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.
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.
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.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of covering two events that celebrate life. First was a first birthday party. It’s always nice to cover kids parties because of the energy of the room. The ability of children to get along and play without prejudices or knowing each other beforehand always amazes me. It’s too bad adults don’t always do the same.
The birthday boy is too young to fully understand what’s going on, but he was in good spirits and stayed awake the whole time. I learned that he loves music and dancing. To me, two things I love with babies are listening to them laugh and watching them dance.
The second event I photographed was a baby shower. The way that people are excited to see the mommy to be’s belly and just the general feeling of love in the room is a great thing. What stood out to me about this shower was the chemistry between the parents to be. You can tell that their future daughter is going to have a lot of love around her. I was happy to be a part of it and best wishes to both families that asked me to capture milestones in their lives.
Proposals to the Governor and Prison commissioner of Attica
State troopers at Attica 1971
Black Panther Poster
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.
This weekend I went to the Eaton Centre to run some errands. A couple summers ago, my brother bought me a Swatch watch and last week I realised that the battery was dead so I went to get a new battery. I asked the clerk how much it cost to replace the battery and he took it and said, “Nothing. Free”. I was pleasantly surprised by that news.
Then I went over to Uniqlo to get a hoodie. Unfortunately, they didn’t have my size, but I managed to get 2 shirts. So not a total loss.
I was feeling hungry so I was going to get a sushi burrito from Rolltation. As I was walking, I saw that Canadian Tire had a sale on some stuffed animals. I went inside and saw a bunch that I thought would be perfect for my friend’s son’s 1st birthday and maybe a prop for my home studio. The only problem was, that they were too big to carry around Downtown Toronto at the dawn of rush hour.
So I went the following day (Saturday) and got 2 animals, one for my studio and one for my friend’s son. As I was walking back to the subway, I noticed a lot of people
looking at me. Kids eyes would light up and women would give me that “he’s so sweet” face. I have a feeling that they thought I had these toys to give to my Valentine since Valentine’s Day is coming up. But no it’s just a birthday present and a studio prop.
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