Synergy and Seeing

I first discovered the Buff Bay Valley of eastern Jamaica twenty years ago as a young photographer when carloads of us would drive around the island on a weekend seeking new places to photograph. We didn’t always find the places we were looking for, but we were guaranteed a great time and great images. Being a part of a group of like-minded individuals allowed us to teach each other about seeing, composition and the finer aspects of photography. These experiences and the resulting synergies are what motivated me to become a professional photographer.

Fifteen years later I returned to the Buff Bay Valley as a news photographer, documenting the effects of natural disasters. I discovered a cottage for sale which I eventually bought and over the past five years I have come to know the valley very well. The danger of becoming so familiar with an area is that you can take for granted your surroundings, resulting in a loss of the drive that initially motivated you.

So how do you rediscover that drive? Fortunately, for the past two weeks I have been working with my colleague Gabrielle Blackwood in the valley.  A talented video story-teller, Gabrielle is a neophyte to the location and this has allowed me to see the attractions of the valley –  from the coastal town of Buff Bay to the Blue Mountains 4,000 feet up –  through another’s eyes. I am now able to see, appreciate and photograph the mountain vistas, hidden waterfalls and friendly people with the enthusiasm that I had when I  was learning my craft.

Below is a taste of what is forthcoming from our project. Stay tuned…

Buff Bay (Jamaica) from Gabrielle on Vimeo.

Visiting Maria

I carried eight of my third-year UTech students to the home of photographer Maria LaYacona in Kingston. Maria (as she insisted on being called) graciously opened up her house to us and shared her experiences of photographing in Jamaica for over fifty years. Among the snippets she shared included volunteering to photograph a new series of advertisements for the Gleaner newspaper, because at the time all the people in the ads were white and didn’t represent the typical Jamaican . She also contrasted the experience of photographing the founders of modern Jamaica – Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley (2 days vs. 5 minutes). Maria continues to shoot film and develops her black and white film in her personal darkroom, which she showed to the students.