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#ArtTransforms October 15, 2019

Photographer Jahmal Nugent talks SKETCH & Fresh City Farms micro-gallery collab

By Jonsaba Jabbi

Earlier this summer, SKETCH collaborated with city farm Fresh City Farms to create the SKETCH x Fresh City Farms Micro-Gallery to feature the work of artists from SKETCH’s Indie Studio program, a residency program for artists who are further along in their artistic practice who need to access to space, materials and mentorship. The featured artist of this period is Jahmal Nugent.

If you see Jahmal Nugent around Toronto, he’ll most likely have a camera. He is a movement and visual artist who tries to keep his photography fun and creative. He stays away from what’s ‘normal’ or ‘typical.’ He loves to grab his audience using colour contrast, and isn’t afraid to push/mix the boundaries of popular photography styles. When he’s not capturing shots, he’s facilitating media arts workshops at SKETCH. We spoke to him about art and community-building and why his collaboration with Fresh City Farms and SKETCH bridges the gap for emerging artists.

young black man standing looking down at a camera

Jahmal Nugent

SKETCH: Tell us who Jahmal is? Tell us about your art practice?

Jahmal: I’m a Scarborough kid at heart. Scarborough is home.

I moved around a lot between there and Pickering. But when I moved back to Scarborough, specifically Malvern, I was connected back to the cultural diversity that was missing when I was in Pickering. Around that time is when I got back into breakdancing, it was something I enjoyed doing because you don’t have to pay to dance.

So, I started attending weekly breakdancing workshops at Tropicana Community Centre back when it was at Scarborough Town Centre. But it wasn’t until I got into breakdancing that I embraced the idea of a community and the effects it can have on someone whether positive or negative.

About four years later, I started to think about my own contribution to the breakdancing community so I started to facilitate dance workshops where I thought about what facilitators were thinking on a deeper level while they were running their workshops.

One of my closest friends went to school for photography while I went to school to be a scientist. But I always had an interest in media. So my friend was like “You’ve been thinking about this for a while for as long as I’ve known you. So go buy a camera!”

So months later, I was walking past a Staples store and came across a camera that was on sale. So I bought it and then realized I needed an SD card for it and I only had $20 on me. So I bought the SD card with the last $20 I had. So I started going around the city, looking for things to capture.

But when I took my first picture, I realized, “Wow, I want to do this forever!”

Ferry towards the island, 8:30 PM

The combination of community-building through breakdancing and photography and having my passion intersect with these art forms was the fuel I needed. I even got a job at Yorkdale so that I can go downtown to take pictures at breakdancing events and competitions. I call it the Bermuda Triangle because I was living in Pickering so I would leave my job at Yorkdale to go downtown to take photos and then travel back all the way up to Pickering…all on transit!

So many things started happening to the point where I started thinking, “What can I do for my community? Is there more I can do?”

SKETCH: How did you hear about SKETCH?

Jahmal: Someone told me about SKETCH and then a few months later my partner mentioned SKETCH so I figured I’d check it out. But once I came and found out that there was free access to Adobe Lightroom, I started coming to SKETCH religiously. Any chance I got, I came to SKETCH.

Then I was introduced to Indie Studio which I was hesitant about because I didn’t see myself as an artist and it sounded like it was for serious artists. But getting into Indie Studio was a huge turning point for me because it meant I could do more. So from Mondays to Wednesday, I would schedule all my photoshoots and then Thursdays were my editing days at SKETCH during Indie Studio.

At SKETCH, I went from learning and acknowledging communities I was apart of to serving those communities. It was like putting a new pair of goggles on. But when I started to take part in the Transformative Justice training, I understood myself even more. 

 I have a better understanding of myself because of SKETCH which is why I want to do more for SKETCH.

SKETCH: Describe your creative process?

Jahmal: There are two sides to my creative process when it comes to photography. On one hand, it’s very thorough with a concept in mind and then I build downwards, such as a scene or a story I am trying to tell in a scene. It’s usually either story-based or aesthetic-based. On the other hand, I usually have an idea in mind and then I’ll put myself in the environment and make it happen. And it’s the same process for breakdancing as well.

Small Human, Solid Connection (2019)

 

SKETCH: Tell us about your photo series at the SKETCH x Fresh City Farms Micro-Gallery?

Jahmal: The Cherry Blossoms Piece came on a day when I finished running a workshop at SKETCH and I walking through Trinity Bellwoods when the blossoms were in bloom so I just started taking pictures. I even ended up running into everyone I know in Toronto and started taking pictures of them too!

With the other photos in the series, I wanted to express the individuality of a person in a photo to provoke some type of emotion. I wanted to convey what it means to be happy or sad or angry in a photo without words or context.

 

Full Bloom (2019)

SKETCH: Why do you think partnerships like this one are important from a community engagement point-of-view?

Jahmal: From an artist’s point-of-view, the SKETCH x Fresh City Farms Micro-Gallery streamlines the process where an artist can show their work on a larger scale. It gives artists more courage to go out and strive for the things they may not feel like they can achieve. Having a second entity like Fresh City Farms makes it easier.

This opportunity with Fresh City Farms started with me and now I get to pass that knowledge to my communities and workshops and share what I’ve learned.

The SKETCH x Fresh City Farms Gallery at their Ossington storefront location

SKETCH: Who or what are your inspirations?

Jahmal: The community is my inspiration. The people I interact with are my inspiration. I see things and get inspired all the time. The knowledge I get from them is an inspiration. A big percentage comes from the community and the other percentage comes from the support of my family.

I found out that my dad started following me on Instagram which was just mind-blowing!  So just the fact that my family acknowledges and supports my work means everything to me.

SKETCH: How has art transformed your life?

Jahmal: To be honest, if it wasn’t for art, dance, and photography, I wouldn’t be here on this earth. Dance came at the right time for me and when things started to go south for me, that’s when photography came in.

If you want to learn more about the SKETCH x Fresh City Farms Micro-Gallery or purchase Jahmal’s prints, contact david@sketch.ca.