In the pool with King David

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David Rudder and the photographer, on location at Westmoorings.

Two grown men peer at the screen of a telephone, both wrestling with the metaphysical considerations of the now ubiquitous wefie.
Behind are palm trees, the edge of a building's roof and a Photex Softlighter, all offering tangential clues of the afternoon's activities.

The business of the day is done. Mr Rudder, finished with splashing about in a pool is now gamely indulging the photographer's invitation to be a participant in his first public, non-family wefie.
It's an odd moment for them both. A few minutes ago the snapper directed the famous singer/songwriter in a shoot that would normally feature a far more nubile and determinedly female subject.
But, Mr Rudder is a manly man, and carried it off with aplomb.

Now he stands alongside the photographer, waist deep in a pool, arm perched on its deck, the photographer lying alongside him, the smartphone dangling perilously above the cool and very chlorinated water.
The picture captures two men with the required manly space between them, a distance commanded by decades of being a dude in the Caribbean. Ya know, we're close, we just not that close.

Look here, the digital reflection of their gaze commands, so they do, bemused by this fun house refraction of themselves, the mirror that captures a moment, if not souls, a slice of time raddled with bemusement and befuddled curiosity.
Take another picture, it seems to urge. So we do.
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The Portrait: In the bag

Retrospective50_Working
The ThinkTank Retrospective 50 during the setup for a shoot on local poets for Caribbean Beat.
Photo by Mark Lyndersay


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The Urban Disguise 60 2.0 at the Socadrome, Carnival 2014

I've had my eye on ThinkTank's stuff for a few years now, particularly after one interesting interlude I had when making my pilgrimage to their booth at
PhotoPlus Expo.

I was rocking my aged
Domke F3 bag on the show floor that year, a bag that's now 25 years old if it's a day and shows it with the nobility of well-made canvas.
A ThinkTank representative walked over, no doubt curious about my squeezing, tugging and general fondling of their products.
He took a look at the somewhat ratty camera bag on my shoulder.
"Looks like you need a new bag," he said with a smile.
"Hmph," I responded with a bit of an upturned nose.  "That's a Domke.""
So it is," he said with a nod of appreciation, "so it is."

So we jump forward to the end of last year when I left a comment on a competition post on
ThinkTank's Facebook page.
Not being a person with a history of winning anything, I was quite surprised to get a notification via email that I'd won second prize.

ApplePack
ThinkTank's Apple Pack.

I had my choice of the
Retrospective range of bags, though I didn't imagine that the company expected a second place winner to overreach quite so boldly and ask after the top of the line Retrospective 50.
To ThinkTank's credit, they didn't waver on their commitment.

They agreed quickly to the upscale request and that bag and the accompanying 'Apple pack,' a grab bag of Mac accessories was on it's way.
Shortly thereafter, another package arrived from ThinkTank, rather surprisingly containing another bag, the sleeker Urban Disguise 60 2.0.

In retrospect (see what I did there?), I really should have measured the Retrospective 50 more carefully.
It's a huge bag that positively swallows up gear. It's now my go-to bag for a hefty speedlight system. In an accompanying post on my current packing profiles, you can see how I use that bag.
This post is about the two bags, their advantages and occasional glitches.

Let's start with the Retrospective 50, a bag that's probably a bit too big for most folks.  Most users will be happy with a smaller version of this bag, perhaps the 30 or 40, you should measure (do as I say, not as I did), to get a sense of its capacity.

Retrospective50_Link
The 50 is a spacious bag that easily absorbs four speedlights, assorted modifiers, an Odin trigger and a basic camera kit, usually a Canon full frame camera with either a medium range zoom or a couple of primes.
What's remarkable about the Retrospective 50 is not just how easily it swallows up a remarkable amount of gear, but how comfortable it is to carry.

Part of that is because it has the best shoulder strap I've ever used, and I'm someone who is comfortable buying a better strap for a bag.
The strap design on the Retrospective 50 is one that ThinkTank should consider rolling out to its other shoulder bag products. The strap on the Urban Disguise 2.0 isn't in that class.  It's distinctly less comfortable, doesn't grip the shoulder nearly as well and for an extremely tall person (I'm a big guy ), at least six inches too short.

ThinkTank puts an average stiffener in the base of the bag, but I found that the bag's load balancing was significantly improved with the addition of a more solid interior base. Given the company's generosity with its padding and separation bits and pieces that shouldn't be a problem.

UrbanDisguise60_Link
The Urban Disguise 60 is a smaller bag, so clearly numbers aren't a good way to compare bags across designs in ThinkTank's line.
It's also stiffer, the structure clearly designed to provide both protection and a compact, well-defined profile.
The result is a sleek, if determinedly unassuming shoulder bag that at a glance looks like the dozens of other bags that ferry executive paperwork and cheap PC laptops everywhere.

