Rahim Perez-Anderson:Gray Hairs at Eighteen

Gray Hairs at Eighteen is a confrontation on the expectations I’ve been held to as a Black teenager in today’s world. Throughout life I have been expected to maintain unrealistic standards: being “manly” and “strong” since I am the oldest child, or acting “hard” and “ghetto” because I am Black. These expectations have led me to think that I need to change the way I appear or how I carry myself. Every photograph represents an insecurity or flaw on my body that I believed I had to change in order to be accepted and viewed as an equal. Gray Hairs at Eighteen figuratively and literally speaks to the results other people’s words have had on me.


Could you tell us about any current projects that you are working on?

Gray Hairs at Eighteen embodies vulnerability. This project has served as a transformation of my past self, past mindset, and body and spirit. It is about what makes one’s identity unique: such as race, age, sexuality, and gender identity. I wanted to document why I was so hyper-aware of everybody’s perception of me, but never took the time to think about if I was altering the way I appeared to fit the norm of those around me. The project explores the question, “Does beauty really lie in the eye of the beholder?”

Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like its final outcome to be.

Gray Hairs at Eighteen is an ever-evolving project.. I intend to keep improving the work and sharing it with many more people. Hopefully its final form can be an exhibition or photobook.

How did you reach the conceptualization of your current project?

One day I heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I sat with it and began to reflect. Up until that point in time, my work had only scratched the surface in terms of self-portraiture. While conceptualizing this project, I asked myself, “Does the photograph represent reality?” to challenge myself to open up for the camera and be as vulnerable and true as possible. Previously, I would never reveal this much of myself for a project nor in reality. So in every photograph, I reveal the parts of myself I swore must be hidden and never spoken of. 

Are there any artists that have inspired this work? If so, why?

Yes, there are several! This project in particular was inspired by the work of artists like Shikeith and Rahim Fortune. I was so fond of their approach to documentary photography within their respective practices. They both explore the experiences of Black men, while layering themes of self-expression, psychic space, and geography into their work. I am very intentional about who I look to for inspiration or influence, because I think it is very important that I look to those who look like me and have lived similar experiences so that I can be as authentic as possible whilst creating.

Describe any challenges you have faced and any solutions that you have found to be helpful in the creative process.

There will always be that voice in your mind that reminds you of all the obstacles that stand in your way, but it is up to you to ignore that voice and reflect on what story you want to tell with your work. I faced many challenges during the creative process, one of which being my comfort zone—I was incredibly scared to even attempt a project like this. Another challenge was planning where, when and how the project was  going to get done. I found solutions by really slowing down. At times, we want to know all the answers at once before taking another step. However, taking one small step at a time helped me figure out how I wanted to create this body of work and share it with the world.

Have you had any success in getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?

In high school, I had a couple of opportunities to get my early work displayed at school board-run exhibitions. That experience really threw me into the world of art curation and discussion. Since then, I’ve been primarily focused on building my social media to share my work and connect with other creatives and peers. My suggestion for other artists would be to just start! Take the first step and get your foot in the door. I remind myself everyday that you won’t know what the result will be unless you just do it.

Rahim Perez-Anderson is an emerging creative, and a current student in X University’s (Formerly known as Ryerson University) Image Arts program. He works out of Toronto, where he specializes in self-portraiture and documentary that explores his lived experiences within and around topics of identity, race, and selfhood.