Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 5th 2014 Contents B3
"I've never felt like I belonged in
the Caribbean," says photographer
Marlon James as we walk briskly up
Henry Street in Port-of-Spain.
This is how the Jamaican photog-
rapher and artist has been experienc-
ing much of T&T since he moved
here in January: strolling and striding
his way through much of his meas-
ured and introspective interaction
with a new landscape and people.
Much of his photography over the
last ten years in Jamaica has been a
search for his identity as a young man
in the region.
On an overcast evening walking up
a distinctly grey street under a brood-
ing sky, Marlon James is again engaged
in that exercise.
We cut a quite ordinary profile as
a group, distinguished only by our
fast pace. James is wearing jeans, a
white T-shirt and one hell of an
equipment load in his worn backpack;
his subject, architect Alex Girvan, is
all spiky dreads, jeans and a long grey
coat that makes him look like more
of a factory floor supervisor than a
James is looking for a particular
parking lot in the city that has old
stone walls painted white, but we find
the gate firmly locked.
The rain is a menacing sprinkle
now, and the light is disappearing.
A block further along, on Duke
Street, we find another lot with a
promising wall and a dour security
guard. James ducks in quickly and
flashes a charming smile and asks
permission to use the spot for his
He quickly sets up a tripod, wrestles
with a slack ball-head and begins
directing his subject through a series
of poses inspired by his observation
of Girvan's gestures and movements.
James' style is disarmingly simple.
He gets in close with a radio controlled
handheld flash, gesturing and coaxing
Girvan---who has a flair for the moody
pose---while urging his subject to look
into the lens and not at him.
"People tell me that my subjects
tend to be a bit...well-to-do,"James
notes after we part company with
It isn't surprising, given that James'
parents were bankers and he grew up
in Jamaica as an "Uptown" boy, some-
one who had a full and paid education,
whose family could fly out of the island
"I was really more middle-class,"
he admits with a shrug.
Those professional parents proved
to be supportive of their creative son,
even more so when he began to get
recognition for his work.
At 33, he's comfortable admitting
that his mother got him his gear when
he made the shift from sculpture to
photography, a change he acknowl-
edges came because of the lure of the
"instant gratification" of the medi-
When he made that decision,
instant meant something else entirely
"I could process a roll of film and
go into the darkroom to develop it,"
"My sculpture would take weeks to
take shape. I fell in love with the dark-
He got serious with photography
in 2003, but his first big break came
in 2008 when he shot for Red Bull,
then shortly after that for Red Stripe.
James was also building a collection
of portraits of people in the arts com-
munity in Jamaica when he began
hearing that his prospects as an artist
might significantly improve in T&T.
But it wasn't until he started meeting
people in the Trinidad arts community
after moving here that he began to
consider pursuing his portrait project
locally. He started a couple of projects
soon after arriving, at least one sparked
by the thriving night life in the city
that he calls Night Shift, photographs
of vendors working late at night.
James has been doing some com-
mercial work while he works his way
through these projects, shooting for
advertising agencies and magazines.
"The work that I've been getting
has been able to sustain me," he said.
CONTINUES ON PAGE B22
Marlon James photographed in one
of his favourite spots in T&T, the
western side of the Queen's Park
Savannah. PHOTO: MARK LYNDERSAY
dancer looks to
T&T neighbours---Page B4
reads of 2014?
Shivanee Ramlochan makes her
picks for the new year ---Page B21
starts off strong
for BC on TV ---Page B4
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