It's a calculated and risky design approach, betting that a serious photographer will be far more interested in a bag's interior than it's determinedly bland exterior.
Even the detailed pictures on ThinkTank's website don't properly convey the practical feel of the bag.
The camera compartment is much smaller than the one in the Retrospective 50.

I normally pull it when I'm working with a body, a couple of lenses and either two speedlights or the support stuff for a larger light kit (triggers, meter, etc al).
I can shove all this stuff in and still carry a MacBook Pro, a Windows 8 tablet and all related cables and paraphernalia.
This also makes it a great candidate for travel. ThinkTank clearly knows this, because while the bag is positioned as a street carrier, the company has added some sly features that make working with it in transit a dream.

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The Urban Disguise 60 in play at Houston International Airport.

Unzip the bottom of the rear magazine sleeve (who travels with magazines anymore?) and you get an excellent attachment point for a rolling bag, my normal travelling companion.
The front flap of the bag has a thin, but neatly compartmentalised front pocket that keeps a travel wallet, note paper and pens conveniently at hand.

The bag's most compelling feature though, is a design that fits neatly under the seat of the small inter-island propeller aircraft that I frequently travel on that are keen to grab your gear at the foot of the embarkation steps.
Together, the two bags have overtaken all save two of the gear carriers I normally reach for.

I've been so pleased with the performance of these two ThinkTank products that I'm going hunting at PhotoPlus for a replacement for that old Domke F3 and my main strobe light bag.  Let's see if the company has what it takes to make a clean sweep.
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A dip into the day job

HDC Housing Slideshow from Mark Lyndersay on Vimeo.



Folks sometimes ask what I do for a living.
That's easy enough. I take portraits.
Sometimes I do editorial projects and sometimes I do executive portraits. And sometimes I do architectural portraits, photographs of buildings that seek to show the structures in their best light.
I'd begun doing this work just before I returned to doing photography full time in 2006 after several years in corporate life.

It was 2005 and Dennise Demming's communications firm was working on a 50th anniversary celebration event for Consulting Engineers Partnership, a company that's behind the structural design of major structures throughout the Caribbean.

Since then, I've done a few more projects and then began doing work for the state housing agency, a project that's proven to be particularly satisfying on a creative level.

The video was produced from the 2014 collection of images I produced for them two months ago. The images are all HDR captures, including the panoramics, which can require as many as 24 separate exposures to complete.
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Wake up call

MWL_20130905_2288
Berlin energy plant, September, 2013.

Sometimes a photograph demands your attention.
I was struggling to sleep in a room in Berlin, squeezing in winks between the tight schedule set up by Samsung for its launch of the new
Gear SmartWatches.

So a brilliant shaft of light reflecting off the mirror into my eyes was definitely not part of the plan. Finally, I gave in, hauled off that delightfully warm coverlet and planted reluctant feet on the ground.
Stomping over to the window, I glared out to see what could possibly be stealing my precious and desperately awaited sleep from me.

And saw the amazing scene above. I found out later from our driver that I'd photographed a steam driven energy plant, a gift from the US after World War II when supplies were delivered via airlift to the population of the city.
So when things come calling, make the time to find out who's ringing the bell.
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PhotoPlus 2014 registration opens

Photoplus_Showfloor
The show floor at the 2013 edition of PDN PhotoPlus Expo. Photo courtesy PDN.

Emerald Expositions, Inc. announced today that registration is open for its PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo, taking place October 29-November 1, 2014 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. With NYC as your backdrop and Halloween as the theme, PhotoPlus Expo (PPE) will be an experience no one should miss this year! From a trilogy of world-class keynotes to photo walks throughout the city and a conference program of seminars featuring the industry’s finest working photographers, PPE continues to be the premiere annual gathering place for visual artists to inspire and be inspired. And, if it’s a party you are looking for, PhotoPlus will be hosting its annual bash at the luxurious 230 Fifth Rooftop Club and Penthouse Lounge exclusively for its VIP Expo Pass holders.
 
Attracting more than 22,000 attendees last year, PPE continues to be the pilgrimage site for photographers, filmmakers and those in digital imaging. A testament to this is the 2014 lineup of keynote speakers, which will include Ben Folds, Martin Parr and a panel presentation by A Day Without News speakers, including Aidan Sullivan, Santiago Lyon, Lynsey Addario, Ron Haviv and Antonio Bolfo.

Some of the most successful and respected professionals in the photography and filmmaking business today will lead seminars, Master Classes and workshops. These classes will focus on elements within lighting, portraiture, filmmaking, post-production, social media and marketing, weddings and special events, to name a few. A complete listing of seminar topics and presenters can be found at
PhotoPlusExpo.com.
 
