YNGBLKPGH: Mecca Gamble
By Mecca Gamble | Photograph from The Bridal Space
Our collaborative feature on the prominent people featured in Brian Burley’s book, YNGBLKPGH, continues. This month, meet Mecca Gamble, the photography director behind the lens of YNGBLKPGH.
I’ve always been a creative. Since I was a little girl I could draw, paint, and make things. Growing up, I loved music, dancing, art classes, reading, and anything that evoked my imagination. I was an artist at heart, but I never knew that you could make a living from it. My father was an educator and my mother held various administrative jobs. My huge, extended family and tight-knit community, Crestas Terrace, helped raise me. I always felt loved, safe, and supported. I learned how to serve others and speak in front of people at church through plays and recitals, reading Bible verses, ushering, singing in the choir, and other youth ministries.
In 11th grade, I remember reading the announcements at church, then being complimented on my speaking skills by Ms. Monica, a friend’s mother. She recommended that I apply to participate in the Frank Boulden Urban Journalism Workshop sponsored by the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. That workshop introduced me to the world of journalism, mentored by KDKA Radio’s Chris Moore and assignment desk editor Olga George. The workshop sparked my love for media, and two years later, I found myself pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism. To be completely transparent, I wasn’t always the greatest student. I struggled through most of college. I was broke, battling with depression, and couldn’t understand how I had come this far, but still didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I felt as if I had no direction, sense of purpose, and I was just floating by working as a waitress. Fast-forward four schools, five majors, six years, and quite a few life lessons later — I was sitting in a computer lab finishing a final on the last day of my undergrad at Duquesne University, and clear as day, I heard God speak to me. I called my mom and told her, “I’m going to be a photographer.” I don’t think she remembers or believed me, and I barely believed myself. One cold day in January 2012, I invited one of my dearest friends, Jessica, out to take some pictures for my lifestyle blog. That was it. It felt right. I started my business a few days later with zero clients and no business experience. I just went for it. Photography gave me something to love and focus on. I would stay up late at night learning everything I could about business and photography from books and the internet. Instagram was still in its early days when I began shooting, and I quickly realized the power of its visibility and began posting my amateur work. I used my network and began shooting events, families, babies, fashion lines, and anything else that came my way as referrals. One day, I received an email from the owner herself of Shayla Hawkins Events. We had lunch and instantly clicked. It was her and her teammates, Alexis and Ericka, who introduced me to a world of elaborate events, beautiful weddings, and pretty, little details. I’ve always been inspired by their brand, professionalism, hard work, kindness, and attention to the little things.
In late October 2012, I landed a position working for Brunner, an award-winning, Pittsburgh-based advertising agency. I loved my job there. I loved the people, the culture, and the talent that floated through the hallways. It was inspiring to see ideas turn into creative work. A little under a year later, I was offered a position in their Atlanta office. I moved my business and everything I owned to the South. While still working full-time, I rebranded my business and sought out new clients via Instagram and still traveled back home to Pittsburgh often. I put in the work by investing in and saturating myself in the photography world by networking, attending workshops, conferences, and learning under other photographers that I looked up to.
Last year was monumental for me. It’s almost as if everything I prayed for and all of the seeds I had planted began to blossom. I truly felt like I was heading in the right direction, and took a leap of faith to run my business full-time. It has been such a learning experience, but I am deeply grateful and blessed to be able to wake up every morning and do something that I genuinely love. It is my hope that when people see my work that they see my passion and joy that I put into creating it. The greatest compliment to me is when I walk into a client’s home and there are pictures that I’ve taken hanging on their walls. It makes me tear up to know that I’m a part of their family’s story. I love sharing what I’ve learned with other people. I want to begin teaching soon, and encouraging young adults to pick up cameras to tell stories. I’m so incredibly honored that Brian chose me to step outside of my comfort zone and photograph the YNGBLKPGH project. Showing young people the possibilities and opportunities that are available to them, and encouraging them to be their best selves is near and dear to my heart. For more information, visit meccagamble.com.
YNGBLKPGH will be releasing April 29 at the book release event at the August Wilson Center where youth, participants, and supporters alike are encouraged to come network, cheer on, and participate in a celebration followed by a panel discussion where select members from the book will open up and share with the youth about their stories and engage in a live discussion.
+ For all sponsorship inquiries and to reserve your copies of YNGBLKPGH, please reach out to brian.burley@YNGBLKPGH.com and check out YNGBLKPGH.com.