How I found myself in the stunning winding hillside farming community of Greiggs, with a group of farmers tying a dasheen to the bike of the bike. For me to then ride home with my dasheen riding shotgun in the Smallie seat.
Captain Marcel and his crew are fishermen by trade. They earn their livelihood and reputations by pulling their catch from the sea bare handed. I had been photographing fishermen on the dock over the period of a year, during which Marcel offered me to join him and his crew for a journey out to sea, so that I could experience what it was really like. Sometime had passed and I had not taken Marcel up on his offer, until one early morning I showed up in the fishing complex looking for him, with camera in hand. I stepped amongst the haphazard collection of essential fishing equipment. “Do you mind if I come fishing with you today Marcel?” my tone was unsure but hopeful. Marcel peaked his head out of his storage unit “Yeah man, lets go” he replied.
Marcel continued along as if nothing had changed despite having now having me along for the trip. He continued prepping himself for the day as usual, where as I now began to conceptualize what I was really in for. With just a few minutes before we set off, I all I could do was hope I prepared properly with no real experience. I stood on the dock staring at him for any cue to indicate what was happening but it was difficult. See, now Marcel is a soft-spoken man, whose expressions are mostly hidden by his big orange beard. This left me scanning around the dock to see what everyone else was doing, so that I could begin to understand what was happening. Then I then spotted our crew. Cig is the first crew member I recognized, the first time I saw him he was in total concentration of carefully stowing his cigarettes and lighter in a make-shift waterproof container. Once those were secured he buckled his fishing outfit and stepped into the boat, a man of few needs. Point man, our second and only other crew member is more expressive, with a permanent smirk on his face. He walked along the dock loading an assortment of items which only few I could really guess what they were for. I saw Marlon pass several carpets into the boat which I now couldn’t resist and had to ask “What are those for?”. “It’s to cover the catch” they replied. This makes a lot of sense when you realize how much these guys re-purpose or invent so many things. While I had that thought they were now all looking at me from inside of the boat. This I understood, and danced my way across floating boats to get to ours. Each of them firmly sat in their positions, and I fell into one that became mine. And just like that, we set off to sea without any real ceremony.
We sped along the shoreline headed north and I became excited for the adventure. There’s something very thrilling about being out at sea. Only a short time had passed and we already met another boat, who were apparently dropping their lobster pots on ours. This prompted a good old fisherman’s banter one of which you get used to hearing, but surely couldn’t replicate without real practice. “Show me the deed” one of them said when asked about who owns the fishing spot. As Marcel was arguing with the opposing crew, Cig lit up his first smoke and hunkered over it to keep it from getting wet. With no real harm, other than intimidation we set off for the north eastern end of the island alongside the sunrise which aimed itself under our hats.
We peeled away from the coastline and moved further into the Atlantic. It began to feel less comfortable once we moved away from the familiar shores. I couldn’t imagine how we would find a lobster pot where we now were. I asked Cig beside me “How deep is it here?”. “About 15-20 fathoms” he said with his head tilted towards me from the sun. I must have looked at him a little too long to indicate my ignorance to what a fathom was, because he then stretched out his hands and said “a fathom is about this big” as he smiled.
Marlon called out to me “You better move up here”. With no real idea of what was going on, I moved out of the way as much as I could in our small craft. An orange buoy appeared right in-front of us as Marcel turned off the engine. As quick as it came, they were now pulling up the rope to hoist a lobster pot from the sea floor 20 lengths of rope about the height of Cig.
They always told jokes, or something unrelated to fishing while pulling the rope. I imagine this was to either cope with the physical stress, or that they were terribly used to the routine.
“It’s the moon” our point man yelled “. "They don’t crawl in the bright moonlight”. “Or someone else pulled our pot” our Cap’n Mac responded. “How can you tell?” I asked. He paused for a moment and smiled “If you catch them” I couldn’t tell if this was either a clever pun on lobster fishing or if he was talking about catching a fishermen redhanded. Either way the crew let out a soft round of laughter.
They continued to pulled each pot without any sign of fatigue, and the sun was only getting hotter, glaring off the inside of the boat. At first I was squinting, and then eventually I had my eyes entirely shut to cope with light. Everyone else’s eyes were also now squinting tightly towards the sea to spot the orange buoys.
I took this picture specifically to remind me about how I felt at the time. The motion of the boat rocking on the sea would churn my stomach in all different directions, until it churned outward. Cig said “Let it out… don’t worry yoself, let it out.” as I leaned over the side. They handed me my water, which was to become a part of a ritual every few pots or so. I would soon get into the routine of feeling nauseous as I stared into my camera and kept taking photos. The whole crew chuckled as they handed me my water again. I eventually asked Point Man who was closest to me “Have you ever been sea sick?” Which then turned his smile turned from pity into one more bashful, as he quaintly replied “Of course”….”Especially when yo had too much to drink” which made the crew for the first time to laugh louder than a chuckle.
Breaks at sea were took standing up, and in-between driving to another lobster pot, it was hardly anytime for them to rest. We had gone through so many pots I couldn’t keep count, Their routine quickly became monotonous despite so many things constantly changing, like the sea, wind and sun. No matter if the boat would dip well over towards the water or if the wind would pick up in a gust, they never seemed disturbed by the elements.
After pulling the last pot, we finally started heading back towards the docks. After the sickness and sun, I was very enthusiastic to be back driving in a straight line towards home. The whole ordeal was one of endurance and skill for the fishermen. The skill to prevent any mishaps in an unforgiving environment where one little mistake could leave one with some very grave problems. The endurance is to remain capable and concentrated against the harsh elements with physical challenges.
