National Geographic, TIME and New York Times Contributor. Fujifilm X-Photographer.
May 19, 2018
In Plain Sight -
Lives bowed towards earth
like fallen stars,
streak and litter street sides
like dust balls.
Bodies rolled up like fetuses
on grey cold grounds,
marking the concrete like dried carcasses.
I search for a face,
looking for any semblance
of their history.
I listen to their stories;
old tattered hymns now muted
within their hollowed souls.
But they are there.
Singing , smiling, shouting -
In Plain Sight.
they sing to a passing soul,
riffing on rotted necks,
their finger boards shaky,
now impossible to hold a key much less find the answers to fill their empty stomachs.
they look to dismissive eyes.
Nature and my lens
refuse to forget them.
Their ancestors reach out
with words, songs and imagery on their behalf,
plastering signs for us
on cold colourful wall papers - In Plain Sight. #whenlivingisaprotest#fujifilmxt2#fujifilmx100f@fujifilmx_us#ruddypoem
April 29, 2018
I often enjoy my trips to rural America because of its colour, a lot of pun intended. There isn’t just one thing. It is the colour of yellow weeds, the stance of the ancient trees, the cracklings of an overused bridge, the sound of the cold breeze amplifying the voices of our choked ancestors. I sift through the music I listen to here. I prefer to look into a clear sky for inspiration. The Delta, with its massive muddy waters reflect its skies in the drawl, accent, songs and stories of its people.
“In rural America, the powerful white institution isn't an institution- it is a friend and a neighbor. I grew up in southeast Missouri; acres of delta farmland.
My grandfather was a farm laborer born in Luka Mississippi. He had very limited education. My grandmother, a native Missourian had more access to education and saw great value in it. She continued to educate herself daily until death. My mother and I shared their household for most of my formative years. I embraced my grandmother’s set of ideals.
In doing so, unbeknownst to me, I created a space for myself. I thrived in the performing arts. Everyone likes a smiley kid who can sing and dance and hasn't any opinions.
Living in the aforementioned proximity doesn't necessarily make one privy to the conversations of the "other side", not the candid ones. But access to more social interaction does. I would venture to say that especially standing in a room of urban black Americans, I am one of the few who has ever heard a white person say the word "nigger" from his guts! Saying it and meaning it. Using it in context to describe that foreign species of human like creature who prepared his meals, nursed his children, cleaned his house, manicured his yard.
The urban black is removed from this. He can't see it so closely. He also can't see all the goodness that creates a sense of conflict. A certain "Stockholm"-like feeling. Almost like an abusive relationship.
I think of the lyrics of "My Man": "I don't know why I should,
He isn't true,
He beats me too..
What can I do?
My man is "the man". “ - Kerry. #whenlivingisaprotest#fujifilmgfx50s#cairo@fujifilmx_us@kerry_davis33
Photo by @ruddyroye // Captured #withgalaxy S9, produced with @samsungmobileusa // Brooklynite photographer Wyatt Gallery and his new bride, fashion designer Anya Ayoung Chee, spend a sunny Saturday shopping for their new apartment. “Of course there is a mix of excitement and nervousness, or uncertainty. But overall it feels like this new journey was chosen for us by a higher power and is a true blessing. Maktub,” Wyatt said. I caught up with both of them while shopping in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. “We just got married in January, in Trinidad, and just moved into a new apartment. Everything is new, and there is a lot happening all at the same time.”
April 17, 2018
Anita Briscou stood across 169th Street beset against a cavalry of garbage cans, and the dimming light of the borough with the broken reputation of being the poorest district in the nation. I was on assignment, so I was only able to look at these drab, unfamiliar streets from my ignorant periphery. “More than a quarter million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty,” according to the Daily News. Narcotics are not the only anesthetic here. I watch people like concert goers, flocking to stores and Bodegas and leaving with Lotto cards and scratch offs, somnolent.
Escape was everywhere. From the Cross to the Beauty and Barber shops.
Ally saw me walking on Gunhill Road and asked if I could take her photo. Her slanting mouth produced the sweetest smell of stale liquor. Her eyes were exhausted , and her ears tired from listening to her abusive husband who seemed jealous that she was calling to me. I gave her the attention, too. He was enraged.
It is easy for people to walk by and not see people here. It is easy to ignore everyday plight, of hardships, struggles, sorrow and illness. I see the anguish replicated in the faces of everyday people. I see them, hurling themselves from one escape to the next, from plague to pizza shop, from ball game to barber shop. Hope spreads its wings like the sunset over each faithful resident in search of that promise. The construction of a greater America seems to have lost its way or does not have enough fare to get to the Bronx. I walk around the Bronx looking for reflections of me, and sometimes I am lucky. #whenlivingisaprotest#bronxportraits#fujifilmxt2@fujifilmx_us
March 31, 2018
The FISHer Price
It is still fresh in my mind, this feeling; like a spiteful, unflagging hammer, beating against a capitulated mallet, reshaping my attitude towards mental illness and invisibility.
