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Black Boy Fly: a book on the evolution of "black masculinity"

A photographic collection mapping the modern and urban stories of black men

Black Boy Fly: a book on the evolution of black masculinity A photographic collection mapping the modern and urban stories of black men

During the last seven years - i.e. at least since “Channel Orange” by Frank Ocean came out - the concept of masculinity in black culture began to change, evolving in a more fluid way, far from the prejudiced that caged “black masculinity”.

"Masculinity is something I still am trying to understand. It can get very complex. As a black man, society definitely tries to place us in boxes. I’m happy that people are continuing to break out of those boxes and simply be themselves. It's important for the younger generations to see".

Said Joshua Renfroe to nss magazine, the NYC-based photographer who recently published his first book “Black Boy Fly”   a photographic collection of more than 70 portraits of black men, aimed at telling the modern and urban story of  black men. A 240-page book where Renfroe started from personal experience in order to tell the evolution of black men from his perspective:


"The inception of the book evolved from a personal charge to explore my artistic freedom while celebrating my blackness. After shooting for a year, I quickly fell in love with photography and began to think about my legacy as an artist". 

If the book title made “Boys Don’t Cry” from Frank Ocean come to your mind, the aesthetic of the book is instead completely different, much rawer and reality-related. A reality in which, according to Renfroe, «Black culture is the dominant influence in the latest trends and movements, but often times we don’t receive the credit and equity to match. I wanted to counteract that». The ideas expressed by Renfroe, and brought out in his book, is that of contemporary black culture - let’s say the one originated from hip hop culture - is now becoming the mainstream culture, not only in the musical or artistic field but also in fashion:

"For instance, rappers mentioning a designer’s name in a chart-topping song or wearing said designer in a music video,  Jordan’s impact alone on the sneaker world, several of today’s high fashion designers are inspired by black designers from the ’90s, black men are the face of the most popular sneaker collaborations which are some of the fastest selling items in the industry, just to name a few situations".

Renfroe's work is really powerful, and retraces afro American history through its most significant features, from police brutality to sneaker trends, fatherhood, music or brotherhood. Above all, Renfroe's book fits in a very good time of elaboration of the black experience in America, both in television or literature:

"I think so many projects such as A Different World, and Spike Lee’s catalog gave great narration to the black experience. But to answer that question, I would say yes now is the period because of the digital landscape and trajectory. We can share and consume information so fast. Social media has made it possible for us to connect and have this conversation. You never know whose watching and smiling. I hope this book continues to inspire other creatives to continue to share their cultural stories".

The art world has also answered this will to investigate the role and essence of black masculinity in modern times:  Philadelphia artist Shikeith recently curated an exhibition of images, video, and sculptures with the aim of exploring the complexity of the black body. Similar attempts were made by the London-based director Iggy LDN, with his first movie “Black Boys Don’t Cry”, or by the latest GQ cover story with Pharrell Williams “The New Masculinity Issue”. A process that “Black Boy Fly” tells admirably:

"In my book, I definitely ensured to showcase the beauty and diversity of many types of black men. We are multidimensional, have different stories, interest, and gifts. We are human. Our differences are what make us so special, we all can co-exist and collectively inspire". 

On October 19, Renfroe hosted an exhibition for the book in New York. The book, designed by Fred Sands IV, is available to pre-order now at