I’ve seen fishing boats arrive onto the docks with their catch. This was the first time I was in one as it arrived. It was interesting seeing all the different people spot us from hundreds of meters out, moving to our boat first in favor of calling their price. It’s the only real ceremonial part of the trip, to show off one’s catch.
Back on shore, they take their catch to the fisheries department to meet with regulations for lobster fishing as soon as they arrive. More of a formality considering the fishermen are very familiar with these regulations and they set back into their land legs quite quickly. Once I hit the docks the solid ground was more than familiar, but being very welcomed.
Big thanks to Cap’n Marcel and his crew for taking me out and showing me their lifestyles at sea.
Also to the Bradshaw family for their support in my interests in Vincentian Fishing, and their general advice.
The day of St.Vincent’s 39th Independence was near, everything was set and I was ready to ride my own self, on my own bike around St.Vincent. But life doesn’t follow your plan, my bike’s fuel pump decided to fail rendering it temporarily useless. I was calling all my contacts and friends alike to find a fuel pump, rent a bike, or borrow someone’s ride, anything at all. Being so close to independence anything with 2 wheels you could call a bike is already in someone’s hands, so I had no luck. I discussed my sad story many times, the last time I discussed it, Mary was there. “How bout you jump on the back of my bike?” She said. I looked at her as if she just solved all my problems. With this idea I could do two things I love, take photos and ride on a bike. However I had never ridden on the back of any bike before, let alone her 600cc ninja bike, and not even to think of taking photos from one. But my imagination wouldn’t stop running, I already knew it was going to happen, one way or another.
It was the very next morning after Mary invited me on her bike along with the St.Lucia crew. I was in my mind getting ready for the moment where I’d hop on. I didn’t know exactly when I would, but I knew I just wanted to try it out at some point. Next thing you know, I became their guide for getting around the island, they have never ridden in Bequia before. How best can you lead a squad of bikes? From another bike. Without any hesitation I was gearing up, Bequia style. The final touch was slinging my camera across my chest, I jumped on the back of her bike and she said, “just hold on tight” I simply replied “yep” and off we went.
After a few turns leaning over and sliding around a little bit in my seat I was comfy. Or maybe rather I had to be comfy and get over it quickly considering my newly attained responsibilities. I was now: a guide, photographer and passenger all in one. I found myself calling out directions, obstacles and hazards, as well as taking photos while not dropping off the back of the bike. Being a rider on the rear seat is a very humbling experience, the rider in-front takes their own path from what you would normally take, inevitably you both reach the same destination.
After exploring for most of the day on Bikes suited for highways more for than little island roads, we were tired. Especially those of us riding on the back gripping with nothing but our knees when taking photos. So a quick swim at Lower Bay was truly welcomed.
I only intended to ride for a little bit to get the photo opportunities. But especially here in Bequia, being on the bike, is the way to get around. The beauty comes at you full speed, letting you taking in as much as possible. From the point I stepped onto the back of the bike, I never chose to step off until we got back to St.Vincent.
With the day having gone so well, I asked to join Mary and the SLU squad yet again for the next day, St.Vincent’s Independence. Which turned out to be a whole different adventure.
Independence Day came with a new set of people to meet. Hanging out with the SLU Squad allowed me to meet up with these ladies the Sesame Street Riders, and many other Lucians’ who all were extremely friendly. The S.S.R. team all had a particular Sesame Street character theme, Count Dracula had numbers on her windshield for instance.
While waiting for the Island ride to start we stepped onto the E.T.Joshua Airport Runway for some drag racing. This young chap obliged himself to start the race here and he was very happy to be between two loud sport bikes.
With almost the entire runway to ourselves we took advantage of the opportunity to pose off on the bike. It was truly a magical place to be with such a space and view to take in. But we didn’t have much time to spend, the island ride was just about to start.
Island Ride - Windward.
I geared up for the Vincy roads, and ninja bike speeds to match. I knew we were going to have to keep up with the other bikers this time, it was going to be even more challenging taking photos.
The speed was the biggest challenge. Everything was happening twice as fast as the day before in Bequia. The traffic in St.Vincent was busy for a Saturday afternoon, leaving the initial ride out to be rather exciting.
There were many people on the roadside, they couldn’t miss the loud bikes. Since I was on the back of the bike, I had time to look around to take in the audience. Many of them would give us a thumbs up, or shout their thoughts in a sweeping flurry of words as we zipped by. Their words would grow from soft to loud to soft again in the short span of time.
All in all it was another great day. With Smiles all round, and the beautiful weather it allowed us to ride all the way into Fancy with beautiful scenery.
A big thanks to Mich for his support driving along with us and Mary for sharing her backseat and perspective. Also big up to the SLU Squad who were very kind and welcoming into their group.
Happy Independence SVG.
For years we have been talking about camping in the crater of La Soufriere, dreaming of what it would be like to call a volcano home for a night under the stars. On the afternoon of Thursday the 4th of October 2018 was when that dream started to come true.
Note, p.c. abbreviated under photos dictates photo credit.
Kai Best, Tolga Akcayli and I stepped onto the trail, each laden with gear that indicated we weren’t just out for a walk. Vibrant with energy we all share our excitement on the trail. We start chatting “We might be talking about this for years to come” I said. Very fittingly Kai sang the phrase “ One billion man talk it, one man walk it” Tolga then exclaimed “ Yooo that’s my new instagram status boy”.