My head feels like a modeled wood, — adapting.
Last week I spent eight days photographing the faces of people who seemingly dipped their faces inside what you and I deemed to be reality, rising up after our baptism, labeled normal. The result is a moment of clarity that is still shaping my life.
Today I got up out of bed and watched my boys propped up in front of the television playing their Nintendo. In my mind I asked the silent voice, should I teach them the Easter story even though I no longer believe in it’s significance or relevance in my life.
I also asked the voice in my belly to give me a sign today, so that I might mold this sculpture better.
Thirteen minutes later I pass by this figure, burdened by the black winter garb that carved itself around his black skin, sitting on a store front.
The sign above is head said “Available” and he seemed to be scanning through his bible.
“Do you believe in the Ten Commandments,” he asked me.
“In a way,” I answered.
“Well I am going to teach you something today. Stop believing in these stories. God does not exist in the church, he exist all around us. Just follow the Ten Commandments, that’s it I have nothing else to say.”
“What is your name,” I asked.
“Fisher,” he answered smiling.
Then he turned away. #whenlivingisaprotest#brooklynportrait#bedstuyportrait#easter#sign#fujifilmx100f@fujifilmx_us
March 30, 2018
I arrived first on campus in the late evening in the Fall. I walked into campus and landed right in the middle of a conversation surrounding what it takes to maintain ones identity on a campus among the faces of so many from all over the diaspora.
But the campus was buzzing with energy. These were the last few months of the semester and flyers and posters advertising the next party were being hoisted over heads or passed around with smiles and anticipation.
I tried to keep up. Choosing first what felt familiar before moving to the more unaccustomed. Jouvert was my baptism.
I then moved on to the lettered clubs. I had no idea about Greek culture, or its place on a black campus so of course I tried everything but don my Toga apparel to ensure that I fit in. There is so much to discuss here but that needs it’s own set of ten images.
The students had me running from one section of the campus to the other. Sometimes I found myself at a few clandestine venues with bouncers and security for oil spills and nupes.
The smallest group event I attended was hosted by the African students organization. Granted this was pre-Wakanda Forever so my prediction is that the groups numbers will triple this semester.
I patrolled the dorms, listened to the adventures and stories the young men echoed with gallantry. I was sympathetic for all of those including me who had to wake up before 5am to head to ROTC training. But I had to assume that none of those guys left heir dorms or partied too much because they were up before the darkness released its grasp of the light.
Its fair to say as much as these young men study and organize, they had fun. I definitely could not keep up. #whenlivingisaprotest@fujifilmx_us
March 29, 2018
I recalled that on my first trip to Morehouse, I was saddled with frustration, with a camera on each arm, I searched for the next great Orator who might be in training. After all, I was visiting during some of the most tumultuous times of racial unrest in this Trump era. However on my second trip, I was told that Dr. King’s civil rights movement had stalled and needed the efforts of both the women of Clark Atlanta and Spelman - so I changed focus.
Seemed to me that the original T’Challa might have been a Morehouse Man.
I recalled staying up late one night with the SGA committee to witness a graffiti of the N word, then watched Brown Street spill over with articulate reflections on why, who, and if the word has a place in today’s lexicon.
I attended classes and watched as professors teased and nurtured the activist and the student in each boy. I also observed young men redefining gender identities and casting away binary definitions.
While I was there, an infamous letter turned up on Brown Street with a number of students debating over whether It was ok for Spelman to start allowing men who have lived as women over a period of time to attend the college. Meanwhile a woman who had been transitioning to a man bemoaned the idea that men like him would not be allowed to attend Spelman. I found activism to be the heart of Brown Street, and the most beautiful part was, it had no gender identity there. #whenlivingisaprotest@fujifilmx_us
March 28, 2018
The “Morehouse Man”
Already people have been asking me questions about this new Race issue by National Geographic. Without sounding too much as if I am defending decisions made by the magazine of which I was not privy, let me just say this, ...it took the Creator seven days, let us all keep working.
Moving on, I want to introduce these faces that I came to know and appreciate while I was on the campuses of the AUC - specifically Morehouse.
I arrived on campus with a demo script, and my nostrils open. After all, this is the college where Martin Luther King, Spike Lee and my favourite Samuel L Jackson attended. And — there are beautiful stories too. One student opened up about learning that Dr. King fell from a dorm window. I had to go and see from what heights he fell, and another told me how Samuel Jackson was expelled from Morehouse for locking a few board members in a building for two days, in protest of the school’s curriculum.
