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Jah Grey is a self-taught photographic artist specializing in portraiture, focusing primarily on the exploration of Black masculinities. His works, which began in 2014, have been an ongoing study, delving into the nuanced and complex relationship between vulnerability and masculinity. Grounded in his identity and lived experiences as a Black AuDHD man of Trans experience, his practice utilizes his story to build connection, shedding light on the ways Black men have negotiated their identities while trying to imagine grace in contrast to the limited representations of Black men in the mainstream media.

 

Through his photographs, Jah Grey aspires to envision what joy, grace, and individual self-actualization could be for Black men. Rather than understanding themselves as the victims of others' judgements, he documents Black men who defy the expectations and binary constructions of masculinity imposed upon them. By rebelling against societal constructs placed on Black men's bodies and identities, Jah Grey creates powerful works that resist the ideology of hyper-masculinity and dismantle stereotypical notions that portray Black men as a monolith rather than multi-dimensional. 

Geared towards supporting positive notions of Black masculinities, in both subtle and overt ways, Jah strives to produce counter-narratives that debunk common stereotypes and challenge misogynistic and patriarchal "norms" surrounding masculinities and vulnerability, by planting seeds for healthier identities, fostering belonging. Jah Grey believes in showcasing representation that, not only is expansive but also feels simultaneously familiar. By doing so, he aims to provide counterexamples that reflect grace, humanity, and redemption; affording Black men the flexibility to exist within the intersections of their identities. 

Jah Grey’s photographs have been shown across Canada, the United States, and internationally including in the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Burlington, the Ford Foundation Gallery, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, the LAMBDA LITFEST in Los Angeles, and in Singapore. Additionally, his work has been featured for the National Day of Healing at Ava Duvernay's ARRAY HQ and on the cover of Nigerian author, Arinze Ifeakandu's, God's Children Are Little Broken Things. Most notably, Jah Grey was commissioned for over a month in Lagos Nigeria to put on a solo show -- documenting the lives of Transwomen, Non-Binary folks, and Drag Queens, in total showcasing 13 portraits.  

 

His works have also been featured in numerous press and publications, most notably: Adidas, Lululemon, Huffington Post, CBC Arts, Now Magazine, and Afropunk NYC. 

 

Most recently Jah Grey founded the Black Men’s Therapy Fund, a non-profit that provides culturally-responsive services, programs, and support to promote Black mental wellness and address the unique mental health needs of Black men across identities and intersections. Black

Men's Therapy Fund is committed to promoting equity and accountability, fostering joy, creating intentional spaces, and curating inclusive ecosystems of support for Black men and communities. 

 

 

 


ARTIST STATEMENT

The work that I create is situated in the resistance to the ideology of hyper-masculinity, stereotypical masculinity and rebelling against the constructs others place on our bodies and our identities. My practice is rooted in the utilization of my identity and my story, sculpting the possibilities of fluidity to plant seeds of healthy identities, and creating space for expanded notions of black masculinity. Geared towards supporting positive notions of black masculinity, I strive to produce counter-narratives to common stereotypes, misogynistic and patriarchal societal norms about masculinity and vulnerability; instead, providing counterexamples that are more fitting and reflects grace, diversity and humanity. 

These problematic ideas assume notions of masculinity (hyper-masculinity) which enforce the idea that men cannot be vulnerable, while overlooking, even punishing men who choose to make their vulnerability visible outside our many stereotypes; This is especially true for black men as the media portrayals of black men reinforce various misconceptions of our identities. 

In my overall practice, my photographs are research, an ongoing study that explores the disconnect between the concepts of vulnerability and masculinity, showcasing the struggle between the idealized norm vs. the desired embodiment through a trans lens. Inspired by shared experiences of vulnerability, my subjects are black men who do not fit, or have a desire to fit the label of hyper-masculinity imposed upon them. My work explores men who crave newer identities that resist problematic notions that confront them in our society on a daily basis. It’s about learning to acknowledge that my hurt, my pain, my frustration, my sadness can/is allowed to exist within me as well, and when I embody these emotions that I’m aware are heavily systematically stigmatized for black men, it doesn’t make me less human or less masculine. I’m working to create room for transparency because I too, as a black man, a transman struggles with this concept of masculinity. Shaking the stereotypes that black men should and can only be hard and unemotional, I push to showcase the layers and all the complexities and nuances–learning to give grace. 