It took us 2 hours of hiking up the trail from the base to our camp sight. Light was dying fast and we were still making sure everything was in place for the night to come. At this point not even a sprinkle of rain had hit us (which was a poor indication of what was to come). We pushed the anchors as deep into the soil as possible and mounted the ‘rain proof’ cover. The first gust of wind came as we carried on and it quickly demonstrated that the anchors wouldn’t hold in something serious. So, we strategically threw all of our equipment, food and water inside to hold it down as we evaluated this very parachutey looking tent.
With the tent up and running, I sprinted as fast as I could over rough rock and bush to meet the ‘lip’ of the crater where we can see the horizon of the Caribbean sea. By the time I got there this photo above was all I could capture with just a glimmer of light left behind the cloud rolling in. The far away clouds had already consumed the adjacent hillside as I stood there looking away from my only security of the elements, I turned around and saw the tent was being swallowed by a yet another cloud that spiraled into our crater, and I knew it was rain. I again sprinted as fast as I could towards the tent. The rain stopped 3/4 of the way during my dash for cover, but the thing about that is even though the rain stops, its still VERY wet. The vegetation and soil hold water so well that anything that touches it becomes soggy, including my pants, boots, camera and most of my jacket.
I spent the next hour trying to place all my now wet gear in places where it could dry, which was futile. The wind and rain moved the top of tent around like a boxer dodging punches in a fight. It bopped and dipped relentlessly, allowing little sentient drips of water to fly there way inside like cunning mosquitos.
Well into the night. after teasingly strong gusts of wind subsided, we ventured out into the dark to find anything that would hold the edges of the tent down, hopefully so that the wind would not find its way underneath the base of the tent. In case the wind got any stronger, the weight would be preventing our tent from potentially giving us an amateur kite surfing lesson. What Kai cleverly found was to use heavy and perpetually wet soil and shrubs as weights on the most important anchors which sit facing the wind. But as soon as he finished anchoring the most important side of the tent, Kai just then said “Boy let me just put these shrubs round the whole damn tent to make sure ” which ultimately saved our backsides from the lightning storm that was to come.
Between 07:30pm and 5:30am is when it all got very real. Lightning and thunder lit up the the entire crater every other moment with a roaring crack to remind us that nature was very much in charge, all the while the rain and wind picked up with increasing intensity as the night went on. During this critical time I didn’t take a single photo, nor did any of us move without a hell of a good reason, reasons which mostly included having a pee. I vividly remember it raining for hours upon hours with wind fighting our tent, while I lay there wondering if the boys would mind if I had to pee inside, luckily I never had to ask them, the rain subsided and I checked the time 10:10pm. I had been staring at the ceiling of the tent for almost 3 hours without a wink of sleep. I stepped outside only to find myself staring at the wall of a cloud I couldn’t see more than 15 feet (3 meters) in-front of me, when I realized surely this is what inside a thunderstorm looks like. I carefully ventured away from the tent with my light and my cutlass, looking back every two steps just to reassure myself that my home was still there, which was assisted by the flashes of lightning. During my pee just far away enough from my temporary home, all of the wind subsided and it went eerily quiet. A very magical moment passed over me where I realized I was standing in a volcano crater, inside of a thunderstorm. I began to think it was near most peoples bed-times in St.Vincent, and my mind started to wander like one’s mind does before they fall asleep. I wondered about what I had and what I wanted in life at times, where now all I really just wanted was to be warm, dry and safe. I stood there vulnerable alone with my thoughts, hours away from home, but a few ounces lighter. I turned my head 360 degrees in awe of the moment. This moment of magic was brief, because I was acutely aware the rain could start anytime within a flash. I slipped back inside and slumped onto the cold hard tarp floor. From then intermittent lightning flashes paced the silence, one of which was so close it had my cousin shaking. I laid there, staring at my cousins glow in the dark watch dancing around with his shivers up until the time reading 4:05, where I then managed to drift off to sleep.
05:05am came the worst of it all. I was woken from a brief sleep by being lifted into the air and dropped onto the ground, I couldn’t figure out what had just happened until it happened again. The wind managed to pick my side of the tent up, I looked over to see Kai holding his side, braced against the wind. I said to him “Dred, I have to hold my side of the tent down, it just flew me into the air big man” He replied “ Yeah man, so glad you are awake, I've only just been holding this down an hour” he replied in a sarcastic tone. After catching up with the boys on our situation I now understood three things and nothing else mattered, the wind was getting very strong, it was getting very wet and very cold. But sunrise was up soon, for the next hour we would battle the wind with our bodies holding up the tent.
We held the tent while Tolga boiled tea. If we were to move it could of very well slapped the tea out of his hands which would have been both mentally and physically painful to loose our only hot source of anything. Feeling the tea against our hands was such an unusual feeling after 12 hours of cold. This was the point where where we had enough time to actually look at each other for any length in the daylight without a rude slap of the tent , we then noticed our breaths were condensing in the cold air before we drank our tea. Which made me think of how cold the middle of the night must of been if the warmer daylight could still fog our breaths.
Because of the wind pushing the cover off the tent it was easy to look outside, which means the rain was really getting in at almost an upside-down angle. All we wanted at this point was for the rain to stop so we could go outside and see what we came to see.
Kai’s expression says it all, we were still in the crater, about half way done our trip in fact not even having taken the tent down, but we felt like we already won. We made it. Now we had to embrace the win, and by luck, the storm that caused us so much grief took away almost all of the clouds and gave us a view to never forget.
