It took me about ten years after being on Twitter, before I finally put up a profile photo of myself, next to my bio. While some people may have wished I never had, my self-censoring, wasn't because I was busy 'trolling it up', and needed the anonymity, and neither was it down to me being in the witness protection programme, hoping that my past wouldn't find me. In truth, I'm just a bit of an introvert and simply enjoy being in the shadows, rather than in the spotlight.
This is obviously counterproductive, to being a working photographer, in the social media age, especially when one has to be constantly visible, and constantly pouring petrol on the fires of their 'brand' - to keep it set-alight - and keep themselves visible and noticed. While I admire photographers who can do this, talk about themselves, all the time, that is, perhaps this can be overdone?
Seeing, photographers, discuss every stage of the developmental process of their works, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, over an extended period of time, for me reduces the potency of it, upon finally seeing the resolved work. It's clever marketing, of course, when done right, especially if you're looking for ongoing participants or funding etc, but, it can be akin to explaining what a joke is about before you tell it - when done too much - the audience knows what's coming, and the joke always falls flat.
I guess there is always a balance, to everything, and who am I to critique others, especially when I find myself on the opposite extremes, as I rarely ever talk about my own work?
There has been a lot of talk lately, about the return of photographer blogs, the one's where people talki in depth about their practice, which leads me nicely on to two works, which I'm currently developing: Another Place Like Home, commissioned by Multistory for their upcoming Blast Festival And Mi Deh Yah! A work which explores the deportation of UK citizens to Jamaica. Both of which I hope to share, and discuss with you in the coming weeks and months.
Until then, I leave you with a blog post which I wrote two years ago today about my last experience of working in Jamaica.
A man died last Saturday; a man who I will never know, yet a man, nonetheless, who I have thought about every day this week.
He fell into a hole on a construction site and then was crushed to death by a lorry, which followed after him. The woman telling me this story needed to say, for dramatic license, that the lorry was full of sand at the time, as she made a flattening gesture with her hand; presumably to describe what had happened to him.
I dwelled on that thought, her hand moving up and down, and then pressing on the back of her other hand, wondering how deep the hole was and whether he was conscious when the truck would follow him down?
I dwelled on that thought; on the idea of him being crushed.
His mother was the career to her husband, she, the woman with the ‘flattening hand gesture. At first the mother had thought her son was in a car crash, that he’d survived, that he was OK; yet as she struggled to deal with the information, which dripped in, bit by bit; he was already gone - taken from her by fate and the seemingly non-existent health and safety here.
I would hear later, gossip is everyone’s friend here, remember; as I drove up the winding road of the Blue Mountain in a friends new Audi A4 sports car, that the mother would return to work the next day, as the travails which follow the pursuit of money, for survival, have no time for grief.
I dwelled on her grief, though, that night as I ate homemade pizza and drank white wine at a birthday party in a log cabin of my friend. I dwelled on the grief of a mother I would never know and her tears for her son I would never see.
The next day, as she gave care to another. I would drive by a motorbike crash; passing the victim sitting on the roadside; his helmet-free head covered in blood and his body unable to stand, as his motorbike lay twisted further down the road; whilst my fellow passengers and I drove onwards past him towards the beach and the sea a hundred kilometres ahead in Ocho Rios.
I would not see his face, and only be aware of his plight after we had driven by alerted to the fact by a fellow passenger as I was uploading a video to Instagram.
Yet, I would think of him too and his life which was now over. Who will pay for his rehabilitation, for his medical bill? Will he be able to work again? How will he survive if he can't? What if he has taken out a loan to pay for his bike? Has he got a family?
The life, which he led, just a fraction of a second before his crash, is gone now, gone forever and he will never be who he was again, here, in this world where your utilities are cut off, and you are evicted instantly if your bills aren’t paid on time.
To live in Jamaica is to be a tightrope walker, without fear and without a safety net, always waiting to fall into this paradox where those at the bottom still fall the furthest.
I dwelled on the bloodied face I never saw. Reimagining the pain etched upon it, which had been described to me.
I dwelled on him, as I sat on the white sands of the beach sipping on a rum and coke and looking out to sea. Out far beyond the fat European tourists, I imagined to be Mafia Dons on vacation, and the awkward older women gingerly taking off their knickers from under their towels that shielded their modesty from the eyes that weren’t interested.
Out far beyond the jet skis and speedboats - I would dwell on him. My thoughts wandering out further to sea, until they would meet a horizon ending under a dark, brooding sky. That would rain down on us all, and on me, to spite me, I imagined, for not really caring at all, for the lives I did not know, the lives which have ended, as my own continued all the same.
To truly live in Jamaica, one must live behind an emotionally cool shield. One must batten down the hatches and pull up the drawbridges, and never let the pain of others reach you.
One must ignore the beggars at the traffic lights, with outstretched arms and empty palms. One must ignore the wiry framed men who sleep on the footpaths in the baking sun; as to care is to show weakness and weakness can be exploited. They can be used against you, weakness can kill you.
So people swim clear of others who they fear may drag them down if their ships were to sink. They drive by traffic accidents, past broken bodies and their broken lives. They seclude themselves in their giant 4x4 SUV’s, with tinted windows, hiding within their guarded compounds and the safety of a rigid social order all in the hope that white Jesus will protect them from it all.
Yet, I too am distanced from it all, of course, from the people and their suffering and the psychology of state violence, deployed as it is through religion and education, as much as it is, through the baton and the bullet; that keeps the vast majority so passively in line by the much smaller few.
I’m cold now and immune, finally, after seven weeks, to the sob stories, which result in requests for money as I live my life in the sun. Seduced as I am by the lavish trappings, of the lives of others, which I momentarily share before realities return.
I'm cold to it all, as where once a hand would dip into a pocket, to produce 'a small tings' to pull out a US Dollar, it stays still now, rigid, like my conscience. One last hurrah of empathy had drawn me to dwell upon the lives of strangers, touched by fate this week, making me feel something once more; but it’s too late, I think, the drawbridge is up.
It's closed shut, as I come to the end of a journey, that has finally seen me come home to be the Jamaican that I always knew I was. The stoic accepter of the status quo, the head down and eyes closed-shut dweller, in the land of wood and water. I too am enslaved and yet "boasie", pacified by capitalism and made supine by baubles - I am a Jamaican, I am distant, aloof and detached, and so resigned to it all.
More posts exploring my experiences making From a Small Island can be viewed here: