By Rakhi Mutta and Amanda Parris
Note from the Editor: Amanda Parris
In September we organized our first photo shoot. When brainstorming the theme with The Ride or Die Project Advisory Circle, the idea came up to create a shoot that would travel across time similarly to the play Other Side of the Game. Hence we arrived at Ride or Die Then and Now. Although The Ride or Die Project is not a racially specific initiative, it was really important for me to choose Black models for our first photo shoot. I wanted to centre these faces and these bodies first because when I sat in the visitors waiting room of the Don Jail waiting to see my friend and looked around it was these faces and these bodies that inspired the first seeds of an idea that later grew into The Ride or Die Project. Also as a Black woman who now has the privilege of being a content creator, it was important for me to create space to centre those who I rarely ever get to see in the media but who grace my real life with their beauty every day. Working with Rakhi Mutta and Addie Gyamfi to put together the shoot was an incredible pleasure as these ladies were willing to hustle and grind in order to make this vision become a reality. Many thanks go to both of them and to our brilliant makeup artist Asha Arabia, our behind-the-scenes documenter Alicia Bunyan-Sampson and our incredible models Muginga Antonio, Danilo McCallum, Rich Kidd, Cassy Walker and Kyauna Clarke. Note from the Photographer: Rakhi Mutta
Even with increased access to the internet, networking sites, camera phones, and mass media there remains few accurate representations of Women and People of Colour. Certain stories that have been deemed important have been told and retold leaving a large gap with certain communities being under represented. I have been a firm believer that our communities must tell our own stories. Stories help to heal, facilitate conversations and inspire discussions. They allow us to have our experiences validated, shared and celebrated. From the moment I heard about The Ride or Die Project I was immediately taken by it. I spent numerous nights thinking about why somebody hadn’t thought about creating such an important project before. The Ride or Die concept was ingrained into our brains from such a young age. Women have been silently living tales that should be made into motion pictures. There have been very few moments in my life that I have seen visuals that accurately represent me, my story, or represent in an honest and truthful way the people I care about. It has become my life’s vision to visually capture, recreate, and create images I wish I had been exposed to growing up.
Working with these models was a dream. Not only are they all beautiful from the inside out they are also critical and conscious. Their ability to evoke feelings of resistance and explore emotion made my job no job at all. It all felt natural. Choosing a favourite image would be impossible, however one that constantly sticks out is the close up image of the models sitting on each others’ laps and interacting naturally. It reminds me of how many carefree images of Black people we never see. It reminds me that moments of love, freedom, and spirit among Black people are rarely showcased. It reminds me of the relationships I see everyday, that I wish were showcased and celebrated in everyday media. It is my hope that the audience will be able to look at these photographs and see the past in the future.