Introducing yet another talented creative mind, as part of our Black History Month celebration.
Black History Month kicked off on Thursday, October 1st and ends on Saturday, October 31st – it is a fantastic chance to recognise the outstanding contributions people of African and Caribbean descent have made to our society.
Although our peers feel that efforts for a more diverse industry are being made; we still think that the actions taken are surface level, and black people are a rarity in our industry.
We spoke to black creatives who contribute significantly to their field and have asked them words of advice for current and future artists of colour wanting to break through the creative industry.
Josh is a Technical Project Manager at HelpDesk Heroes, our digital division, as well as an avid photographer. He provides his insightful perspective on what it means to grow up with mixed-raced heritage in a society that holds on tight to skin-colour based labelling and what makes him all the more determined.
When did you start photography and, how did you develop an interest in technology? They are very different – how do they affect each other in your life?
My interest in photography started in primary school. We had a film crew which was led by a professional cameraman. We would film school trips and create videos to portray our school. Since then, I’ve expanded my skills in photography through elective courses in both secondary school and college.
Technology for me started at home at a very young age. My Dad, once upon a time, was a very tech-savvy man and he would build and tinker with computers and I would help. I’m part of a rare group of my generation because I know what a floppy disk is and I can say that I’ve installed Windows using them.
How has your upbringing influenced the work that you do today?
Being surrounded by technology at a young age and being so involved in the taken apart and fixing of computers made them become second nature to me. At an early stage in my life, I had planned to become an architect, but things didn’t seem to fall into place. So, when I reflected on my life, I realised I was running away from something that was right in front of me.
As a mixed-race person, how do you feel about skin colour labels (Black and white) and have these labels affected your relations with other people?
These two labels have always been awkward for me because I’m neither black nor white. To white people, I am black, and, to black people, I am white, and so I have never really been accepted by either. My mother’s (white) influence on my life was a lot stronger than my dad (black). More often than not, I’ve been called the whitest black man people know.
As an individual of mixed-race heritage, how do you feel about black history month? What does it mean to you?
Black history month means a lot to my Dad, and for most of my life, it had been a celebratory time for him to unleash his knowledge and for me, it was a great time to learn more about my Caribbean heritage. My Dad has struggled with racism from both sides, given that he chose to marry outside of his colour. He would use this month to touch on subjects like racial prejudice and discriminatory behaviours to my brother and me.
Reflecting back now, were there any elements in your day-to-day that made you aware of your skin colour?
It didn’t take very long to become aware of my skin. At a young age, my Dad prepared my brother and me for how we could be perceived, and I have memories of being very young and shopping with my mom and been followed around by security.
Has your skin colour played a role in your career opportunities? Where are you today & why?
Yes, it made me try harder. I was taught from a young age that society doesn’t favour people from different cultural heritage, due to the colour of my skin, life would be harder than most. I knew that from the get-go, I would have to try harder. An example of this is I am always overdressed for any occasion. This helps me fight against stereotyping and grant me the level of respect that otherwise wouldn't be there.
How would you describe your photography work?
Looking back on my photography work, it is a great representation of my emotional and personal growth. At a time, I would only take pictures of cities at night when there was no one around and didn’t discuss my work with anyone. As of lately, it involves a lot more people and model photography in the day. It just the colours alone you can see that I’ve opened up as a person, as I’ve gone through life.
How did you go from wanting to be an Architect to co-founding HelpDesk Heroes?
Once I had decided to pursue what felt right for me and chose to commit to IT, I finished an apprenticeship and started working as a software developer. As I had the vision for my life in my head, I decided that I needed to change my surroundings and moved to London. It was there that I met the friends that I now call family. After working closely with my new team in London for roughly a year, we decided to expand on our skillsets and started reaching out to new clients, from there, HelpDesk Heroes was born.
How do you incorporate your photography into your life now?
HelpDesk Heroes has become my life, and on some days it feels like I’m working 3 full-time jobs and other days it feels like we’re just a bunch of friends having fun at work. Photography has become a great way for me to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. It allows me to capture moments and spend time with friends and even meet new people.
What advice would you give your younger self?
We grow up thinking that we have to discover who we are and we spend a lot of time worrying about if it’s right. Understand that this is a choice. You get to decide who you are going to be. Once you have decided, do everything in your power (and then some) to become that person. Your surroundings will change, but if you stay true to that vision, then everything in life will start to fall into place.