Every community needs an anchor. Some groups have bars and restaurants, others celebrate with festivals and settle particular neighbourhoods in town. Whether you call them enclaves or outposts, these anchor points offer exchange and support that is essential to the communities they help sustain. Conrad’s Barbershop is one such place: somewhere to go and be Caribbean - whether fully fledged or a few generations removed - for a few hours every couple of weeks.
My dad immigrated from Trinidad & Tobago in 1957. After he moved our family to Toronto from London in 1990, we needed a “black” barber, and found Conrad’s in Scarborough. A trip to the shop was always about more than a haircut. We’d be up early on Saturdays to avoid waiting hours for a cut. Still, the place was always busy, and we waited, watching and listening to customers and barbers mingle with each other.
Those with true presence held court- often loudly and in old talk, and always with plenty of character. Over the years Conrad’s has helped inform my Caribbean identity, it was also a part of my identity as a Torontonian. I’m not immersed in Caribbean culture on a daily basis, so visiting the shop was a way to stay connected to my heritage and to Toronto through the lens of this culture.
As a photographer, I’ve done a lot of thinking about these cultural communities as outsider assemblies, where everyone seems most happy when they're their with own. A workshop pushed me to capture the dynamic between barber and customer, while also trying to honour my notion of Caribbean culture, as well as the place (Conrad’s) itself.