Attendees have various conference pass options; those who register early will benefit from a greater range of seminars and optional Master Classes, limited to 25 people ensuring a more intimate learning environment. Attendees may register to attend PhotoPlus as members or non-members. Members of the Photo Group (PDN, PhotoServe.com, and WPPI) save up to 30% on all conference seminar passes: Full Conference Pass, One Day Conference Pass, as well as A-la-Carte Seminars and Master Classes.

Through July 31, 2014, the price of a Full Conference Pass is $399 for members and $449 for non-members.  The price of a One Day Conference Pass is $149 for members and $169 for non-members. Prices for non-members increase online after July 31 and on-site. Complete options and pricing may be found on the
website.
 
Photoplus_SeminarLink
Conference passes will include free admission to all keynote presentations and to Test Drive, a new panel discussion, product preview and networking event. People are encouraged to register early to avoid additional fees for late registration.
 
“We are very excited about this year’s show. The energy we feel through our social channels is vibrant, and our conversations with presenters and exhibitors lead me to believe that this year’s PPE conference will be engaging in a number of innovative ways,” explains Lauren Wendle, vice president/publisher of PDN and the Photo Group.
 
This year’s Expo will feature more than 225 of the industry’s most prominent manufacturers of photo and video gear, software and accessories. The focus of the show is to give attendees an opportunity to view and compare thousands of imaging tools currently available to creative professionals all in one convenient location. Registration for admission to the PPE exhibit hall is free through October 28 online and $70 on-site for non-Photo Group members.
 
Special Events and Activities
 
Photo Walks
Wednesday, October 29 – 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Try new products and gear on one of six intimate photo walks led by some of the industry's best photographers. Use the New York City streets as your backdrop to learn lighting, portraiture, composition and design that brings “street photography” to a new level.
 
The University: One Day Workshop
Wednesday, October 29 – 12:30-5:45 p.m.
The University is a one day, interactive series of classes ideal for emerging photographers. Learn from working professional photographers how to strengthen your shooting and posing techniques, how to manage everything from speedlights to studio strobes and continuous lighting, and how to effectively use mixed/natural light. Choose to attend the sessions that best fit your needs and interests for a unique learning experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
 
Test Drive: Panel Discussion and New Product Preview + Networking Event
Panel Discussion: How Technology Is Leading the Storytelling Revolution
Wednesday, October 29 – 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Learn how social media is changing the way professionals are creating greater awareness about projects and how to effectively use social media tools to build your brand. Panelists include photographers who have successfully created prominent individual brands using social media as well as manufacturers who are enabling the cause.
 
New Product Preview + Networking Event
Wednesday, October 29 – 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Immediately following the panel discussion, get a head start on PhotoPlus Expo with an exclusive look at some of the new and innovative products on display by exhibitors during this year’s show.
 
Portfolio Reviews
October 29-November 1
This is your chance to meet face-to-face with top industry professionals who could change your career.  You will receive valuable feedback, create new relationships, and possibly land your next assignment. Choose from more than 175 top industry professionals to review your portfolio. October 29 will be exclusively for emerging photographers and October 30 through November 1 will be for both emerging and professional photographers. For more information or to register for a portfolio review, click here.
 
PPE VIP Expo Pass
Attendees will also have the option of  purchasing a special PhotoPlus VIP Expo Pass, which gives holders exclusive entry to the Halloween Bash at 230 Fifth as well as a VIP gift bag filled with premium products and special offers that have a value of over $300. Twenty-five of the gift bags will hold Golden Tickets, guaranteeing the recipient a prize valued up to $500.  VIP Expo Pass holders will also get a three-day pass to the expo and priority admission to all keynote presentations with reserved seating, and they will have access to a private Customer Service Desk for quick check-in.
 
Student/Educator Discounts
Special discounts for high school and college students and educators will be available upon the approval of submitted credentials. Pricing information can be found on the PhotoPlus Expo’s registration site.
 
For more information or for frequent updates, visit the PPE website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow PPE on Twitter.
 
Website
Facebook
Twitter
 
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Make money with your Carnival photos!

I'm sure that some folks somewhere still think that photographers documenting Carnival and other aspects of Trinidad and Tobago's culture are making a mint from these photographs.

Last week I got phone calls from two large organizations who employ full staffs to accomplish their projects asking for photographs in return for a credit.

Not the popular science fiction notion of credits, that catch-all currency that allows speculative authors to dodge questions about money in the future, which would at least be amusing. Credits, as in this photograph is by its author.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone has noticed the Internet when these discussions come up. Almost inevitably they have found exactly the photo they are looking for or something almost exactly like it on my website. Somehow it escapes their thinking that if they can see the photo, anyone else who is interested in the subject can as well.

