This year TO Lives’ Exhibit Ears, Eyes, Voice is honouring black photographers for their incredible works of art spanning 30 years.
Eddie Grant is one of the photographers featured; an experienced photographer with more than 40 years in the business. His creativity, eye for detail, technical skills as well as a passion for photography have taken him across the globe, capturing history makers, including Desmond Tutu and Harry Bellafonte.
Eddie is currently the resident photographer at the Jamaican Consulate General Office, and ByBlacks.com had an opportunity to speak with him about his journey, and Ears, Eyes, Voice.
How did you get into photography?
Eddie: It started when I went to the beach with a friend of mine in London. I was taking photographs of my friend and they thought I was pretty good. I took their advice and went to College to study it formally, and that’s where it all began.
How did you get involved with Ears, Eyes, Voice?
Eddie: Someone from B.A.N.D (Black Artist's Network Dialogue) contacted me, and when I met with them, they told me about a project that they were doing, and that they were looking for photographs dating back to the 70s and 80s. I worked with the Government of Jamaica in London, England and here in Canada. I had my own weekly column in the Jamaican Sunday Gleaner and one in the weekly Star known as Toronto Turntable (which only discontinued last year in 2019) so I knew the kind of photographs that would interest them. I took a bunch of photographs and showed them, and they chose the ones that they liked.
What kinds of photos should people expect to see? Can they expect to see pageant or protest photographs?
Eddie: Both! All the protest marches and all of the Beauty pageants such as Miss Black Ontario, Miss Canadian Jamaican, and Miss Jamaican Association (just to name a few that readily come to mind). People will see that as a writer and photographer, I have been busy capturing important events that affect the Black Canadian community.
What do you hope people will walk away with after seeing your work?
Eddie: I hope people, especially the young ones, will be educated on what Blacks have been subjected to. I hope someone will learn of some of the historical events that have taken place.
What major changes have you seen in Toronto culturally since you started taking pictures?
Eddie: Wow. There are a lot of changes. Firstly, in those days people were very vocal in standing up for the Black Canadian community; people like the late Charles Roach, Dudley Laws, and Sherona Hall. Secondly, there weren't as many crimes taking place in those days compared to today, and thirdly, the police were more anti-Black than they are today, but keep in mind that there is still racism in the police force today.
Who would you love to take a picture of and why?
Eddie: The Obamas. Obama is the first Black president of the USA, and despite the racial opposition he and his family faced, especially during his presidency, they have always taken the high road. To date, Obama is still one of the most popular presidents. Michelle still ranks among the classiest and most educated First Ladies. Yes, I would love the opportunity of photographing them.
What motivates you to continue photography?
Eddie: Most times I don't do it for financial gain but for the love of it. It's the love of it, the essence of capturing different areas, things, people, and places that keeps me going. If I didn't love it, I would have been out of it a long time ago.
Photography really is an art of storytelling. When you take photographs, is there something you have in mind that you want to display or do you just take pictures? Would you encourage more Black Canadians to go into photography?
Eddie: There is something specific I'm looking for in that photograph. I don't just take pictures. It could be something about the person, the smile, and or maybe the way they are standing. There are different things that I look for in photographs. It is an art form, and it really tells a story. I would encourage youngsters and more people to get involved in it.
Lucy Oneka is a playwright and journalist. She has covered many stories for Toronto-based newspapers such as the East York Observer, the Scarborough Observer, and the Toronto Observer. Lucy’s other passion is music. She is a two-time semi-finalist of the prestigious UK Song Writing Contest and recently released her own debut gospel album, “You Are Faithful”