This past Family Day weekend, I had plans to catch up on things that I wasn’t able to do while I was away in Kingston. I had some administrative stuff to take care of, I also had some clients to follow up with as well as edit some family portraits.
So just as I was about to start my day and my phone started ringing from a number that I didn’t recognize. I said hello and the person on the other end asked if I do family portraits, I said yes and he replied: “Ok I’ll come now”. I jumped up like “whoa hold on”. I work by appointments so a person saying they were coming to my house with their family in 5 minutes freaked me out. My batteries need to charge and my studio wasn’t set up to do a family portrait.
We agreed to meet in a half hour so I can set up the studio and charge my batteries. Ten minutes later, my doorbell rings and it was the man on the phone that said he would come in 30 minutes. He waited while I finished setting up.
Despite the impromptu plans for this shoot, the family were great to work with. There were four adults and four kids. Usually, there are challenges photographing children especially babies but I was fortunate not to have any issues with these kids.
Once again I have to thank Google and Google Maps for the Mann family finding me organically. It’s always a blessing for me to have new clients find me online and I have no prior relationship or connection to them. So there was an unexpected turn to my Family Day but it turned out for the better.
I grew up in Scarborough as a kid. I moved to Markham when I was in grade 5. I cried and cried back then because I didn’t want to leave my friends and had no interest in making new friends. As I got settled in Markham, it was such a diverse community of people. Minorities were absolutely the majority in the neighbourhood that I went to elementary and high school. I also played rep hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer. My family doctor was Hindu, my dentist Sikh, my neighbours were Greek and Sri Lankan. My mom used to practice Tai Chi with some Chinese ladies at the park. I say to my best friends that I grew up with how I believe that our upbringing gave us the ability to adapt to environments better than others that didn’t grow up with such a mix of cultures.
I’ve spent the last few weeks taking graduation photos in Kingston,On at St Lawrence College. I’ve had many work situations but this was the first time that I’ve worked out of town for an extended period of time. I was kinda nervous considering I wasn’t sure what to expect and wasn’t fully comfortable with the operations of the job.
Maybe because I’m used to the big city and Toronto’s reputation of being a multicultural metropolis, I was initially surprised of the diversity of Kingston. I took photos of people from all walks of life. Not that I wasn’t doing that before, but this trip there was a full spectrum of people from special needs individuals, First Nations people, visible minorities and members of the LGBTQ community and everyone was respectful and welcoming.
It’s bizarre to me when I turn on the news and see stories of hate and intolerance around the world and I don’t understand why people think the way they do when at the end of the day, we all want freedom and to live without fear. And that’s not to say that Canada doesn’t have its problems, we absolutely do but I feel like we’re doing much better than some nations. Our diversity is our strength and my first experience working on the road reinforced that notion in my eyes.
For those that don’t know my history as a photographer, I’ll give you a brief rundown. I worked for a mutual fund company and got laid off. I was collecting Unemployment insurance and decided to buy a camera and take a beginner course at George Brown College. I had a friend that was willing to pay me to do a photo shoot for her makeup portfolio. For my birthday, my cousin was going to take me to dinner but changed her mind and gave me money to register a business name and get an HST number. So with that being said, becoming a photographer wasn’t my plan.
6 years later, as I’ve gone along with my photography journey, I’ve slowly collected tools and equipment to improve my operation. The first set of business cards I ever had was from a company called ICS Copy Centre. It was near my house and had good prices. They no longer have the store where I got my cards but they still have a location in the Pickering Town Centre. The unique feature on my original cards was that the back had a QR Code that you could scan and it would direct you to my website. That was when Blackberry dominated the phone market in the Toronto area.
My second variation of my card came from my friend Kyle that runs a company called Skylar Media. When he had a big job and was short staffed, I would help out. During that time, I decided to make a slight name change to my name from Degrey Images to Degrey Photography. So I wanted cards to reflect the new name. I also included a logos and my handles for Twitter and Instagram. The back also had a photo of a vintage camera that I took during a photo walk that I did along Queen St W with my friend. I had about 1000 cards printed and they were a higher quality paper than my previous edition.
