Attica, USA 1971: Images and Sounds of a Rebellion

This weekend I took a trip to the Ryerson Image Centre in downtown Toronto. I saw an ad in the paper about this photo gallery and I told my friend @ryhanks that we should check this out because that’s right up our alley being into Photography and African-American history. The problem with the society that we live in, is there are so many distractions so I forgot about the exhibit until I was deleting some photos from my phone and I saw a picture of the flyer that I took while I was on the TTC and I saw that the last day was April 9th.

I took the subway to Dundas station and walked over to the Ryerson Image Centre. It was my first time there and it was a nice clean building with all the amenities. I first saw a video board and a short film by a former Black Panter. It was mind blowing that you can still see the bullet holes in a house from a shootout that took place in 1968.

Although I am a photographer, for some reason I find it strange to take photos of photos or art so I left my camera at home and just used my phone. They had a guided tour of the exhibit but you were also free to walk around as you pleased so, I did a quick lap before the tour started. There were a lot of powerful images and some were definitely not for the faint of heart.

The Attica rebellion took place before I was born and I heard of it but I didn’t know very much about it. When I listened to the tour guide speak about it, I was in disbelief of the living conditions that the inmates went through. 63 cents for food a DAY, 1 bar of soap and one roll of toilet paper per MONTH. The Latino inmates that received letters from their friends and families automatically got thrown out if it was written in Spanish since none of the correction officers read Spanish and all correspondence were read before reaching the intended receiver. The prison was predominantly black and latino.

43 men lost their lives during that period in September 1971 and they were killed by the authorities. Litigation carried on until 2015 and the State Government paid $8,000,000 to the families of the victims of the slain prisoners and $12 Million to the families victims of the prison employees. But I think most importantly, never admitted any wrongdoing for the incident in the first place.

As a black man and watching the world that I currently live in, this situation was eerily similar to what I see going on today with Police brutality and the American prison industrial complex. Just when things start to move in the right direction, a powerful corporation or lobbyist group tries to pull the world backwards and tries to convince us as the human race that everything is fine how it is. And because most of the protesters do not have the ability to sway the politicians and the politicians are afraid to go against the lobbyists, we get thrown into this ugly cycle of hate and injustice. I think the biggest difference between 1971 and 2017 is that middle-class whites now see what’s happening with visible minorities and a lot of them don’t agree with the injustices with drug laws, police killings are now on camera, the Dakota Access Pipeline affecting the ways of life of the First Nations people and the environment as a whole. We are truly in a time where the whole world is watching and the decisions of many are made by the few.

No Muslim Ban on Stolen Land

This weekend, I woke up on Saturday morning and turned on CP24 as I usually do to check the weather for the day. I saw that there was a rally scheduled outside the US Embassy so I automatically perked up and saw an opportunity to take photos.

I intended to take the TTC but I was afraid of being late so I drove downtown and walked to the protest location.

I was surprised at the vast number of people that attended of all walks of life that were all united against the US travel ban. There were members of Black Lives Matter, Leaders of the Chinese community, the Muslim community, a Holocaust survivor and others all united against Donald Trump’s foreign policies. I saw people of all races, sexual orientation, young and elderly all against the Travel Ban. The dissent that I have noticed in the last few weeks is definitely eye-opening, not just here in North America but worldwide. I watch TV sometimes and think “Is this really happening?” I see people on social media obsessed with selfies and filters on Snapchat and wonder if they are aware or care about the things happening around us. But I digress, everyone needs an escape and luckily for me, photography has become mine.

I hope you enjoy these images from Yesterdays Muslim Ban protest in Toronto

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What a Year!!

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Toronto Mayor John Tory
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Maternity
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Charity Event
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Vaughan Wedding

We’ve come to the close of another year. There has been a lot of eye opening moments this year. Not like there wasn’t notable moments in previous years but 2016 seemed to pile on everything at once.

As a professional photographer, I myself have had some ups and downs in 2016. One of the highlights as an event photographer was shooting an event where the keynote speaker was the mayor of Toronto John Tory. I’ve also managed to meet some great people over time and have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with them as well as past clients who have retained me to photograph their events. It’s a honour to do family photographs and watch my clients families grow and evolve.

In 2017 I would like to expand my headshot business. I’ve done photos of a few clients and I learn something new each time I photograph a professional looking to use something I’ve done to represent their personal brand.

Weddings is another field that I would like to expand as a photographer. 2016, I did less weddings than in 2015 but I think my comfort level and the quality of the photos have improved.

