On Thursday October 14th, the 13th floor of Neuehouse MSQ transforms into a space of discovery and the setting for a conversation on Joshua Renfroe’s “Black Boy Fly”.
Images of Black men in pointe shoes, shaking hands, playing basketball, exercising, combing their hair, among several other day-to-day tasks fill the room.
“The journey of the Black male is multifaceted, where both trial and triumph intersect on an extreme level. It’s an important story to tell,” says Renfroe. The goal for this project was to showcase the diversity of Black male culture in a 240 page hardcover photography book.
In an in-depth conversation hosted by Black Fashion Fair’s Antoine Gregory delves into what readers could expect when ordering their copy of “Black Boy Fly”. Sitting on a couch in front of a 150+ person audience, Antoine tells Renfroe, “When I ordered and received my copy of ‘Black Boy Fly’ I knew I had to do more for this”.
Renfroe smiles, and thanks Gregory. “Anyone can take a picture. It’s the concept and the post-production that makes it what it is. Those moments bringing out the energy of the subject, those moments creating and dressing it up and then presenting it.”
The conversation takes a turn to Renfroe’s production and creative process. “I mood board and put pen to paper to start. It’s important to surround yourself intentionally with things that inspire you. The day I shoot, I back everything up. And then during the production and editing process, I put on a little RnB or hip hop (whatever fits the mood of the shoot) and take my time in the lab to see what comes to me.”
It’s almost important to note that Renfroe is not technically trained. That’s right. After only a year of photography experience – all self-taught – Renfroe launched into creating “Black Boy Fly”. His journey started when he moved to NYC after college in Tuskegee, Alabama. “I used to go to SoHo and just people watch. It was so glamorous and fashionable that I knew I wanted to shoot streetstyle. I saved up for a camera and went to SoHo on weekends. The first time I went, I was so nervous that I walked around for fifteen minutes without speaking to anyone.”
Renfroe continues, “It started with me going every weekend, then two days after work, then every day after work. My curiosity grew and realized what I really wanted to do was something timeless.”
So began the story of “Black Boy Fly”. “I couldn’t wait for someone to give me an opportunity. I knew I needed to create this space for myself,” says Renfroe. “The way I wanted to do this was with printed work. It had always fascinated me.”
Why “Black Boy Fly”? “I knew I needed to create something showcasing Black male culture. We should be the ones telling our stories, conveying our culture. Black people are the most influential group but the most oppressed group.”
The audience snaps in agreement.
That’s not to say that Renfroe wouldn’t change a thing about his completed project. “I would have added more literature,” says Renfroe. “I also would have loved to shoot with my father. I just want to create more space for Black men. I would have also loved to capture more of the diaspora. Most of this shoot was NYC based.”
Regardless, Renfroe is content – for now. “Making this book was one of the best decisions of my life,” declares Renfroe. “I didn’t know this type of happiness existed.”
“What’s next on the agenda?” Gregory asks, as they bring the conversation to a close.
Renfroe thinks for a moment and smiles before saying, “Black Girl Fly. That’s the next move.”