I slung my camera over my neck and began shooting, to see what I might have only dreamt of before. From here the photos will do most of the talking.
This is a trip I will never forget. The dreams, the realities, and how it takes an extraordinary step, for an extraordinary adventure. Stay safe everyone, but live large. Thank you to Kai and Tolga for helping with documenting the process and making this possible.
500lbs of Bike and Body connected by 6 inches of Rubber on the Tarmac.
Riding with my camera, to capture others on their bikes.
Recounting the adventure from an idea to exhibit. The exhibit involving ocean debris turned into art defined as 'One Drop In The Ocean' by Nadia Huggins and Raven Holfund told from Stephan Hornsey's perspective as a participating artist.
Screaming bike engines throughout day and night signals independence for Saint.Vincent & The Grenadines. The droning sounds can be heard from the rural winding country roads to the urban coastal cities of the small island. For many, biking has become somewhat synonymous with the independence of Saint.Vincent, and not only for Vincentian bikers, but also bikers from other nations including: Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St.Lucia and Barbados. Over 100 bikers from these other countries found themselves pacing across the mountainous landscape of the mainland St.Vincent, which is a significant increase in traffic for an island with only one main road.
Kingstown, the capitol city is the grand stage for bikers to perform in public. Engine sounds bouncing through the town echo off the age old buildings older than St.Vincent’s sovereignty as the bikes dart through town. Most of the activity is at night aside a handful pedestrians and drivers as an unofficial audience
Saint.Vincent's Royal Police force of SVG mobilises throughout the town becoming more active during the times of independence, well attuned towards the bikes. " I just want to get through this without anybody getting hurt" one of the officers said only moments before an ambulance came blaring down the street as he scowled at the thought that his wishes may already be in vain.
Leading down to the rendezvous, the biker bar in town is a host of activity living up to it’s name. Dozens of bikes filter in and out of this area with music, alcohol and exhibitions of prowess over one’s bike skills. No one leaves the bar without: a trial of smoke and cheers, wheels praising the sky, or at the very least a little bit noise.
The audience is especially interesting from young to old, having unique and large personalities. Inspired by the mood of the bikers they are excited to share their emotions on the camera sharing their stories and enthusiasm for bikes, independence and in one case, a big truck with big wheels.
An unmistakable attraction to the whole show are the ladies who find themselves mounted on the back of the bikes. Almost all of them have read the memo on the short pants of varying degree allowing a more...comfortable fit.
The rider and lady passenger race down the street with no warning other than the screaming engine as it comes buzzing by at lightning speed. You can just about make out the shape of the lady's head buried into the backs of the bikers with expression head in fierce concentration leading the charge
The end of the night arrives, and the bikers ceremoniously rev their engines in anticipation, waiting for someone to make the first move. Once it happens a trail of smoke is mostly all what you can make out as they all peel off into the night leaving behind an obscured cheering crowd.
Thank you all to everyone who was there for spending their time with me and letting me be a part of their culture for the night.
See my instagram below for a different look on other things around the world.
Vincentian Van Culture is said to suffer from short term memory in the fast lane. A van can change it's identity at a moments notice.
Carnival in St.Vincent brings music, love and dance in more ways than you can count, but this one you should surely find yourself putting on your list.
Hustling On Wheels
Van culture in St.Vincent is pretty cool to say the least.
The main focal point of this blog post is the van drivers, the passengers and the culture that surrounds their lifestyle. The more you look at how it all works is the more you can begin to find a new appreciation for what they have to offer for St.Vincent.
When I started this project I was walking around on the side of the road with no real goal in mind except to take photos of vans. I remember feeling reluctant to talk to the van drivers and conductors because I was afraid they wouldn't understand what I was trying to do. This all quickly changed on my first day taking photos, I found that most of the conductors were giving me thumbs up out of their windows and the drivers were smiling through their windscreens often beeping their horns at me as a friendly nod . I then decided from there it was best to dive right in and hope for the best instead of wade in the safety of the shoreline.
I quickly found myself as a passenger of these vans several times a day, often talking to people squished next to me along their daily route. I bombarded the passengers with questions about how they enjoy the van services and surprisingly everyone I 'interviewed' in these vans were exceptionally accommodating. Like any well defined culture, the more I spoke to people is the more I started to understand the topic. People often shared similar remarks about the vans whether I was sat in a van talking to a college student with loud Vybez Kartel lyrics in our ears, or on the side of the road with an elderly lady holding her cargo waiting for any van to relieve her from the hot sun. One fascinating thing I noted is that while everyone was talking about the vans and their behaviors, if you wanted to know if it was true you could just look up from your notepad and see them doing it. I especially noticed this one time while interviewing an older lady as a van came practically drifting around the corner, she yelled "You see dat! Dem LAWLESS" as I scribbled in my notepad. I call this phenomenon "real time research"
Graphics Well Above the Speed Limit.
Meet Galdi Neehall.
Galdi knows the van culture like no other, he has been designing vans for well over 10 years and has done hundreds of designs. Galdi was instrumental in helping me really coming to understand and truly appreciate the art that reflects the van drivers. His talent for understanding stories from the van drivers which requires literal translation both in language and in emotion is paramount to his success. He mentioned that if you don't talk like they do, walk like they do and even act like they do, then you wont be able to produce their kind of art. He had to reflect their thoughts to help them understand what they wanted, meaning he had to literally show them what they were trying to say. You could essentially tag as him as a translator, psychologist and artist all in one. I funnily imagined the van driver laying down on a couch as Galdi questioned them while stroking his beard asking them to kindly "tell me about your childhood".