Everything boils down to growth and learning everyday. I think one of the biggest challenges I have as a creative is learning the behind the scenes aspect of the business. The admin work, the networking and customer service. Thanks to friends and websites like http://www.creativelive.com I am learning more as I go along.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best to you and your loved ones.

Paul & Nellie

I got a call from my cousin Patrick to shoot my cousin’s Paul’s wedding the night before the wedding. It totally caught me off guard but I agreed and got my things together. Just as I was 2 lights away from the church, my car just shuts off on its own. Which was the beginning of some car trouble but I made it on time thankfully?

Just like my cousin’s personality, the wedding was low-keydsc_9143-editdsc_9321dsc_9327-editdsc_9549 and subdued. It was a bright and sunny day and I’m happy that he made this leap to being a family man.Congratulations to Paul & Nellie Thomas.

Gentlemen’s Expo

Thanks to my partner in crime Ryan Hinkson (@eatfamous), I was lucky enough to attend the 2016 Gentlemen’s Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention centre this weekend.

As a photographer, there were so many interesting things to capture at the Gentlemen’s Expo. Both myself and Ryan love fashion and the Gentlemen’s Expo did not disappoint with tailors, handmade pocket squares and ties. Ryan, being one of the men behind the Eat Famous brand got to see different foods and they had a live cooking show for your viewing pleasure.

I also got to learn about some beverages that I previously wasn’t privy to. As I was walking around I saw a friend of mine that was working at the Innis & Gunn beer booth. Innis & Gunn is a Scottish beer that I couldn’t get enough of. In fact, I went to the LCBO the next day and bought some. Also,

King & Bay Custom Clothing had a mixologist making Old Fashioneds. Now, I’m not sure if I’d had them before but I think that’s my new drink.

All in all, it was a good evening and I’m looking forward to a bigger and better Gentlemen’s Expo in 2017.

Morning Sunshine

imageJust like everyone else, I have good days and bad days at work. Sometimes what I do doesn’t feel like work and sometimes it feels like I should quit and get a “real” job like my parents say sometimes.

Every once in a while, someone gives you some sort of encouragement that makes the struggle worth it.

I was having a bad weekend when I was on my way to an event last week. One of my flashes weren’t firing consistently and there was a dry ice machine that was making it difficult to get sharp images.

I saw my friend Marsha and she introduced me to her son. I said, “YOUR SON???” In shock because he was a grown man and she looks so young. But yes, it was her son and they both love to dance. It was so cool to see the contrast between old school and new school in terms of the styles of dance and the bond they have with music. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Mother and son dancing to the same music  in a mock battle similar to the classic movie “House Party “.

A week later, I received a text from Marsha thanking me for taking the pictures that I took of her and her son. I was pleasantly surprised. I was thinking the night was a disaster, but you never know that you could be making someone’s day with one photograph.

Messages like these make the journey worthwhile and push me to continue to improve behind the camera and in post production. Thank you

 

 

Am I a Papparazzi Now?

In the last 18 months or so, this photography thing is starting to pick up in terms of bookings and recognition. The bookings are great, the recognition is a bit strange for me but I guess I’ll get used to it as time goes on.

But thanks to some great people and entertainment companies, I’ve been able to meet some famous people and be fortunate to have my camera with me during these events. Two of the last three events however I’ve seen celebrities that DO NOT want to be photographed although my client(s) want pictures of all the stars to boost their profiles in the city and beyond. I almost felt like “Have I became the guy that Kanye wants to punch and break my camera?” If I take the photo will it go viral all over social media? Can I get in trouble for posting it or just leave them alone?

The first time I met Walshy Fire of Major Lazer, I met him as my friend’s cousin. We were talking and there were flash bulbs going off all over the place. Then it hit me, “Oh this guy’s a big deal.” A few weeks ago I was shooting a party hosted by the Comedian Russell Peters and people are taking pictures, snapping and trying to get his attention. I wrote a note on my phone asking where his friends were. It’s funny you have some celebrities that are in public settings and don’t want to be photographed as if they didn’t exist and others that have people waiting in line to get a picture or take a selfie with them. I guess there’s no right or wrong way to handle your adoring public because your fans can make or break your career. Especially with social media, you just have to deal with those consequences. As for myself, I see myself as a fan of these people but I would rather be the cool fan with a camera than the annoying guy trying to get an unsolicited photo for a few bucks.

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Dave Chappelle
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Walshy Fire-Major Lazer
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Russell Peters
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Melanie Fiona
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PK Subban, Kardinal Offishall,Cipha Sounds, Starting From Scratch