Women at Large 2018

The other day my friend Lisa invited me to photograph an event called Women at Large. The event was an annual pageant competition where 12 women and an alternate were selected to participate in a calendar photo shoot which is to be held at the world-famous Hedonism resort in Negril, Jamaica.

That day I left my house with no expectations, which is probably the best way when taking pictures at an event. The even was held at the Montecassino Hotel and Event Centre . The building was teeming with energy as there was a DJ, a bar and some vendors selling various goods and services. Most importantly, family and friends came out to show their support for the contestants. They brought their signs and their louse cheers. Someone even brought an air horn.

The first round of the pageant was the introduction of the contestants. I don’t know how many women entered but the organization narrowed it down to approximately 35 women from all walks of life and of all shapes and sizes. The one thing about Canada and specifically Toronto, is our diversity. It was great to see that Women at Large was really trying to challenge the notion of what beauty should look like. It can be anyone under the sun.

First round women in white T-shirts and blue jeans
Round 1
Reina Rose walking down the catwalk
Showing her stuff down the catwalk
Woman at Large in all white
Strike a pose
Women at Large round 1 women in white shirts and blue jeans
This is just the intro.

The second round of the pageant was the evening gown segment and Lisa did not disappoint. She looked regal in her blue sequins dress. I have known Lisa for approximately a year and a half and I’ve seen tremendous growth in her personally and professionally. I think her blue dress is emblematic of her future. Lisa is destined for greatness.

Reina Rose in blue sequin dress and tiara
She’s Royal
Blue Sequin dress
Intermission

Due to time constraints, the talent competition was shortened to a few contestants but they definitely brought the house down with their singing, dancing, poetry, fashion and a young lady that painted a portrait of Snoop Dogg upside down. I’m still baffled by how she did that.

There was a brief intermission and I managed to speak to Lisa briefly and she asked me if I’m having a good time to which I said “Yes” and she said, “Yeah right you’re just saying that”. But I was taking in the sights and sounds. She expressed to me how nervous she was and frankly, I couldn’t  blame her but she was doing so well for someone that’s never participated in anything like that before. I told her that I was proud of her but I think the nerves made my comment go in one ear and out of the next. Which I understood when you are so focused on doing everything correctly and you just want to get it over with.

Next was the much-anticipated swimsuit competition.  All of the ladies looked amazing. During the intermission, Lisa told me to look out for her and wanted me to take pictures of her swimsuit. I thought to myself, ” I’ll just move into the aisle so that way I won’t  have the back of someone’s head in my pictures.” What I didn’t anticipate however was her family coming to the aisle, holding signs to block my vantage point. Luckily, I was able to manoeuvre to the sides and got some images for her.

The next round was the final walk through to show all the contestants before it was time for the big vote. It went very quickly, but the crowd was in full force showing their support for their favourite contestant. As a photographer, catching those rare candid moments is what I love best. Unfortunately at the pageant I was unable to catch the final moments of when the winners were announced. That was the only part that I did not like. When they announced the winners, the contestants were backstage and not on the stage where everyone could see. I suppose it was an issue with space, but as a photographer, I would have loved to have seen their genuine reactions to hearing their names being called. Some winners were clear to me and some were a surprise. Not in the sense that they didn’t deserve to win, but I was surprised that some ladies did not win.

Coincidentally, I was sitting beside a man named Sven Frenzel who is a Still Photographer for film and television. He had me laughing the whole night. Sven told me that he liked how I approached people to take photos and said that he could tell that it came naturally to me. That was a huge compliment to me coming from someone who is an established professional photographer with 20 years of experience.

All and all, it was a fantastic experience. The stage lighting did present some challenges as there were some dark areas that created shadows but I would definitely go back next year if given the chance. I would like to thank my friend Lisa for having me there. I’m so proud of her.  The world is yours.

Past winners of the Men at Large and Women at Large. Red tuxedo jacket and lady in lady in a blue dress and tiara
King and Queen
Reina with family and friends holding signs
Family Support
winners of the Women at Large competition. 13 ladies holding trophies and swag bags
Congratulations to the women selected.
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2017 Christmas Party Recap

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.

Back in Business

 

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.

 

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.