I feel we often let society control and dictate who we are, where we belong and whom we need to be and forget to carve out new spaces in ourselves for change, growth, and evolution. By constantly conforming to the ideals of society, it forces us to forget about ourselves. Denying who we are is to deny a core aspect of our humanity, and being brave enough to learn about ourselves, what works and what doesn’t, and to be your/live in your authentic self is such a critical part of us, such a critical part of black masculinity in order for us to reclaim our humanity, in reclaiming ourselves. We all experience varying levels of alienation, erasure, and self-erasure due to complex systems of oppression, set in place particularly to be critical of the black body. My portraits will encourage us all to live out loud and not feel silenced or shamed around our bodies but feel able to express ourselves in any way we choose, to remind us all of the similarities we share despite our differences. I aim to deconstruct this problematic binary to remind the viewer that by confronting their fears about their bodies, it enables us to embrace everything that we are, as individuals and as a community, encouraging the practice and process of self-love.

I believe that black men deserve to be captured for the sake of beauty and for the sake of slowly dismantling the image of toxicity we’ve been fed for too long. We deserve support and care because I truly believe we are worth that investment. I had so few positive role models growing up and I’ve always wished blackness, as a positive attribute was celebrated more. The fear and shame of vulnerability (being hurt, asking for help or wanting to cry) makes us hide and I believe we should recommit to having larger conversations–emotional sharing with each other because it’s an important piece of healthy black masculinity, in hope that someday, not only will the outside world see black men in their full light, we’ll be able to see the light within ourselves.

 

HONOURS/AWARDS

 

2023   Kindred Foundation Mental Health Youth Grant, Toronto Arts Council 

2021   Visual Artist Grant, Toronto Arts Council 

2020   Media Artists Creations Projects, Ontario Arts Council 

2019   Chalmers Professional Development Projects, Ontario Arts Council 

2018   Individual - Visual Artists Grant, Toronto Arts Council

2018   Creative Enterprise Grant, CUE/SKETCH & Associum

2017   Skills and Career Development: Indigenous Arts Professionals and Arts Professionals of Colour, Ontario Arts Council

2017   Visual Artists Creation Projects, Ontario Arts Council

2016   Individual - Visual Artists Grant, Toronto Arts Council

2016   CUE Art Projects Grant, CUE

2015   Best Artist Prize Award, Nuit Rose

 

 

CERTIFICATES

2021   Mental Health & Community Accountability Leadership Immersion, BEAM

2021   Black Masculinity Re-Imagined Consent Training Leadership Institute, BEAM

MENTORSHIP AND FACILITATION

 

2022   What You Water Will Grow: The Role of Earthwork in Expanding Understanding of Self Beyond Societal Concepts of Masculinity Workshop –  Artscape Daniel's Launchpad, Toronto Ontario Canada

2022   Queering Place – SKETCH WORKING ARTS, Toronto Ontario Canada

2022   Gardening Project – Artscape Gibraltar Point, Toronto Ontario Canada

2022   Cultivating Self-care and Healing Practices – Planned Parenthood, Toronto Ontario Canada

2022   Exploring Healthier Masculine Identities, Using Storytelling to Explore and Create Positive Narratives – Planned Parenthood, Toronto Ontario Canada

2022   Mentor in Residence  – Workman's Arts, Toronto Ontario Canada

2022   Transformative Masculinity, Consent and Boundaries – Toronto District School Board, Toronto Ontario Canada

2022   How to be a Trailblazer – Counterstory, Toronto Ontario Canada

2021   GoodGuise Facilitator – SKETCH WORKING ARTS, Toronto Ontario Canada

2020   Creative Director and Photographer Mentor – Men Who Take Baths, Toronto Ontario Canada and Vancouver

2019   IAM Program Mentor – JAYU, Toronto Ontario Canada and Vancouver

2019   Mentor and Consultator – Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Toronto Ontario Canada and Vancouver

ARTIST TALKS

 

2020   Live Sessions: "Opening Up" Panel Talk,  The Creator Class, Toronto Ontario Canada

2020   Human Rights Series: Advancing Wellbeing: Transforming Our Social Lifestyles Panel Talk,  Pride Toronto, Toronto Ontario Canada

