As I wrote in my last post, the more I talk to Maxi drivers, the more layers I find to this Maxi Taxi story. There's expression of religion, and I've already seen five faiths represented in Maxi names (Judaism, Christianity, Hindhuism, Hare Krishna, and Islam). There are names of Maxis that I assumed were statements of egotism but are actually statements of spirituality (ex. The Great One referring not to the driver, but to God). There are names that have deeply personal meanings to the drivers, and likely little to no meaning to anyone else. There are drivers whose main concern in naming their vehicle is that passengers be able to remember the vehicle so they can retrieve lost items (like a cell phone or keys). There are also drivers who do not name their vehicles because they wish not to be identified. There's concern over job security as the government continues to talk about building a rapid rail train from Port of Spain to Arima, which would run the very route that my drivers run. There's a feeling that the laws, meant at cracking down on some hazards, are stifling the creative expression of drivers.
In fact, I've been learning so much about the dynamic Maxi sub-culture, that I'm not really sure how to pull it all together into a logical narrative. I want to present my exploration of Maxi culture, but I want to present it in a way that flows sensibly, and doesn't feel discombobulated and disorganized. I think the best solution is to try to do another short multimedia narrative, including photographs, audio interviews with drivers, and a third track of my own voice narrating. This was my original idea, but I abandoned it when I thought I wouldn't have enough time to gather my materials. After talking to Mark Lyndersay, however, we agreed that the very process of organizing my captured media for a multimedia narrative will help me organize my thoughts, and ultimately, help me see a sensible way to select and present my still prints. I know that I will have to touch at least on the spiritual expressions, the motivations for naming vehicles, as well as a bit about the current controversy surrounding the rapid rail.
So that's where I am in this process right now. I have about 40 still images that I like so far, some stronger relationships, and interviews with about ten different drivers. I have enough captured raw media to start compiling a multimedia, but I need to really get a move on that. There's not very much time left before my show, and I'm sure that as I work through the multimedia, I'll discover places where I'm missing some element of the story, and I want to have enough time to go out and ask those questions and take those photographs to fill in the gaps.
Other than that, a few technical nitty-gritty details about the final show:
1. Lighting: I was traveling to Florida for the weekend and picked up several LED stick-on push-button lights from Target to light the interior of the Maxi. Since my show will be at night time, I imagine I'll need about one of these lights to stick onto the roof of the vehicle to light the images, and then I got a few larger, softer lights of the same style to stick to the isles of the Maxi. Hopefully, those will work out to provide enough light to view the images.
2. Promotional cards: I started handing out the promo cards that I wrote about in my last post, and so far, they seem to be having the effect I'm looking for. Drivers who I've spoken to before seemed happy to see a little legitimacy to my claims that this is a project that I'll be exhibiting in Port of Spain in May, and drivers that I hadn't met previously seemed more excited about helping me out once I handed them one of the cards. A few guys even asked me for some extras so they could hand them out to their friends. I really just hope that they'll be able to make it.
3. Press: I've spoken to Ms. Sunity Maharaj-Best, a journalist who works closely with our program, who is very well connected to the media in Trinidad and Tobago, and she's going to try to see if some of her friends in the media can come to my show. My thinking is that if a bunch of Maxi drivers show up, the show itself could serve as a good venue for some conversations about the impact of the rapid rail on my friends in the Maxi industry. I think it would make a good human interest story and could encourage decision-makers in Trinidad to consider the impact on the Maxi drivers, which I imagine, they haven't really been thinking about.
My vision for the final showing is starting to clear up, and I'm getting more and more excited to see how it turns out. There's still a ton of work I need to do to prepare, but I think if I manage to pull it all off, it'll be one of the most rewarding photography projects I've done thus far.
My most recent Maxi photographs have been added to my red band maxi photo set on flickr.