Instagram photographer Ruddy Roye bringing his truth to the masses

NEW YORK -- They are faces of joy and contemplation, fathers with sons, children at play, people living. The subjects are almost always black, and resonate the truth of the man who shoots them.

“An alcoholic father, a person who feels disenfranchised, a person who feels like on some level this country doesn’t acknowledge the spirit of blackness the spirit of black culture, the spirit of black communities,” said Ruddy Roye, 47.

The Jamaican-born father of two began photographing his neighbors in Brooklyn in 2002. He now shares his images on Instagram.

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Ruddy Roye

CBS News

“The picture is in my head, I just have to get it out,” Roye said.

But this year was different. Moved by the deaths of young black men on the streets, he considers himself a journalist on a mission.

“The message is more important, the emotion that is in the image is most important,” he said.

And it seems to be resonating. After zig-zagging across the country, Roye has acquired 265,000 Instagram followers. And TIME Magazine named him its Instagram photographer of 2016.

“I wanted to broadcast them so that other people would recognize that... strip me of my color and I’m your uncle, I’m your brother, I am your neighbor,” he said.

The irony, Roye said, was that only by looking beyond his lens did he see that himself. 

“I didn’t once go to coal country and tell the story of people who are also losing their jobs, people who are also disenfranchised, people who are also hungry, people who don’t look like me, but are also going through the same struggles that I’m going through,” he said.

Struggles he intends to capture in the new year.

Roye calls 2016 the year of protest, and he hopes 2017 will be the year of healing.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.