I've heard many say that the best art often goes without description (I guess that sucks for my blog!) if that is true then you can certainly look at the Vans for inspiration, the art on the vans are hardly ever just what they seem, and their descriptions only come in a few splattered words on the hood. Galdi often mentioned that the van drivers will approach him with complex stories buried behind materialism (money,party,drugs) that is often overlooked, and it was his job to delve deeper into their lives and develop what it was they were trying to say. If you wanted to know what many Vincentians thought about art then you should look at vans, if you wanted more Vincentians to appreciate Picasso we should put it on a Van first. But don't be surprised if the painting has a weed leaf, Courvoisier and some $100 bills along with it.
The stories that are on the vans also represent a very core culture of St.Vincent which is kept close to the van drivers' hearts. Graphic art on vans here is a widely misunderstood form of art in St.Vincent even though anyone who visits here or lives here is exposed to it. Even though I claim this large misunderstanding of Vincy van art, it is largely expressive and hardly censored. Mickel Carr the driver of Beatz was a van that had faced some controversy on his image of Osama Bin Laden. I approached him on the matter and he was very insightful on the entire atmosphere of the van culture. His only comments related to his ' Osama Bin Laden Van Art' was "He was hard to kill", all I could say was "that's true". The Beatz van is said to be one of the most progressive Vans pushing the boundaries on creativity, at one point even having a horn that sounded like the laugh of a Jamaican dance hall artist Vybez Kartel which was immensely popular.
Other countries have started to value the van art. There have been developers in St.Kitts who contacted Galdi to start expressing his work on their own public transport. This can be seen as an export of Vincentian culture and art. Who knows who else might want to capture the essence of St.Vincent being inspired by art on Vans?
Who Dares Ride?
If you want to understand who rides in these vans then all you have to do is look around you anywhere you are, most people in St.Vincent have to rely on them at some point in their lives. There is a stigma associated with riding in van’s which may make you think that someone shouldn’t use this as a form of transportation, but that stigma is loosely based on a fear which is only present in extreme cases much like most other things. However saying these vans are like most other things is far from the truth, these vans are popularized and patronized by the same fears that generate that stigma: speed, loud music, provocative graphics and most notably risky behavior on the road. Sitting in the van for some days will surely force you to encounter some of these characteristics due to the pure volume of van drivers that go back and forth, but this experience will be one of the most well rounded as an introduction to St.Vincent.
As you jump into the van you jump into the culture of St.Vincent, where you rub shoulders with the many idiosyncrasies of this island nation.
Its easy to find a queue of individuals waiting for vans, and in these queues you find all sorts of different people often going to or from work, school, or their friends. I often noted that it was easier to figure out where people were going. Simply by looking at them you could usually tell which direction they were headed. Even more reliably you could listen to their conversations as passengers answered their phones in the vans trying to talk over the loud music, you would hear the passenger shout 'Cut Dat TUNE!' to the conductor to turn it down the music via their remotes in their hands
An Interview with a Van Driver
When I asked the van driver his name he promptly asked me "My name or the name of the van?" I responded "How do you want to be known?" He smiled and simply said "Short Boss". I primarily asked him about how he caters to his passengers needs and what do people think about vans in general. Short Boss responded that he caters to his passengers 'simply by looking in the rear view mirror' he understands that the expectations vary between person to person, especially when they may either be elderly or a young college student. When understanding what people thought of vans in general he said that he is more concerned with what they 'know' about vans not what they 'think' about them. He wanted people to understand that they are a business on wheels and if they aren't 'hustling' then they aren't making money.
I interviewed another driver who was representing American culture on his van through the flags and the use of imagery of Barack Obama. I asked him why he chose that sort of imagery and he responded that he thought that 'the beast' which is the armored Cadillac that the president of the United States rides in was 'pretty cool'. I then noticed his van had ' The Beast' marked on the front and it all kind of made sense when I realise the art was implying that his passenger's are 'VIP'. He noticed me peaking at the markings and said " See even the President could ride in his van" which confirmed my thoughts. We then started talking about the state of the van culture in St.Vincent, he mentioned to me how it changes so fluidly, and if you are a stone in the water you simply get weathered down over the years, he continued to say that you need to flow with the river. Particular comments were made about some pressures the van drivers felt of upcoming change, but he was not worried because ' Van Culture is Creative ' any efforts to change it would just breed more creativity. His tone throughout this part of the conversation about change indicated it being a forceful change rather than a voluntary one. I was taken aback by the amount of information you could get from these drivers so readily just by hanging out next to them as they sit in their van with their arm over the window. I was left with the impression that these van drivers are so diverse and they shift gears as much as they shift roles from: businessman, pioneer, DJ, speed demon, street performer, artist, public figure and most importantly a proud Vincentian
What About The Passengers - a question to a van driver?
When asking van drivers who were the most two important passengers that he had to deal with , he often commented the elderly and the students, mostly because their ideal van experience often were the furthest divided.
