I just finished making these little guys, 2" x 3" promo/invites for my final Maxi Taxi show. I've still got a lot of work to do by way of more visits to the taxi stand in Arima to meet more drivers and take more photographs, but I'm off to a good enough start, and have met enough drivers who want information about my show, that I need to start going back with something to hand out as a "formal" invitation. All these guys are being really generous and friendly to me, letting me photograph them, and letting me photograph their Maxis and giving me time to interview them and ask questions. I've been learning a lot. Many drivers are really shy about their Maxis. For some people, their vehicles are sort of an extension of themselves, so the same way you might be shy having your photograph taken, they are shy to have their Maxi's photograph taken. Other drivers are really proud of their vehicle and are eager to have their vehicle photographed. I've been learning more about the decisions that go into designing your Maxi. Some people don't own the vehicle they drive, and thus have no control over the design of their vehicle. Other people own the vehicle, but chose to leave the existing designs as is. Other people consciously chose to keep their vehicle bare, not wanting to be "marked" in the event that something happens. What I've been finding is that the more I let go of trying to "get" what I'm "looking for," the more I'm finding out about Maxi culture in general. I've stopped going to the stand with the intention of getting particular shots, and instead have adopted a more open attitude. I'm going looking for encounters, and looking for people, so I can see what emerges out of that, and my camera is only there for evidence.
So in considering how much I've been getting from these guys (knowledge, time, material for an exhibit, hopefully a good grade **wink wink**, etc.) I started thinking about how to give some of that back. So here's my plan (I've just realized how often I make lists on this blog... forgive me):
1. Hand out these little promo/invite cards every time I go shoot at the Maxi stand, starting next week (when I can get them printed). Since I'm already seeing familiar faces and word is spreading around the stand about who I am and what I'm doing, I figure if I give these cards out twice a week for the next 3 weeks before my show, word will get around, and hopefully (at least) the guys featured in my show will be able to make it.
2. Have extra prints of each of the photographs in the show to give to my subjects if they show up. I guess this one is pretty self-explanatory, but if I gain from taking your picture, the least I can do is give you a free print, right? I also think it'd be pretty cool to do something like what Stefan Falke did with his Moko Jumbies book. Falke, a German born New York City based photographer documented the Moko Jumbie (stilt-walking Carnival character) and then, upon publication of his book, took photographs of his subjects with their published photographs.
My overall plan for the event is to park a 14-seater Red Band Maxi in Alice Yard and to have the exhibit take place within the Maxi. I'll mount my photographs on the backs of the seats of the Maxi, and I'll have an audio track playing through the vehicle's speakers, of interviews and statements from Maxi drivers about their thinking in designing their Maxis, about Maxi culture and how it's changed since the 80s, about the role of Maxi Taxis in Trinidad society, and so forth.
In any case, here's my Red Band Maxi photo set, so far.