2020   Manifesto Talks: Removing The Stigma Around Black Mental Health Panel Talk,  Manifesto Headquarters, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2019   Journey to Black Liberation Symposium Art & Activism Panel Talk,  Harbourfront Centre, Toronto Ontario Canada 
 

2019   Wedge Curatorial, Toronto Ontario CanadaArtist Talk: A Love Ethic, Wedge Curatorial, Toronto Ontario Canada 
 

2019   It's Okay Not To Be Okay Mental Wellness Panel, Soho House, Toronto Ontario Canada
 

2018   "Man-Up" Panel Discussion, Free Space,  Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2018   Black Queer Entrepreneurial Activism Panel Discussion, Ryerson University  of Toronto, Toronto Ontario Canada 

 

 

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

 

2024  Putting Ourselves Together, BAND x CONTACT Photography Festival

2022  Uncommon Beauty, Lagos Nigeria

2019   Artist Feature: "Man Up", Artscape Launchpad

2019   Men Who Take Baths, The Darling Mansion

 

2018   No More Room, Margin of Eras Gallery

 

2018   "Man Up", Free Space

 

2016   A ROOM FULL OF BLACK BOYS, Blank Canvas Gallery

 

2015   Portraits by Jah Grey, Capital Expresso

 

2013  Jah Grey x Zahra Siddiqui Exhibit, Tequila Bookworm

 

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

 

2024   "Dancing in the Light" Headliner ft. The Wedge Collection (Dr. Montague), Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA)

2019   The Gender Conspiracy, Art Gallery of Burlington, Burlington Ontario Canada

2019   MOCA x Purple Nights, Museum of Contemporary Arts Canada, Toronto Ontario Canada

2019   "That's So Gay", The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto Ontario Canada

2019   Radical Love, The Ford Foundation Gallery, Manhattan New York City

2019   How does it feel - Wedge Curatorial Projects, The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto Ontario Canada

2019   Reflections of Love, The Harbourfront Centre, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2018   What’s Done, Must Come, Los Angeles LGBT Centre – The Village, Los Angeles California  
 

2016   CUE Presents: Margin of Eras, Super Wonder Gallery, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2016   The HEARD: SAWUBONA Project, Daniels Spectrum, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2016   Exposed: SOLACE, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2015   The HEARD: SAWUBONA, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2015   Nuit Rose, Artscape Youngplace, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2015   Empowering the Black Community, AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2015   Exposed, Project Gallery, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2015   Queering Black History Month, Ryerson University, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2014   The Art Galleria Expo, UNIUN, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2014   Snow Queen, The Winter Garden Theatre, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2014   Long Winter Year Three/Volume One, The Great Hall, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2014   8th Annual Manifesto Art Exhibition, The Steam Whistle Brewery, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2014   N’Expose, Beit Zatoun, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2014   Queering Black History Month, Ryerson University, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

2013   My City My Story, The Theatre Pop Up, Toronto Ontario Canada

 

 

 

TESTIMONIALS

 

 

“Jah Grey has the gift to capture a single image that can be both optimistic and

distressing. Immersive yet nuanced detail contrasts the sharp contours of

silhouettes. It is a true joy to witness Jah expand the history of portraiture in

our generation.”

 

– Alex McLeod, 

Award-winning Simulation Artist

 

 

"Your pictures, as you know are epic and frankly, you're a historian having captured

so many of us over the years.

Our blackness, our queerness, us just BEING & BELONGING."

 

– Jill Andrew, 

MPP Toronto-St. Paul's, and Co-Founder of Body Confidence Canada

 

"Jah is an incredible photographer. His ability to capture subjects through portraiture is unique, professional

and could only be achieved with true talent.

If you're looking for photos to add to your collection or have a special event in your life you want

to capture, Jah is the guy."

 

– Lucah Rosenberg-Lee,

Head of Brand Storytelling at Monday Media, Digital Media & Ads Strategist, and Filmmaker

“Jah is an incredible photographer and I am honoured to have had the privilege to work with him. His work ethic, attention to detail and creative eye helped bring my project to life. Our final product was nuanced, poignant, and absolutely beautiful and I look forward to partnering with Jah again.

 

– Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore,

Policy Advisor, Director at Counterstory Press, and Author of Trailblazers

 

 

 

 

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