A black and white portrait of a man with blocks of colour painted over it on a green background.

Curtis Taylor, Jr.

With his new short film, What Flying Feels Like, based on the book Black Boy Fly by photographer and co-director Joshua Renfroe, the Los Angeles member offers a new representation of Black masculinity and joy

By Jess Kelham-Hohler   Portrait by Joe Cruz   Images courtesy of Curtis Taylor, Jr.

When the news of George Floyd being murdered by a White police officer broke, the video not only sparked global protests and a powerful resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, but also a deeper challenge to the White populace to understand its privilege and widespread effect. And as statues toppled and companies were called on to publish their D&I statistics, the creative world was forced to re-examine the representation of the Black community.

Enter Curtis Taylor, Jr., photographer Joshua Renfroe and What Flying Feels Like, an experimental short film co-directed by the duo that’s based on Renfroe’s book, Black Boy Fly. Released last year, the book compiled visuals that showcased the multi-layered Black male experience, including fatherhood, brotherhood, music, and police brutality. As he continued to work on this project, Renfroe reached out to Taylor, Jr. and together the pair came up with the idea for the short film. From the beginning, they were united in knowing that this work would be a love letter to Black masculinity, celebrating the importance of being comfortable in one’s own skin.

‘This is a story that luminates 20 Black men from all over the United States. We really thought about men we’d seen on the internet who were doing profound things within their area. By profound, I mean just really excited about the life they lead, not necessarily in the sense of their talents within a trade, but just who they are as people.’
A collage of a man's face and a black and white photo

'One of the things that me and Josh say is that What Flying Feels Like has definitely made us better men, and ultimately better brothers for the world'

Two men sweaty after playing sport
A pandemic was not going to stop them. When COVID-19 made it impossible to shoot outside or in a studio, Taylor, Jr. had the men featured in the project self-film at home. ‘We shot it remotely and directed remotely, which was interesting. It stretched us,’ he says.

Currently in post-production, the film merges abstraction with realism, to put the emphasis on how the featured Black men perform in this world, rather than having them perform for film. 

‘To imagine is a luxury,’ explains Taylor, Jr. ‘As a Black body, to even have the opportunity to mature, to experience adulthood, it is magical, it is light, and it is not a fixed thing. This film lets us be OK with the fact that we’re always growing and changing.’

With the release quickly approaching, Taylor, Jr. and Renfroe are eager for the world to see the final result. 

‘We can never begin to thank these men for what they have made us, this project for what it has made us. One of the things that me and Josh say is that What Flying Feels Like has definitely made us better men, and ultimately better brothers for the world.’

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