BLACKBOYJOY Volume I: BROTHERHOOD
Updated: Jul 8
"Part of the reason that I photograph is to more clearly understand the human condition and experience..."
Interpersonal relationships have, for the thirty years that I’ve been alive, been something that I’ve struggled to understand. I’m a self-proclaimed pariah- but still a black man.
To be a black man in America is to have a target on your back- everyone aiming for its bullseye. Our sheer existence alone is traumatizing and it can be difficult to find and grasp a modicum of good while being immersed in strife. There tends to exist, however, solace and comfort amongst other black men and to be able to witness these melanated interactions between us unfold so organically without pretext is equal parts mystifying and glorious.
THE BEAUTY, MAGIC, & MYSTIQUE OF THE BLACK MAN IS UNQUESTIONABLY INIMITABLE.
In the presence of black men, I feel beholden to powers of the universe that are too complex to articulate with mere words. There is peace in our shared pain. There is love to be found in the vitriol hurled at us. There is genuine beauty and humanity obscured by our fetishization. There is collective laughter buried beneath the burdens of it all. The rest of the world feels threatened by the brilliance of our esotericisms: the drip, the vernacular swagger, the handshakes that flow like honey, the glances and head nods that contain multitudes without the utterance of a single word.
I'll be frank, being a black man in the company of other black men hasn't always been easy for me. Part of the reason that I photograph is to more clearly understand the human condition and experience- but mostly to understand myself. Growing up, I preferred My Chemical Romance & Panic! at the Disco over D4L and G-Unit. I've never owned a single pair of Jordan's. Never been to a house party or had much of an interest in playing basketball. I allowed my differences to invalidate my own blackness. I othered myself on a constant basis. It's complicated being both the author and erasure of your own story.
Many black men saw me no differently, however. I was still "bro with the voice," and "bro with the cold lens." The truest personal attestant to the love of black men is how I allowed my lack of understanding and, ultimately, envy to push me away from my own group of people and for them to still embrace me with loving arms once I learned to see the world (and myself) through different pair of eyes.
I had a lot of growing up to do. I had to learn that blackness is vast and varied. I had to teach myself that my blackness has its place within the diaspora. My blackness is allowed to take up space amongst the spectrum. Often times, we learn to treat a stereotype as the archetype. I learned through the course of my 20s that I can be my own version of black and still have a place of belonging, of brotherhood amongst the men who look like me.
We are not without our flaws. Black men are foundational. We are strong. We bear the weight of the world on our shoulders and you'd think we were carrying feathers. We masquerade with a flat affect as we endure the incessant antagonisms from a world that sees us as 5th class citizens. We bear the scars of generational trauma etched onto our DNA. I marvel you, black man. I should marvel what I see in you in myself more often.
If I know anything for certain, it is that we are better together. I see it in our faces, in our body language. When another one of us enters a room. When we pass one another on the street. When we are surrounded amongst whiteness and another brother graces our path, we light up. In times of plight, of joy, of accomplishment, we seek the validation from similar black men who have experienced what we're going through. I've witnessed black masculinity undergo copious amounts of change and scrutinization within the past two decades. There is a still a long way to go, admittedly. The subject itself is polarizing. What I can tell you is that when it's in the right hands and used for good... it's beautiful.
Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my blog. Check back every Friday for new entries. I'll have email signups soon. Check out the gallery right above for some "outtakes." We had a lot of fun on this shoot. It was very impromptu and it's what sparked this blog entry. Just a bunch of black men showed up and showed out. Connections were made, amazing pictures were taken, and it was a great time.