Jah Grey is a consultant, helping growth-minded individuals discover alternative strategies that they need to amplify their career, business, and personal lives by giving you supports needed to create space for more fulfilling results, community, accountability, and the tools needed to maximize time freedom and joy in their lives. He is also a self-taught photographic artist primarily focused on portraiture. His works, which began in 2014, are an ongoing study of Black masculinity, exploring the complex and nuanced relationship between vulnerability, joy, and identity through the lens of a Black Transman. Generally capturing Black men who do not adhere to the expectations of hyper-masculinity imposed upon them, Jah skillfully uses the power of his photography to challenge harmful gender norms, planting the seeds for healthier identities and creating space for expanded notions of Black masculinity and belonging. His work encourages onlookers to live out loud, rediscover their identities, and build home within themselves.
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’s focused on supporting the urgent mental health needs of Black men across intersections. The organization provides support through professional psychology and therapeutic services, educational resources, workshops and discussion groups, advocacy, and the creative arts, ensuring that more men, especially those most marginalized, are equipped with the right tools, resources, and support needed to care for their mental well-being.
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.
2020 Media Artists Creations Projects
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
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
2019 Artist Feature: "Man Up", Artscape Launchpad, Toronto Ontario Canada
2019 Men Who Take Baths, The Darling Mansion, Toronto Ontario Canada
2018 No More Room, Margin of Eras Gallery, Toronto Ontario Canada
2018 "Man Up", Free Space, Toronto Ontario Canada
2016 A ROOM FULL OF BLACK BOYS, Blank Canvas Gallery, Toronto Ontario Canada
2015 Portraits by Jah Grey, Capital Expresso, Toronto Ontario Canada
2013 Jah Grey x Zahra Siddiqui Exhibit, Tequila Bookworm, Toronto Ontario Canada
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
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
“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
– Alex McLeod
"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
"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 personal collection or have a special event in your life you want
to capture, Jah is the guy."
– Lucah Rosenberg-Lee