Positionality and Tobago

I’ve been considering my position and positionality as a photographer recently. I was hoping that looking to Krista A. Thompson’s book titled “An Eye for the Tropics” would help me to be able to more critically look at my role, but found instead that it only confused and complicated how I feel.

On the one hand, Thompson prints a quote from an old travel guide to Jamaica, and I can immediately connect with. I simply recognize my own experiences in Trinidad and Tobago with the idea, “that to a person coming from a northern climate, it is realizing for the first time a picture one has been in the habit of seeing for years in their imagination” (Thompson, 93).

Of course, I have not been seeing these exact scenes, colors, or peoples, but images coming from the Caribbean islands at large, as argued by Thompson, are taken in a way as to homogenize and create desire for a particularly “Caribbean” experience.

This is what I am hoping to avoid. I am hoping to avoid, in my photography and experience of Trinidad and Tobago, that specific type of stereotyping and stripping of the individuality of a nation. As I previously wrote, I am finding one way of doing this through looking for, finding and seeing the smallest human moments that are (supposedly) universally recognizable. The assumption that a look, a touch, or a smile can be universally recognizable may show my own bias and set of cultural assumptions, but in this I am endeavoring to look beyond what is considered “foreign” and fantastic, and instead find elements that I am comfortable in recognizing.

While I’m still exploring this for myself, I’m taking the opportunities that come to photograph the beauty that I see. So until I further work out my feelings, and also the direction of my focus, this set of images are those that I took in Tobago, while I was attempting to balance my mind on the issues of tropicalization and colonial legacy within photography.

In these photographs, I can see my mind composing photographs like scenes from the post cards Thompson points out, to clever moments, and my favorite focuses of color, texture, and locks. Here I see what I've read and how I've been socialized jockeying for the foremost artistic influence.


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