Interview | Othello Grey
Favorite thing to do besides photography or design?
Secretly music, it’s a side project I approach as an exhibition for my emotions that I’ll release one day.
Grey of course, the tribunal for the mundane, uncertain, conformity the ‘grey area’, the middle point between clarity. It’s my favourite colour because it’s a constant reminder of 2 things,
1 : To exist in the grey area before making decisions based on conditioning/what I think I know/reactionary emotions.
2 : To evade all the negative symptoms of it’s association (mundanity, conforming, boredom).
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Honestly, I would love to be able to live in the world of the future. There’s a cognitive energy within this generation and a large sector of adults to shift the paradigm. All of the dated/flawed societal structures we’ve abided by for far too long are being aggressively challenged, I would love to be alive during the time when the shift has finally happened and everyone co exists harmoniously.
Favorite place to shoot?
I don’t have a specific favourite place but I really enjoy the process in itself of selecting my location. Scouting, then color blocking the outfits to location/matching styling to the location, model to the location, are they juxtaposed or is there a synergy etc. The mixture of intuition and structure during that process is really exhilarating for me.
My first camera was a ...
Praktica Super TL
“As I was going up the stairs
I met a man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today,
I wish I wish he'd go away”
When and how did your journey as an artist begin?
Very young instinctively being obsessed with cartoons, sketching, acting, writing poetry, reading the dictionary for leisure and being made fun of for it. I didn’t know it but I was always searching for new ways to exercise my emotions none of the outlets I was using really stuck though. Which now in hindsight I realize was because all of the outlets at that time made me feel too vulnerable. My sketchbook worked a double as a personal diary for fragmented thoughts, my poems and writing were also too directly tied to my personal experiences and I just couldn’t bare to share them with other people. I stumbled into photography when I got older and it’s proven to be the perfect sanctum where I can be vulnerable but not in a way where I’m the focal point.
What inspired you to pursue photography/design?
At the beginning it had a lot to do with my obsession/fear of age and time, I wanted to capture the ephemeral knowing that there was a large chance that I would forget and if I forgot any moment of my life did it really happen? Would I crave to know who I was again at X age on X day? My father passed away when I was a teenager and that had a lot of effects on the way I interacted with existing. I knew so much and so little about him, all I had to know of his life before I was born were photos. We never had a dialogue where I was me and he was him, it was always he is father and I am son. A lot of what I do now is based on that time in my life. Questioning what my purpose was, thrust into understanding the temporary nature of everything that we love. I constantly wonder if anyone cared to search for who I was what would they find and could I leave enough of myself through photos I’ve taken to help them understand me and also could I leave enough behind to help me understand me.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Personal experiences. A lot of the stories I try to tell with my work come from people I’ve interacted with or things I’ve felt. At one point in my photographic journey, I was determined to be a minimalist, I finally realized in the last few years that pursuit was actually me running from myself. Stripping all context from the image and only having the subject for one I didn’t know the responsibility I had as a ‘black artist’ and I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable or tell my own stories yet. So instead of adding layers/depth/substance, I took everything away and just sought out ‘pretty’ places and ‘pretty’ people (which at the time was from eyes with a strongly conditioned viewpoint of what ‘pretty’ was). I’ve completely altered that approach and have been able to add various dialogues into my work (and continue to try to expound upon that), whether it be directly or indirectly. I don’t believe that you have to always explain everything, there are ways to have a dialogue visually without the meaning being obvious. Information and self-awareness are such powerful tools, they’ve aided me in more ways than I can express.
What artists in your field have influenced your work?
Neva Wireko is my biggest inspiration, other than that I look inward rather than outward. Spending too much time quantifying my work based on others work was destructive for me. Of course, we all have references but I think it’s endearing to see someones work and not entirely be able to pinpoint who they’re influenced by. I hope I can get to a point where alongside aiding in visibility for POC and social change within my work that I can give people that feeling of feeling something for the first time when seeing a photo. I may or may not be there right now, I’ll never really know lol but I’ll get there eventually, the journey is the reward.
What is the most significant project you have worked on? Where did you find inspiration to pursue it?
I don’t think I’ve completed my most significant project just yet. I’m actually in the midst of working on a few personal projects now that I believe will be my most significant. The inspiration to pursue them came from an analysis of my surroundings and inward reflection. What would I need if I was a black artist (or any POC) without reference points for how to be, who to be or where to belong? I’m tackling that dialogue and trying to aid in visibility and understanding. I will say I'm extremely anxious to complete them though- they're my magnum opus.
What general process do you undergo to produce your work?
I like to not answer these kinds of questions because with the internet I think it’s too easy to read an interview with your favourite artist, see what camera or scanner or medium they use and go do it just like them. My journey was based so much on trial and error and figuring it out and it’s molded me to have this 5th gear. The answers from my previous questions I think answers this question indirectly. It’s unfortunate but the digital age has relegated self-discovery to it’s most trivial form “we want it now, we’re entitled to it now, why shouldn’t we have it now?”. All of these wonderful tools we’ve been given are being misused as crutches rather than keys.