brown became interested in photography, which led him to change his major to mass communications. Through his eBay company, he learned about lighting and photography equipment, and how to compete with professional photographers.

He became an Echo photographer, then photo editor. In his sophomore year, Brown and a colleague opened a photo/recording studio for photo and video shoots. “A client and friend of mine needed a photographer, and before I knew it I shot my first cover which was of Showcase magazine out of Danville, VA,” said Brown. The gig opened many doors for Brown; he soon started working with Kyle Buckner, owner of Design Skins, who gave him the opportunity to start shooting cars. Brown shot for caraudio.com and Performance Audio and Sound Magazine (PASMAG) in 2009. He also shot for such magazines as Showcase and Emerge magazine.

“By my senior year, I began taking school more seriously so my partner and I subleased our studio and I got more involved in my school work.” After a peer asked him to take graduation pictures, he decided to take pictures at NCCU’s graduation ceremony.

Those pictures caught the eye of the public relations office, and his work was featured in “NCCU Now,” the alumni magazine. Impressed with Brown’s work, the office quickly hired him as a freelance photographer. Brown collaborated with Bruce dePyssler, adviser of the Campus Echo; together they created a documentary on the first black high school in Durham, Whitted High School.

Brown and DePyssler shot the documentary throughout the summer and edited in the fall. They presented the documentary at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies.

After Brown graduated in 2012, he worked as a freelance photographer. Then, when Robert Lawson, the Office of University Relations’ former photographer, left, Brown was hired as the University’s new photographer and multimedia specialist. Brown brought a new era of media into the office by introducing videography and documentaries. “We were looking for someone with a fresh eye who was enthusiastic about the University, innovative and who can bring new ideas to the university and Chi fit that criteria well,” said Ayana Hernandez, director of the Office of University Relations. Hernandez said the office receives letters of appreciation about his work regularly. Brown also works well with student interns, helping them improve their videography and photography skills.

“I came into the PR office with a small vision of wanting to start a web series which is now called Eagle Access where he serves as our advisor, and Chi gave me that opportunity to create a dream into a reality,” said Omari Collins, an English junior. “Chi taught me how to be a complete package and improved my skills in all areas of mass communications and even stayed late hours to get projects done. He has been like a mentor to me.” Brown has helped produce major documents for the University, including shooting the majority of the University’s famous “Happy” video, which landed more than 60,000 views on YouTube.

To find out more about Chi Brown and to see his photography CLICK HERE.

The Campus Echo is the official student newspaper of N.C. Central University, an HBCU in Durham with about 8,250 students. The Campus Echo is one of the most highly recognized HBCU student newspapers in the nation. In the last 15 years our print and online editions have won over 250 national and regional awards from the Black College Communication Association, the Society for Professional Journalists, the Associated Collegiate Press and the North Carolina College Media Association.

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