The younger students definitely will tell you that they enjoy the spicy journeys that the vans have to offer. You can often find students encouraging drivers in their 'rivalries' between other vans in an overtaking competition even filming them and sending them to people like vincyvanculture on Instagram to keep a track of who won or lost. I interviewed students in the vans on the way into town and they often mentioned these following criteria as the most considerable, note in terms of rank 1 being the most important and 5 being the least:
- Cleanliness (also includes: body work, rims, tints)
The students also further commented that they view vans as a form of media when it comes to music and graphics. Many of the newest songs for carnival would be first heard in these vans and they would become almost like a 'student's news outlet' for their fix of popular media. Timely Graphics quickly ends up on the hoods of these vans as art. I would make reference to the Osama Bin Laden picture above which was quickly put on after his death. I would not be surprised one day to find the latest memes printed on the vans or even St.Vincent generating culture just from putting it on the hood of their vans, becoming more represented for the youth to grab a real hold on it.
The elderly were a little more on the calm and cruising side of preference when it comes to van service.
You would quickly notice that the vans the elderly got into often did not have graphics on them, they didn't seem to concerned with them at all. In terms of service the conductors often encouraged them to take the more comfortable seats and move around the more young and nimble adversaries. I found that the older folk were well respected when the conductors interacted with them; you have to give the conductor credit for his customer service, it's not easy being polite when you are trying to hurry people into seats and squeeze them into sardine cans while. Never the less, I did end up asking some of the elderly on their preferences for a good van experience:
The shorter list provided by the older demographic consisted of (in the same scale 1 being most important)
3. Music (although this may have been either no music or more to their taste )
While here we have a shorter list it is important to note that they both do consider speed as of relatively high importance. Speed seemed to be the most attractive criteria to the broadest range of people, gotta go fast right?
Every Hour is Rush Hour.
There is almost always a rush for certain vans, the crowds who flock towards them are flooded with so many different people it's hard to tell who is going in and who is coming out. I had several chats with people about the vans waiting where our conversations abruptly ended when we heard that rhythmic thumping in the distance which prickled their ears often indicating our end of conversation and their departure.
As we mentioned before, you can hear the vans in the distance before you can see them, and somehow the people know which one is coming. You can tell the lingering crowds sense the impeding stampede, causing a rush that if you aren't ready for you are bound to be left behind. This doesn't sound like such a bad thing until you realize these people have sometimes hours to travel home and aren't willing to spend another 15-45 minutes waiting on a van that can get them as close to their home as possible where sometimes they have another 30 minute walk or more to get to their home from where their van drops them off.
I started to imagine the bus stops in St.Vincent as if they were metro terminals in the big apple . It was interesting to see so many similarities as the vans doors close with people squeezed inside, just making it , while the others were left behind with a sad face in the distance. Just play some loud Soca music in the NYC metro, and I say us Vincentians will feel right at home.
It wasn't rare for me to marvel at the vans when you could see straight into them as people jumped in and out. There was often a general sense of 'just get this over with' which is an atmosphere you can compare to the kinds of things people do as soon as they step into their homes and drop their bags and kick off their shoes. You often see people who were waiting in the sun step into the van and sigh with relief in the same manner, forgetting all the eyes are still on them. It was a dream to photograph some of these people who didn't notice you where they are truly being themselves in a setting which is oddly beautiful.
In my final words, let us not forget what these vans actually do - and who they cater for. They are some of the most effective and hardest working Vincentians we have. You will always find one of them on the road and no matter what happens to St.Vincent, you can be sure their wheels will still be turning with the same creativity pushing them forward. Can they do what they are doing better? Yes, of course, but who can't say the same thing for themselves. Be sure to take a ride on a van or at least have a nice friendly conversation with a driver.
Take care and enjoy!
'The City Takeover' With Hon. Lisa Hanna, Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves and the Girl Guides, also including teasers for the upcoming blog post of the Travel Channel Shoot in the Tobago Keys , Owia and Union Island. Which I was cast in!
The Argyle International Airport located on the mainland of St.Vincent in the Caribbean is gearing up for a release in February 2017. There have been postponed release dates in the past, but this one certainly feels different. The sheer amount of attention that has been brought to it from far and wide is notable enough to help understand that things seem to be developing quickly.
Tours from several stakeholders, invited guests and also employee personel at the current regional ET.Joshua Airport are being conducted back to back showing the entire airport that the passengers will have access to. I took my tour with the contingency of the SVGHTA (St.Vincent and the Grenadines Hotel and Tourism Association).
The terminal building has an ostentatious design that allow your eyes to easily flow from one section to another with the curving wave like angles and sweeping landscape features ; much like the surrounding area of Argyle. You would imagine it was designed as an international art feature by an architecht with a passion project of capturing both the Caribbean's simple charm and Mediterranean flair.
Art and culture continues it's heavy influence within the terminal building, the departures area holds the 'Argyle Interpretation Center' which is a gallery displaying the pottery and other artifacts from the tribes who use to inhabit the land found during the excavation of the airport.
The departure lounge is contained in two floors the first for regional flights below and the second for international flights above.
This brings me to where I began to feel like a little kid going on a jet for the first time again except there was no need for the jet only the sky bridge.
I thought at this point I couldn't be impressed anymore until...
I want to congratulate the person responsible before you see these photos so you can truly appreciate it. These lounges decorated by Mrs. Eloise Gonsalves the wife of the Prime Minister who is the head of the Finishing Comittee of the AIA. She extends the design choices with emphasis on the colour of the airport into the lounges simply with grace.
I was thoroughly impressed with seeing the development and results of decisions made to truly create something that is aesthetically grand for us Vincentians to relish and enjoy with pride. And as we were exciting the terminal I found myself feeling like we had a new hope
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The beach was the last place I thought I was going to have an impromtu photo shoot with 25 people all eager for their own 'million dollar picture' but now it doesn't suprise me.
