Carrying the Torch: J. Monroe

By Ferrell Dixon Jr.
Photography by: J. Monroe

We had the opportunity to speak with J. Monroe, a photographer, media personality, and creative force. You may recognize him from his appearance on Hulu's "Exposure," a competitive reality show where eight photographers vie for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. However, there is more to J. Monroe than meets the eye. He is a native of Tulsa and has faced unique challenges that have shaped him into the powerhouse he is today.

From an early age, Monroe felt drawn to the arts and knew it would play a significant role in his life. Growing up in north Tulsa, attending the schools he did, and being gay, Monroe had to discover his true identity early on. This intersectional existence propelled him towards self-realization, enabling him to live authentically and immerse himself in subjects that would shape his talent, even if they deviated from the norm.

Monroe's superpower, as he describes it, is fearlessly starting over and taking risks. This theme of seizing life's opportunities is evident throughout his artistic journey. He moved to two cities that profoundly influenced his creative identity. Atlanta “nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit,” drawing from the entrepreneurial legacy of Black Wall Street and his parents' entrepreneurial endeavors. New York City, on the other hand, “watered his artistic side,” teaching him the significance of his work and its impact on his life and the world around him.

Through his captivating images, Monroe invites viewers on a visual odyssey that highlights black beauty and expression. His photographs are infused with colors and patterns inspired by the imagery he observed in black families' homes. He aims to amplify the message of black beauty, which is often overlooked in the Midwest.

Monroe's portraits exude vibrant hues, reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance paintings, celebrating the beauty of every shade. He proudly states, "I was born on Black Wall Street, but I was raised by the Harlem of Renaissance." While he has traveled the world, Monroe plans to return to his roots in Tulsa, contributing to the city's rich creative and entertainment scene.

His reconnection with Tulsa is driven by a desire to inspire the next generation of creatives and empower them to pursue their dreams in the digital age. He believes that Tulsa has all the resources necessary for aspiring artists to succeed.

In closing, Monroe shares a message for fellow creators: be purposeful in your work. In today's world, where everyone feels the need to create, it's crucial to create work that stands the test of time. Stay true to yourself and allow the world to catch up with your vision.

To stay updated on J. Monroe's journey, follow him on social media at @jmnroe.