Pockets of Haven (2022 – ongoing) documents the safe spaces or ‘havens’ of Black creatives in Tkaronto/Toronto. The images reflect each subject’s individual personality and what all these individuals do in their spaces in order to feel comfortable, regardless of whether they built or found these spaces. The photographs are intended as a means of understanding and re-defining what safe spaces truly are. Originally inspired by the interconnectedness of body and space, Rahim was asked to create a diptych that incorporated both elements into a single assignment. Later, he came to realize there existed an intersection of comfort within one’s body and within one’s space, something that was unique to him and his Blackness. In this body of work, Rahim explores the authenticity of personal spaces – as forms of havens or as safe spaces – within the Black community. Confronting the subject matter of his past works, Rahim feels as if this project marks a shift in his practice. Earlier projects of his have spoken to the more negative repercussions of being Black: racism, police brutality, and cultural appropriation. However, an intentional shift to communicate a positive message is what characterizes this project. Pockets of Haven is a love letter to the community that surrounds Rahim. These images create a visual experience of the comfort we feel by being ourselves – our unique, authentic, beautiful selves.
Describe how you envision the end result of your project. If it is a work in progress please indicate your planned completion date.
My vision for the final result of the work would be to emulate a safe space itself. In terms of emotion, feeling, colour, and light, I find these things to be some of the prominent characteristics artists and people in general consider when building or looking for a comfortable, safe space. A medium I would display it in would be textile fabric because it exists in so many forms and is used for so many things that a connection already exists when people see it. From clothing, headwear, furniture, and comfort items silk satin is one of the most recognizable yet soothing fabrics available. My goal would be to print the images from this series on silk satin and exhibit them in a way that naturally and comfortably flows with the space that they are in, similar to how the bodies of the artists exist in such spaces.
What inspired you to create this project? Include any relevant artists.
I was asked to create a diptych that incorporated both body and space for an assignment. I took interest in the interconnectedness of the two and later came to realize there existed an intersection of comfort within one’s body and within one’s space, something that was unique to my Blackness. However, this project marked a shift in my practice, earlier projects of mine have spoken to the more negative repercussions of being Black: racism, police brutality, and cultural appropriation. But my inspiration allowed for an intentional shift to communicate a more positive message with this project. Pockets of Haven exists as a love letter to the community that surrounds me. The way I source my inspiration is quite different from the usual way most artists do. I pull fragments or specific elements from many works that inspire me and then embody those elements in the work I create. For Pockets of Havens, I was inspired by the artists, Aanchal Malhotra, Lucas LaRochelle, and Rahim Fortune. These artists all possessed something that caught my interest when conceptualizing this work and the visual techniques they used in their work helped me in executing mine.
Describe any challenges you faced creating this project, and the solutions that helped you to overcome these problems.
In the first two years of my university studies, I exclusively photographed myself or resulted to landscape photography as an escape. I wasn’t used to photographing other people, let alone documenting their personal space or home. This was the biggest challenge I faced when creating this project, but as many people have said before, taking risks can change you and your practice for the better. A solution I employed to help me overcome the fear of photographing other people was to have a conversation with the subjects days in advance of our shoot date. This allowed us to establish a connection between one another before we engaged in a very intimate process. I found that when I would explain what the project was about, share personal details about myself, and ask what they thought about my ideas that it made the entire execution a whole lot easier and less intimidating than I thought. Now as I reflect on the work, this will most definitely be a technique I use for the rest of my creative career.
What are you most proud of about this project?
As I move along the years of university, I always find myself looking forward to seeing the new work I produce at the end of each term. I think what I’m most proud of is the success I’ve been able to experience with risk taking in regards to creative ideas. This project deals with a very important topic that deserves conversation around it in the art community and is something I deeply care about. I’m proud of every photograph I was able to take during this project, every subject that I’ve reached out to and who is a part of this work, and everyone that has shared their thoughts about the project with me. Building community and holding conversations about important topics like this one motivate me to keep on creating and building more bodies of work in the future!
Have you had any success getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?
Yes, as of recently I’ve had my first two group exhibitions open in the city! Some advice I’d share with fellow artists is to make it a habit to apply, get involved, and reach out! You never know how something will turn out unless you do it and the worst result you will face is someone kindly saying “no”. I find whenever an opportunity that interests me arises, I make sure to save or bookmark it so that I can return to it and think of whether or not this is something I’d want to take part in. There are so many opportunities and experiences available for artists in the city and my two group exhibitions this year are examples of that! In general getting more people to see your work and read your name are great ways to share your practice with others in the community or fields you may want to enter later on.
Rahim Perez-Anderson is a Black visual storyteller, working out of Tkaronto/Toronto. Intrigued by human experience and the observation of life, Rahim specializes in self-portraiture and documentary photography, exploring his lived experiences within and around topics of identity, race, and selfhood. Drawing inspiration from the communities that surround him, Rahim often conceptualizes his projects from both expressive and activist points of perspective. He aspires to document the stories of marginalized communities, as well as his own, through various forms of image-making.