I’ve been really busy lately covering a variety of events. From weddings to baptisms, to birthdays and everything in between. Earlier in the week, I got a text from a number that I didn’t recognize asking if I can take pictures at a charity event on Sunday.
Friday I recorded a video with my friends Terry and Ryan of Eat Famous and I brought my friend Megan to add a female touch to the video. I do record video for my own personal projects but this is was my biggest video project to date and had a short turnaround time.
Saturday, I had to travel to Brampton to photograph a birthday party at night and work on editing the video that we recorded on Friday on Sunday morning as it had to be submitted by Monday.
I’ve known Camille many years. Going back to the 10th grade when we were both participants in a high school talent show. Fast forward a few years and her best friend is married to one of my best friends Curtis “Jus” Blaize. Needless to say, she was the mystery person that texted me and she later called me telling me that she asked other people and they were beyond her budget or cancelled on her. I told her that I’m busy but I’ll try. I knew that I probably shouldn’t do it, but I know the person that I am, I’m going to cover her event because I didn’t want to let her down as well.
After doing some finishing touches on the Eat Famous video, I headed down to the Mother’s Day Soirée that was taking place at Cube brought to you by Sugar Cane Enterprises The purpose of this event was to help pregnant teens and young mothers, who are often faced with obstacles such as poverty and social isolation. Camille and her organization collected slightly used and new clothes for children and their mothers in coordination with The June Callwood Centre for Young Women and the New Mom Project. My friend Kavita from Travel Art Henna provided a Henna for the ladies and there were great food and drinks and raffle prizes.
Although it wasn’t planned, I’m glad that I attended and I hope the next Sugar Cane Enterprises event is bigger and better.
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.
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.
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/
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 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
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-key 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.
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,
Old Fashioned Classic Shave
Live Cooking Show
Eat Famous & Julian Compton
Innis & Gunn
Men’s Fashion Show
Leap of Faith
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.