I went to the beach because someone challenged me to take some pictures of something I loved. I was looking around and spending time thinking of what I could take pictures of. My very next thought was who was yelling at me? . I looked at a group of people already posing towards me trying to understand what they were shouting as it caught me off guard. Then I came to my senses as I heard them shout "take a shot!" With their fingers colletively aimed at me. At this point I hesitated, because I wasn't sure what I should do, but then I thought am I dotish or what? Take the blasted picture!
Somehow their group picture lead into a spontaneous and collective stampede into the sea. I wondered if this had to do with my camera or is it something they all do normally. Maybe a bit of both
I felt like I had struck cultural gold. All these young gentlemen who I might have never gotten the opportunity to interact with are enjoying themselves infront of me while being very polite and respectful. I was almost shocked but I didn't know why, I feel like I was still coming to terms with my preconceptions of mischief makers yet I felt so comfortable around them.
And we were just getting started.
All while they played, they each were pointing at me and asking for their very own "million dollar picture". Trying to impress made it even more fun for them as they tried their best to out style each other
I began to follow their legs like a dancing puzzle, trying to figure out who was next to intercept the ball. All while getting so close to the action, I managed to get a little kick myself.
Soon I had all sorts of people getting interested in the photo shoot asking for their own picture. I felt like I stepped back into an age where cameras where a novelty and portraits where valuable moments to be cherished forever.
Things started getting pretty professional here. We actually began testing focus and poses before the jump, almost like I was actually becoming a real photographer, but then I missed the shot so we had to do it again. But luckily the repition inspired some others to join in aswell.
It was certainly a day to remember , and I ended up giving them my contact details so they could all see their pictures. Thank you all for helping and enjoy your 'million dollar pictures'.
Owen Ralph has been painting for many years here in St. Vincent but I've only recently stumbled into his gallery. At the time I struggled to define what it was that I felt like I discovered, was it a museum, a home, a studio, a collective piece of art? Maybe it's a little bit of everything, although one thing is for sure that it was certainly a treasure.
The gallery is found in Sion Hill , I've passed by it many times and I never knew it was there until one day passing by it again. It took just one wandering gaze to lock my sights on a sign that says ' Art Gallery, Sign painting Etc'
The layout of the gallery is like a mosaic of paintings covering the roof to the floor with illustrations ranging from the classical landscapes of the Grenadines to women in bikinis and aprons doing home cleaning. The most interesting part of this gallery is his studio in which he paints in the back. A very connected feel to his art comes from where you see its birthplace. His process is unashamedly laid out in manner that shows invention and creativity in such a unique setting.
Owen has many stories about those who has been in his studio, helping you understand this a place where many of his life impacting experiences have happened with paintings reminding him never to forget those both wonderful and sad times.
His art is even captured in ways other than paintings , he has pieces of costumes from past carnivals hung around showing his other talents all kept in one place.
A man of many hats, yet all worn in the same place. Owen finds himself a creative outlet that is overflowing with history and sentimental artifacts lay all over his gallery like a personal home museum, except Owen works in his museum.
Owen Ralph's Gallery is truly an experience I will never forget. The short time I spent with him has taught me much about art and how I now see it. The connection to the paintings and artist has never been so involved for me, and in this case it is unavoidable.
Pass by his place and give him a shout. Let him know I helped you find it and I know he will be joyful.
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Do you ever find yourself thinking that humans are the scourge of the earth and they are ripping it apart? Or maybe that if we humans weren't around nature would thrive and survive in a paradise we can only dream of? I certainly did until I met this vine outside of my house.
This vine here in particular we will call Ashley. I named it because I wish to humanize it for the sake of my argument, but more so to help you understand where I am coming from. Ashley here seems to have many personalities, and unlike people, Ashley's personalities are all kept in the same place, all at the same time. Take a look for yourself.
Here Ashley has seemed to strangled and broke its encroaching neighbor and kept it's corpse held high as a warning not to get in it's turf.People say actions speak louder than words, well Ashley sure doesn't speak and it's actions are almost frozen in time without a care for who has to see. This is the best part about Ashley, no matter who is looking, it all seems to be about blatant survival yet this doesn't make it predictable. Even if you tried to flirt with Ashley and offer it all it could ever want, it would probably still wrap its vine around your neck to find its way to glory using you as a step.
I should probably establish where Ashley lives before I continue with this so that you can understand a little better why it does these things. Its found in the middle of several other plants who are a little more humble and shy than Ashley. Firstly they don't seem to have to wrap themselves around their neighbors to survive. And secondly they also seem a little more consistent in their path, almost like if they understand they can stand on their own without anyone's help. But Ashley seems to know it needs to feed off others, it immediately springs for its friends and enemies as it pops out of the ground like an extroverted teenager looking for a ride to the city to party no matter who is driving.
Despite all that we have seen so far, Ashley can be very cunning and calculated. It spaces some of it's grips around victims with an exceptional symmetry. I couldn't determine why it had done this, but if I were to guess, Ashley just likes to let you know what it is capable of.
Unlike us, it isn't able to hide its failures. Ashley used her energy with nothing to hold onto in hopes of success but ultimately failed leaving behind a dull and brown scarred limbs. These limbs would reach back onto itself almost as if to soothe its wounds ' everything is going to be alright'. In these areas I noticed not many subsequent efforts to try again, almost as though it was afraid to try again.
