Creation in Isolation: Othello Grey

Samantha Moya
May 11, 2020
Image Credit: Othello Grey

When you enter Othello Grey’s website, the only thing that greets you is a question in italic arial text, on a stark white background: “am i out of my mind yet?”

It’s a question that, during the physical isolation from the coronavirus pandemic, you may have asked yourself too. Am I? Is he? Are you?

Grey is a Toronto based editorial and fashion photographer who has been featured in publications like Ssense, Vogue and the New York Times. He has photographed musicians like Charlotte Day Wilson and BAMBII. Before the days of the pandemic, the AGO showcased a photo essay and artist talk with Grey. And while his creativity extends beyond photography —he recently  scored the trailers for visual artist Freddy Carrasco’s graphic novel, Gleem — mandatory isolation has put his creative process on hold.

“Initially the idea of adaptation seemed frivolous to me. What am I truly accomplishing through trying to work in these conditions?” Grey said. Instead, he chose an alternative. Rather than adapting his creative process he decided to shift his focus inwards, “analyzing what parts of myself are thriving, and which are deteriorating,” he said.

He is remaining connected through texts with his friends and visiting — from a distance — his mom and step-dad. But mostly he says his focus is on, “raising my awareness of what I feel now versus what I’ve felt in the past, what of these feelings are mine versus what is based on conditioning.” The pandemic has shown him to a new depth, the fragility of our society and he says he’s taking the time to reflect, reconfigure, unlearn and relearn where necessary.

Grey says his creative process is intertwined with his lifestyle beyond his control, it requires people and social interaction. Quarantine has changed that possibility. “The inability to share space with people I truly care about or want to document has put a definite pause on my life as a photographer — I don’t currently have any desire to try to ‘figure it out’,” he said.

Grey might not be in the process of making new work, but his creations remain alive on the internet. He shares a glimpse of his process on his website, for one shoot two bodies are pushing each other over. He shares that the idea came to him in a dream. One subject's arms wrap around the other, the contrast of their shirts and movement of their arms create a feeling of balance and chaos.

“Essentially every aspect of joy is based on interactions with others so I felt it necessary to once again tighten my ability to find joy within”

Othello Grey for Nomad Toronto's WCROW A/W19 editorial, "Stalemate"

These photos are a part of Stalemate, an editorial shoot for Nomad, a menswear store in Toronto that features the WCROW AW19 collection. He has written candidly about some of the experiences that happen on set and consistently shows support for his friends and their work. “Thank you to Jonah and Jasmine for tackling one another for 40 minutes with me on a chilly day haha, love you both.”

Grey says looking forward it’s likely that downsizing to be more concise with the amount of people on set will be necessary because of the uncertain future with the course of the virus .

“Essentially every aspect of joy is based on interactions with others so I felt it necessary to once again tighten my ability to find joy within,” he says.

Photo shoots depend on the ability to gather and Grey’s alternative to it is only dependent on himself. “I am totally comfortable being by myself and this process is me working on strengthening that bond.”

Last Stream: A Glittering Gem Is Not Enough with Kendra Yee
Last Stream: A Glittering Gem Is Not Enough with Kendra Yee