At every turn there is that question, who is a Morehouse Man? It is the fabric that makes up their mold, and one that takes each student through a ceremony of some sorts culminating in his graduation, if he gets that far. But whether it is those dapper young men in their bow ties, grey or blue suits, or the student strolling to class in his du rag and sweats, in my time there I was introduced to a multitude of ideas and examples of what it means to be a Morehouse Man. To tell you the truth, these young men have no idea how good they have it under the guidance of men like Professor Illya Davis. The joke between he and I was would I send my sons to Morehouse and each time my answer was “Hell Naw!!!” I was conflicted. But by the end of my time there I truly realized that black men like of all shade, and fades, ideas, and idioms, nature or our nurturing can be a Morehouse Man — he is not monolithic. #whenlivingisaprotest@fujifilmx_us
March 21, 2018
Photo by @ruddyroye // Captured #withgalaxy Note8, produced with @samsungmobileusa //
I have watched Thomas Barner accompany his daughter Zoe to school every day, once in the morning and also at the end of the day. It has always been beautiful to see how caring he is while giving her room to hang with her friend after class lets out. Then, they make the long trek back to Bed-Stuy Brooklyn from her school in Fort Green. It has never been a common sight in Brooklyn, to see a father and daughter so visible and so committed to their routine. “I am here, because she is learning from me. Our girls learn from us fathers how they should be treated, first by boys and hopefully after by the men they meet in their lives. It is why you see me every day,” Thomas said.
March 16, 2018
Recently I was introduced to the term “Hotep.” Even though I am unclear of its colloquial beginnings, what I am clear about is after this week my commitment to the souls waiting on the edges is resolute.
Whether it be poverty, homelessness, mental illness, disenfranchisement, estrangement, abandonment; if looking and seeing the people of less defines me as a Hotep, then I am one. If I am clueless when it comes to black wealth, the new Afrocentricity, black progress, then I am Hotep. If walking by a staggering figure makes me stop and listen to one’s fading stories, or acknowledge the splintered tales of a fragmented mind, then I am Hotep. If echoing these stories, these broken, fraying, shattered and fractured snippets of the human condition makes me a whore for misery porn, then today I embrace my new label as Hotep, the “Misery Mongerer.” After this week, I am more tenacious, unswerving and unfaltering in my bid to do village work. I want to tell stories without unenlightened hands, helping to overwrite and undermine the traumas I witness daily. And so, yet again, I march forward. #whenlivingisaprotest#fujifilmgfx50s#fujix100f@fujifilmx_us
March 13, 2018
The FU28263D Food Stamp card that he is holding is one of his most prized possessions.
“It’s like the government has a sense of humour. I feel like those two letters in front of my number is how they truly feel about us mentally ill,” 42 year old Brandt Allain chuckled as we spoke yesterday.
I was on assignment sitting in the Starbucks outside the Bronx Council Hall of Justice when he walked over and asked if I could photograph him.
I told him to sit, he asked if i was sure and then his eyes secreted a thin sheet of tears.
“I was sitting over there trying to write music so that people can see I have changed my life. I even quit smoking and drinking. I come to the methadone program here in the Bronx and it takes a long time to get here, so when I am here, I just spend some time making music so that they won’t take away my food stamp card.”
I stepped outside and met Christina. Originally from Greenfield Massachusetts, she moved to West Virginia when she was nine.
“My husband and I needed a change and a friend gave us a place to stay here in the Bronx so we could have a fresh start.”
I walked another thirty feet and was accosted by a strong heavy odor of K2. The young man was shoved against a wall sucking on a synthetic version of marijuana.
All around the court area, I watched as people watched people dying, sucking on hopelessness or abandonment. I will have to come here more often. #bronxportrait#fujix100f@fujifilmx_us
March 12, 2018
As far back as I can remember Anthony has always carried his trauma around his neck like a millstone. I recount many days watching him slowly walking his large Airedale Terrier, up and down the changing Macdonough street “depressed.” I use to watch his face peering into the swapping and the switching of faces, eagerly looking for a wink, a familiar shout from a stoop — echoes of a bygone Brooklyn.
Which is why I was not surprised when he sent me a photo to say this was his response to receiving a letter claiming that he was “essentially robbed by Toyota.”
“They took about $5000 of my money and when they got caught turned around and offered everyone $150.” It was like the volcano that was trapped in his throat had finally breached its tender center.
Why have you engaged in such a visceral and public showing of your anger? “People are unaware. Even though the physical slavery has ended, we are still dealing with economic slavery. In this scenario, blacks and Asians were being charged higher interest rates by Toyota.” How did you feel when you found out? “I felt like a modern day slave living in America. These chains have not yet been broken.” Elaborate please. “You have big corporation charging people of colour interest rates without any body going to jail. They stole our lives and now they are taking our future. I feel like they are stealing from our unborn and our babies.”
And like on cue “Something Gotta Give,” by Jane Monheit blares from his speaker as he listens to 88.3 on the radio.