Pictures that tell stories: Roye’s ongoing photography project centres on the queer Caribbean experience…
By Christopher Turner
Brianna Roye was one of the first people in Canada to get her hands on Apple’s latest release, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and she put it to good use. The Toronto-based photographer used the device to shoot the latest iteration of her ongoing ‘Out of Many, One People’ project, a portrait series where she documents and photographs 2SLGBTQI+ people of Caribbean descent.
Roye is a queer Jamaican-Canadian woman who graduated from Humber College’s Creative Photography program in 2013, and ever since then, she has been telling stories with her camera, documenting her community and combating the erasure of marginalized communities.
“From a young age I’ve always wanted to tell stories,” Roye told IN Magazine. “I loved writing and that grew into me going to school for journalism. I quickly figured out that it wasn’t the career for me, but the itch to tell stories remained. I had the opportunity to use cameras and take a photography course during that program, and found I really enjoyed it. From there, I started taking photos, and I haven’t stopped since then.”
Jamaica achieved independence in 1962, and chose the motto ‘Out of Many One People’ to appear on its national Coat of Arms, a reflection of the population’s multiracial roots. The motto was intended as a tribute to unity, but today the motto is a source of discomfort to some, especially queer-identifying Jamaicans, who don’t feel included and are regularly subjected to discrimination and violence. Roye created her portrait series ‘Out of Many, One People’ in 2016 as a way to work through her discomfort with the motto and to help her community feel included by documenting and photographing 2SLGBTQI+ people of Caribbean descent.
“The Jamaican phrase ‘Out of Many, One People’ was originally conceived to highlight the racial diversity of the island, and its cultural mosaic,” says Roye. “Growing up, I heard this phrase quite often and it always made me uncomfortable. Me, and people like me, weren’t included in this sentiment. This series pushes back against that homophobia and serves as archival documentation for what it means to be queer and Caribbean.”
In recent years, Roye has been expanding her series, shooting in and around Toronto using social media as a way to find her subjects.
“Posting call-outs gets a great reaction, especially since a lot of queer people find refuge in online communities,” says Roye. “Many of the people I photograph are people I’m in community with, or friends of friends. The people I photograph are real everyday folks, some are models, some artists – all are amazing people.”
Roye photographed her latest series using the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max, which was unveiled (along with the highly anticipated iPhone 15, 15 Plus and 15 Pro) earlier this month in Cupertino, California, at Apple’s headquarters. The standard iPhone 15 models will have an improved camera system that will allow for greater optical zoom, switching from a 12-megapixel main camera sensor to a 48-megapixel version, while the iPhone 15 Pro models will have three cameras (similar to previous models), and a 48-megapixel main camera sensor. The iPhone 15 Pro Max camera will have several new and updated features, including 5X optical zoom, changing the game for anyone looking to capture a moment with the smartphone.
“As a photographer who primarily shoots on film, I like photos to feel organic, warm and intimate. Shooting with the new iPhone definitely aided in that experience,” says Roye. “It didn’t feel invasive, and it was easy to interact with the subjects while photographing them. My main priority while photographing folks is making them feel seen, safe and comfortable.”
“The integrated portrait mode feature in photo mode was definitely one of my favourites,” Roye adds. “I love having easy access and control to camera settings – it makes things feel more professional and customizable. Which is why I also enjoyed the new lenses: being able to flip through different focal lengths in the camera helped a lot since I like shooting between 35 mm-50 mm for portraits.”
Of course, this isn’t the end of Roye’s ongoing ‘Out of Many, One People’ queer portrait series. You can check out more of her photography at briannaroye.com or follow her personal projects on Instagram at @briannablank.
The Apple iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are available online and in stores on Friday, September 22, 2023. Visit apple.ca for more information.