Whenever I cover corporate events, I always make sure that my card wallet is full in case a potential client asks for cards. So one day I was getting ready to head out to an event and went to refill my card wallet and I realized that I was surprisingly low on cards. I wasn’t sure what to do as I didn’t have much time. I always receive promotional emails from Vistaprint and I have ordered a set of USB flash drives from them in the past and they had a sale on business cards so I ordered a set of 500 cards from them. They have a numerous amount of choices for business cards depending on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend. This latest edition will actually have my face on it. The photo is one of my favourite pictures of me. Another thing that I enjoy about it is related to photography. It was taken by the talented Justine Apple at her home studio in North York. The other side of the card is from an aerial shot that I took from a helicopter a couple summers ago.
So I’ve gone from someone that bought a camera to pass the time, to go through three different iterations of business cards. You never know what the future holds. Sometimes you go with the flow, sometimes you become the flow.
The end of last year was a been a bit slower than years past, but I still had events to photograph for the holiday season. I had one new client and a longtime client that I’ve been lucky to have been covering over the last few years.
The first party that I covered was a company called Onyx Fire which is a fire protection services company. I happen to have a friend that works for the company and lucky for me, they were looking for a photographer to cover their Christmas party. This was my first year covering this event but from what I’ve been told, the 2017 version took place at The Country Club in Woodbridge, ON. As the name suggests, it was a pristine venue equipped with all the amenities to handle such an event. And if you’re into golf like my Dad is, you know that ClubLink does everything top notch.
Now, I’ve covered many events for the Christmas holidays before, but I think this was the largest group that I had covered. It’s funny because whenever I see an Onyx Fire vehicle on the road, I always take a photo and text my friend about it but I underestimated how large the company was. There was food galore. They actually had 3 different food stations. One with meat and vegetables, one with salads and sushi and one station for pasta. After everyone ate to their heart’s content, they removed the tables from the pasta station and opened up the dance floor with music being played by DJ Dom from DJ Emporium. Myself coming from the Hip-hop world, I’ve always admired DJ’s that play at corporate events because you have to have such a vast catalogue of music to satisfy both young and old and all music tastes. The key is to keep the dance floor busy and he did just that.
The second event that I covered was for Safebridge Financial. This was my third year taking photos at their Christmas party. I used to play rep baseball with one of the Executives of the company. One day I was shooting a charity golf tournament and we ran into each other after a few years, he took my business card and said he would give me a call. Four years later, I’ve covered multiple events for Safebridge.
The latest Christmas party took place at the opulent Duncan House in North York. I was mesmerized by the decor and furnishings of the restaurant. The building was built in 1865 and restored to house a fine dining steakhouse. One thing that I know about my friend Chris is when it comes to his events is, they spare no expense. Especially when it comes to quality and class. Another thing about Chris that I’m always dumbfounded by is his public speaking ability without any notes. The previous event that I covered of theirs, I asked him if he knows what he’s going to say before he speaks or if it’s all off the top of his head. He told me that he has some ideas written but he’s no Jay-z of speeches. I thought that was hilarious but I think that he is the Jay-z of public speaking.
One great thing that Safebridge does at their party is present their annual “Be Orange” award which is awarded to the person that best exemplifies an employee at Safebridge Financial. They gave the award to their executive assistant Paula and she was shocked and emotions took over her a couple of times. The food was phenomenal, the people were inspired and the party usually coincides with Chris’ birthday and this year they rented a bus to take them out for a night on the town after dinner. I wasn’t there for that part of the night, unfortunately, but it was a great evening and I look forward to next Christmas.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had a great holiday season. Mine was relatively quiet as usual. Had a nice family dinner with my parents and their family friend from back home in Jamaica. On boxing day, I went to Markville Mall and upgraded my phone, then I went to Pacific Mall to get a phone case. It was great because J was back home by 11:00am.