In the sun the leaves shine green and bright in an attempt to cover up it's friends and rotten mistakes below alike. Relentless and cruel, this plant would suffocate its neighbors until it took over the entire city. And then from that point it would begin to take apart itself.
I hope that you can forgive Ashley, even after my portrayal of it's behavior of self harm, murder and other things. Here is an opportunity to see something so unashamed and honest, that if you can forgive this, you may be able to forgive anyone who at least speaks their mind in the same way that Ashley does. But maybe not the holding up your neighbors corpse thing though, don't try that.
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Red and White has been an annual event started over 26 years ago which you may very well know that it goes beyond the genesis of the family hotel. But this year in particular begun in the planning stage 3 months in advance inside the living room in Barbados.All the family members found space among the furniture to be a part of the crowd sprawled out among the couches and chairs or even perched upon armrests. As we were discussing the general happenings of St.Vincent we somehow came about talking about Red and White. At that time we decided we were going to actually plan a real party instead of just simply having it as was tradition. Ideas begun to fly from every corner full of colorful descriptions that made us laugh and argue, but the most important one was the date. December 17th. This date was set and nothing was going to change it. If only we would have known it was going to be completely packed with our family and friends, and friends of friends becoming new friends we would have built a bigger restaurant.
We begun the day with anxious anticipation of how the night was going to go. With so many new things put into place, we were jokingly told don't even bother to come back to work if our party was a flop. At least I think they were joking, luckily we didn't have to find out. Regardless we worked from early in the morning putting in place all the little bits and bobs we had been working on for the last 3 months, all the preparations began passing through my mind and at this point I was happy with the efforts all of us had made for our little family tradition.
The early planning wasn't the only tradition we influenced to break for this event, we also got our fellow Vincentians to come early to an event! Unfortunately we found out they were told the wrong starting time and for this I have to apologize to those dedicated and valued people who came early (I'm so sorry Aunt Esta!). The party truly kicked off at about 10:00pm , lines started forming at the entrance for their wrist bands and I was breathing a sigh of relief against my possible termination of employment through an ambiguous joke.
Relief turned into joy as I saw friends from overseas seeing each other for the first time after returning home and embracing heartfelt hugs fueled by years of friendship.
12:00am , the party was in full force. The DJ with a relentless smile at the crowd pointing to him and smiling. He found himself on stage directing the crowd like a maestro conducting a concert. I now found myself with a beer in hand and camera in the other, a good excuse to get on the dance floor and 'work'. The rest of the night went as you expect, constant dancing, people meeting people for the first time at the party despite being there for hours together due to the crowd being so dense. Drinks coming from the make shift bar we set up that morning where the old bar used to be, along with the KREW craft beer which the family sampled several times to make sure the quality was consistent all night.
Thank you all who made our night possible in planning and preparing.
And a special thanks to those who came from even before the start time all the way to the end. We hope to see you again next year and have a very merry Christmas.
I recently had the fantastic opportunity of shooting with the SVG Rugby Union who were tasked with an initiative of inspiring rugby among younger generations. They sought to achieve this by introducing primary school children from local Schools around St.Vincent to the sport of rugby at the National Stadium. As I walked out onto the bright green grass of the stadium with my camera lazily by my side I could see the large group of children in blue and yellow teams facing their coaches. It only took one of them to notice my camera and they all spun towards me ignoring their coaches important rules of the game, each with their individual and unique poses. I was immediately taken aback by their spirits and I happily reoriented myself to engage with these young children who were so eager to take photos.
The first thing I asked them was "Who likes to take photos?" Normally at this point I would find myself motivating them to put their hands in the air, but on that day I found myself judging a competition of who had their hand highest in the air.
It wasn't long before they were all playing rugby. I happily found myself following their less than predictable patterns, which some might say sounds like professional tactics but instead looked rather adorable.
Their eager attempts to play a complicated game were not met with dissatisfaction, quite the opposite actually. They were listening and abiding by the rules quite well for those new to the sport. They only got frustrated when they were told to stop running forward as they got to the try (score) line. I assume they got irritated at their instincts which are begging their souls to run as fast as they can.
As they huddled together to discuss strategy, their faces were so captivating I couldn't resist participating in their expressions and forgetting the game plan, which the coach could easily scold me for later.
Thank you to the SVG Rugby union for inviting me to experience this, and a huge thank you for the children to being truly inspiring in a seemingly effortless but almost professional manner.
It's easy to view photos forgetting what it takes to capture an image. I used too often find myself guilty of losing an awareness of how I see an image, but now I try to hold myself responsible whether it be a spontaneous selfie or a National Geographic post. With this responsibility, I aim to expose this phenomenon. Especially to others who might not know they want to be inspired until they stumble upon something that speaks the thoughts they were yet to have.
If you want to really learn how to understand a photo then you should start taking them yourself. The process of creating photos is like chasing imagery in a dream, and engaging with your subject is like trying to describe it to a friend or loved one using their bodies as puppets. As you speak to them you remember different moments figuring out what actually happened or making it up as you go along. Until finally, after you both have laughed or cried over the strange process of re-enacting your memories, you finally create new ones that are captured forever.
The expression of the photo comes with the connection between:subject,photographer, and audience. The photographer creates a space of intimacy for their subject to vulnerably express themselves with a keen sense of awareness. This intimate space produces an image that is then communicated to the world for everyone that wasn't able to be a part of it, creating a socially acceptable peeping tom gallery that expands for miles.
Featured: Aubrey, Alice and Stephan
Special thanks to Lexi.