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Conversation with a Legend: Sthaddeus Polo Terrell ‘Da Ghetto Olan Mills’

Many believe that a picture is worth a thousand words.  The beauty and memories recorded in photography archive the happiest moments experienced by mankind.  In New Orleans, a city known for its uniqueness in music and culture, there exists a photographer who has dedicated his time to snapping more than twenty years of intriguing and meaningful photos.  The Heat Magazine wanted to cover the man who coined the name “Da Ghetto Olan Mills.” Sthaddeus “Polo” Terrell, a native of New Orleans from the Uptown area, began photography years ago.  Here’s what he had to share with The Heat Magazine concerning his career and work, which has been featured in the “Where They At Nola” exhibit, that was housed at the Ogden Museum in New Orleans.  The collection highlighted twenty years of rap and bounce music created by Big Easy artists.

The Heat Magazine: How did you get into photography?

Polo The Picture Man: Lil Ham, my godbrother, I had to do his album cover.  I noticed how everybody hung out Uptown at the neighborhood bars where rap first took off.   I met this dude at Flirts: Button Man.  He told me he made $6,000 taking pictures one night.   I said, “I’m in the wrong business then.”  At first, I was running with the rappers.  I went home and started sketching up some stuff.  I tried to get my friends into it. They didn’t want to get involved so I went alone.  I told my grandfather what I wanted to do and he helped me make my stands and everything I needed.  I watched other photographers and I started putting my equipment up at Big Man’s.  At first,  I was still used to  going out and partying.  I did not set up. I kept it in my trunk , but on one Saturday December 16th in 1990, I finally set up on the neutral ground and I’m still at it.

The Heat Magazine: Where did you receive your training?

Polo The Picture Man: Well, I was aware of  photography because I took photography classes at the Boys Club when I was young.   I took classes in high school also.  In High School, I was on the yearbook staff.  The Polaroid shots weren’t that hard to do, but I got into it even more when I started using the 35mm.  I bought a Canon camera and took classes at the Fine Arts Studio on Magazine.  They offered free classes  at UNO too.

The Heat Magazine: Who inpires you?

Polo The Picture Man: My mother was my role model.  My mom always told me “whatever you do, do your best.”
The Heat Magazine: Describe a bittersweet experience for you as a photographer?

Polo The Picture Man: I have done more rest in pictures and coming home from jail parties than graduations.

The Heat Magazine: How did you get the name, Da Ghetto Olan Mills?

Polo The Picture Man: I call myself  Da Ghetto Olan Mills because I work in the ‘hood’ and take pictures.  It started from me clowning with Wild Wayne. My cousin Sam who drove tow trucks called me “picture man”.

The Heat Magazine: What separates you from other photographers?

Polo The Picture Man: My backdrops separate me. My first backdrop was a raider jacket then a polo and the 8 ball jacket.  I had several backdrops. Whatever song was hot, I made a backdrop.

The Heat Magazine: What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
Polo The Picture Man: Practice makes perfect.  The more you practice and the more things you shoot, the better I get.
The Heat Magazine: Tell us about some of the highlights of your career?
Polo The Picture Man: When I attended photography seminars and photographers like Eric Waters and Girard Mouton speak highly about my work.  Mouton attended the M.I.T of photography, RTI.   I also started doing second lines and taking  pictures of the clubs.  I take pictures at kids parties also.
The Heat Magazine: Are there any other memories or accomplishments you would like to share?
Polo The Picture Man: I went to Warren Mayes’ Club 88,  and his concerts at Treme.  I’ve done the Turkey Bowl  with D.J. Jubilee.  Some nights I would do three gigs in one night on holidays.  I would travel from the concerts to Club Detour. Most of time I’m up the whole weekend.

The Legendary Warren Mayes (Rest In Peace)

The Heat Magazine would like to thank Terrell for his service in photography in the city of New Orleans.  Imagine if  Da Ghetto Olan Mills would have shunned the dream of  trying to earn a lucrative living using a camera.  Much of  New Orleans’ cultural history might have been lost.  The Picture Man is definitely a blessing to the musical and social club community in the Crescent City.
For More information on Sthaddeus Polo Terrell, contact Dion Norman at itsdevious@yahoo.com.
Contact Terrell at polo4life23@bellsouth.net or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1823262855

Young Lil Wayne
DionNorman
DionNorman
Dion Norman is a professional music artist/journalist from Louisiana. Norman is an urban music enthusiast and has been writing since the mid 90s. He is also a stakeholder in the newly found New Orleans Union For Entertainment which is a new resource provider for New Orleans artists and businesses as well as a collective. For more information, feel free to email him at itsdevious@yahoo.com
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