On New Year’s Eve, my friend Ricky of RyMedia referred me to take photos at The Vue for DJ Marxman’s Elite 2018 dinner and dance. The food was provided by Twilight and was so good that I had to take some home with me. I started at 7 pm and didn’t get to sleep until after 5 am so it was a very long night but I had a good time.
On Tuesday I received an email from a new real estate agent inquiring about headshots. My ears always perk up when I get contacted by someone asking for headshots as I know that these photos will represent not only them but also their business and company. Another key is it sets the motion for other opportunities and building a long-lasting relationship with that agent. I’m very lucky to have agents from Royal LePage Signature in Mississauga contact myself in Markham to take their photos when there are literally hundreds of portrait photographers between Markham and Mississauga that they can go to.
I was happy to have Sean as my first client of 2018. He was easy to work with and a great attitude to become a successful real estate agent. He’s originally from the London area and has a graphic art background so I think he had an understanding of what I do and I think the fact he’s was raised outside of the big city gives him the interpersonal skills that are key to thrive in the competitive real estate market. I wish Sean all the best in his new career and everyone all the best in 2018.
There’s an establishment that I frequent in Mississauga on my downtime’s. One night I saw this beautiful sky blue Cadillac sitting in the front of the parking lot. I thought to myself, “Man, I’d love to do a shoot involving that car.” I went another night and the car was there again so I asked an employee if they knew the owner of the car and they said, “Yeah it’s the dude the booth over there. “ It’s funny because I’ve seen him many times before but I’ve never spoken to him. I told him that I loved his car and I’d love to do a photo shoot involving his car. Without hesitation, he wrote his name, number and the make and model of the car, 1980 Cadillac.
From going to that bar, I’ve befriended one of the bartenders there. I met her one night when the security guard said that “there’s a bartender that is requesting your services. “ I was confused because I never had any previous interaction with her. Even the bouncer, I was thinking “how did he know that I do photography?” Anyhow, she wanted to do a photo shoot but had no experience. Needless to say, everything went well and now, she always bugs me to do another photo shoot. Over time I’ve become close and oddly protective of her. I remember she liked a guy and I saw him and told him “I don’t know about that guy. You deserve better than him. Fortunately, she moved on and now she’s in a happy relationship.
In the summertime, I was asked to take party pictures for Wayne Warner. For those that know him, Warner is a Toronto party legend so I was super nervous to take pictures at his events. I saw two ladies and asked to take a photo of them. One said to me, “Warner never posts pictures of me”. I was thinking “Why not? You’re very pretty. “ We exchanged contact information and I told her that I would like to use her for a photo shoot involving an old Cadillac and she said she was down. YES!!
So I have the models, I have the car, now it’s to find the time where we are all available. It wasn’t until 3 months later where we were able to do the shoot. I originally wanted 2 models but one cancelled the morning of so I had to use only one.
The sun was going down pretty fast so I tried to work quickly using ambient light along with flash to make things pop. I was lucky to have my friend Malynne around to help me with styling and adjusting the light setup. Everything went well overall. We got some great shots, the only drawback is that I wish that we started to earlier in the day to take more advantage of the natural light.
Overall I’m pleased with how everything went and special thanks to Adil for not only providing the car but going the extra mile by showing me locations and offering to do things that I didn’t ask him to do and making sure everyone was comfortable. we were able to meet up.
I was honoured to be asked to be a photographer for a local charity basketball tournament at the University of Toronto called “Bay St. Hoops“. This is my second time covering this great charity and being a part of two things that I love, Photography and basketball.
When I did this event last year, I wasn’t really prepared since it was pretty last minute. Also, the tournament took place at 5 different ball courts and 3 different lighting conditions which made it a bit of a challenge. This year, I covered two days of the tournament and got used to the lighting and was more prepared and I think the photos from this year compared to last year show that.
What makes this tournament interesting to me is the skill level. You had novices in a division participating up to the highly competitive player that you can tell have experience playing at high levels competitively and are active ballplayers. Sometimes I would have to put down my camera and just watch because some of the games were captivating. I even covered a buzzer beater shot to win a critical semi-final game.
