Jah Grey, on the Black Male Body –  Julie Alexandra

Julie Alexandra: In what ways do you feel like your work displays, or challenges the radicalized stereotypes that society projects on black men?

Jah Grey: There are colonial histories and ideologies that have been attached to the black male body as a society when we think about how black men are “suppose” to be, feel, think and exist in our world. I choose to challenge this idea by photographing black men who don’t fit the label of the radicalized stereotypes. For example, the glorification of hyper-masculinity that society projects onto black men. I feel we often let society control and dictate who we are, where we belong and who we need to be and forget to carve out new spaces in ourselves for change, growth and evolution. Redefining the social norms of masculinity and rebelling against the constructs others place on our bodies and our identities is very important to me. We constantly conform to the ideals of society. The majority of my images display black mens bodies in a way the would never been shown in mainstream. Black men always “should” represent anger, intimidation, strength, hardness, we aren’t allowed to display softness, we aren’t allow to be vulnerable and I’m over all of that. I choose to showcase the friction between the idealized norm vs. the desired embodiment. I choose to explore the disconnect between the concept of masculinity and vulnerability. I want us to be able to live out loud and not feel silenced or shamed around our bodies, but feel able to express ourselves in any way we choose. I feel like by deconstructing this problematic binary we can all start confronting our fears about our bodies. It will enable us to embrace everything that we are, as individuals and as a community, encouraging the practice of self-love.

JA: Has exploring vulnerability through your photography allowed you to take steps to be more vulnerable in other aspects of your life?

JG: Yes it has helped me be more vulnerable in other aspects of my life. By exploring vulnerability through my photography it’s helped me to become more conscious, more educated on myself and others around me. While unpacking vulnerability I learned how fluid it is. How vulnerabilities look and feel different for everyone, how vulnerability will forever be a journey, you don’t just become vulnerable and then it’s done, there isn’t an end mark. I feel like the acknowledgement of that fluidity is extremely important to remember and apply to other aspects of life. From gender to sexuality, knowing that these things are fluid is a key factor in holding the capacity to be empathetic towards identities that are outside of your own. 

JA: Is there anything that you’re currently working on now?

JG:Yes I’m working on a couple of projects and collaboration that I’m not able to announce at the moment, but stay connected through my social media accounts. You can connect more with my work through Tumblr (www.jahgrey.tumblr.com), my website (www.jahgrey.com), and my Instagram and Facebook @jahgrey.