It was a tremendous event once again. This year was better than last year in my opinion and I bet it’ll only get better. I’ve met some amazing people over the two years that I’ve covered this event and some I still keep in contact with. Thanks to Desmond Rampersaud and Emma Truax for having me once again and I’ll see you next year.
This is a great time to be a sports fan. You have the football season finishing their first month, the NHL season is starting up, the NBA is starting their training camps and the Major League Baseball season is about to start their playoffs. Unfortunately, this also means that the golf season is winding down.
With all the recent natural disasters happening, as bad as it is, it is good to know that many people have come together to help out those that are less fortunate. Thanks to my friend Asif Khan, I have taken pictures at the 4th annual Play 4 Hope golf tournament at Royal Ontario Golf club in Milton, ON.
This is my second year participating in this event. The weather has been very unpredictable the last few days. The beginning of the week was summer weather but the last couple days have been quite chilly. I was nervous at first and wasn’t sure what to wear but it’s turned out to be a perfect day for golfing.
There were many great sponsors present from all over the GTA. Just like last year at the registration table, there was great food provided by Island Mix and quality cigars from Havana Castle. I can say that this year is already better than when I was here last year and many great sponsors came out to support the Play 4 Hope tournament this year.
This year we are raising money for The Chenga House which provides support for marginalized youth. Another beneficiary is the Canadian Cancer Society. I’d like to thank Asif Kasim for having me cover this event and I look forward to covering more in the future.
As September marks back to school for kids, September also marked a new beginning for me as well. In July the tiles in my basement started to pop up from the floor. To this day, we’re not sure what caused that to happen. So some tiles had to be removed and replaced. It was a very dirty job the whole basement was covered in dust but after 6 about weeks of re-tiling, painting, and cleaning, the basement is functional again.
During the time where my home studio was out of service, I had to adapt. It’s like that saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I had to adapt to my situation so I focused more on doing events such as baby showers and birthdays and doing more jobs on location.
My first client for my grand re-opening was Sharifah Weir of Love Thick Apparel. Now, this isn’t the first time working with Sharifah we did a product shoot a couple years ago when she was starting out. She’s doing quite well and I like the campaign that she’s running with her “Women are Dope” line and inspiring women of all shapes and sizes to be self-confident and role models.
The next client was from a new clothing line called Totally African. Here in Toronto where there are so many cultures and we embrace and borrow from each other, this line is great for people that love the colours and designs of African fashion. We just started working together but I hope that we can grow together and I always try to support young businesses.
So the home studio is back up and running. I still have to put the pictures back on the wall but I’M BACK!! So contact me at Degrey Photography for your family portraits, headshots, and photo shoots.
Recently I was asked to photograph a great charity event that helps families in Africa. Fortunately for me, I have been very busy with other jobs and editing, but when Arlene, the wife of one of the founding members contacted me, I couldn’t say no.
The organization that I worked for is called Homes4Hope What they’re doing is amazing. They have partnered up with CBM and Habitat for Humanity to provide homes to families in Africa for children living with disabilities.
What I love about this group is, they’re not just throwing money at a cause and going home to their comfy homes and their nice meals, they’re actually in these countries helping build homes themselves with their own two hands.
This past April they travelled to Malawi. I follow current events but I’d have to admit, that I don’t know a lot about Malawi. All I knew that it was somewhere in Africa. Well, I learned that 74% of the population is below the poverty line. The average GDP per capita is $220 compared to Canada which is $45,000. Many of us make $220 in a day. Just imagine $220 a YEAR. The people that Homes 4 Hope helped make about $5 per month and $3 of that goes to rent. Then imagine that you have a child with special needs on top of that? Truly heartbreaking as I write this on my computer with all the amenities that I can ask for.
But the people at Homes 4 Hope are making a difference 1 family at a time. Since they’ve started only a few years ago, they’ve raised $500,000 and improved the living conditions of over 40 families by building 40 homes.
I would like to thank Arlene Karram and the board members of Homes 4 Hope for inviting me to take photos and the wonderful staff at The Broadview Hotel.For more information about this cause and to donate, please visit http://homes4hope.ca/