Which means I already have an audience. I don't need your textbook or a few seconds on your television show, what I actually want is some of that money you are so happy to spend hiring somebody to talk me into giving you my intellectual property for free.

So those conversations, one with a regional education agency, the other with a State agency, did not go particularly well. One was a phone call and I can't be bothered to recall the details of it, but the other was a Facebook chat message from a particularly entrepreneurial young person.

This is how that went...

"Good day Mr. Lyndersay,
I am sending this message just in case you have not yet gotten my voice mail. I am trying to get a photo of Rose Jaggessar when she won Queen in 2010 with Wakanisha.
I am working with [named State agency] and I am producing a feature on mas making.
I have a license that you can sign authorizing me to use your photo specifically for that purpose only to protect your rights. I will credit you at the end of course."

"Hello [representative of State Agency].
Not to shoot the messenger or anything, but why would I want to do that?
I am, quite specifically by this message, denying [named State agency] access to my image.
When your boss or his secretary or even his cleaning lady want to come to my office and do some work for credit, please let me know."

"I would be deeply gratified if you would pass this message on to your superiors as is.
I understand this is not coming from you, but you are the conduit through which my response must pass.
Thanks for contacting me. Please feel to get in touch when there's a budget available to pay for hard work.
Oh, and if anyone thinks I'm being rude, that will give them an idea of just how insulting I find requests like these."

"OK thank you for the prompt response."
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Farewell Suzanne

Suzanne_Salandy_Link
Suzanne Salandy was not, I have to admit, someone I would describe as a friend.
She was, however, very much a business acquaintance and someone who had earned my respect over years of work.

I'd met her six years ago when she began working at Gayelle in programming. Like many jobs at the television station, she was called on to do different things and one of them was herding new hosts down to my studio, which through a happy accident of geography was a couple of hundred yards away from Gayelle's St James offices.

I'd undertaken the work as a pro bono project, providing photographs for promotional use in return for an opportunity to record the performers, artistes and personalities who were participating in the formation of the new broadcasting concept.

From there, Suzanne went on to GISL and I lost track of her for some years before meeting her at a funeral one hot morning. We chatted, I gave her my card and was pleasantly surprised to hear from her in October last year.
We shot a project that month and I had a great time working with her again, shaping images for a project using members of staff from Parliament where she was working as the Director of Corporate Communications.

This photograph is part of an entire class of portraits that I take from time to time, test photographs done before the subjects come in to check how my light meter readings actually play on a person. Over time, I've sent off photographs to tea ladies, executive assistants and PR officers who might otherwise never have ended up before my lens as a thank you for their impromptu modeling.

I was surprised when she actually agreed to stand in during my final tweaking of the lighting and this photo is so very much the way I remember her, cocky, constantly evaluating the situation and looking right back at me with a look that says nothing more than, "Really, Mark? Really?"

After I got over my shock on hearing of her passing two weeks ago, I went rummaging in my files to double check whether I remembered correctly. I had. Suzanne had consented to stand for three photos, one an uproarious laugh that was so very much her and this one, which I think will always be the way I think of her.
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Why I have nothing to say about your Facebook Carnival gallery

Socadrome_Media
The Carnival Band Yuma was the first to cross the stage of the Socadrome on Carnival Tuesday. It was quickly met by a phalanx of photographers and videographers.
Photograph by Mark Lyndersay
.

I have to tell you a story first. It’s an old photographer’s story, so be patient with my crusty old self.
It was the most perfect Carnival Tuesday.

I was photographing for the Guardian, shooting color transparency film for the paper’s souvenir and front pages and I’m pretty sure I remember both Harts and Barbarossa were in queue to cross the stage that evening.

These were bands full of beautiful people wearing skimpy, colorful costumes with a pent-up need to dance bawdily on the Savannah stage.

The sun was shining bright and strong and clear from the Western sky, the masqueraders were crossing the stage with verve and energy, spreading out to fill the temporary tarmac.

I had a good position stageside and a long lens at the ready, I began photographing with a broad smile.
As such things go, it was a duck shoot.

I remember looking to my left and down the stage to where another group of photographers stood, among them Mary and Noel Norton. Noel’s face was hidden behind his huge Nikon, Mary was scribbling away on a notepad with a bag of film at her side, ready to rearm her husband.

I swear, it has never been as good since.

So let’s acknowledge that day in the mid-1980’s as the apotheosis of my experience with Carnival photography. In the three decades that I’ve been photographing the event I can’t recall another moment that was as blessedly perfect as that one.

That doesn’t mean that there weren’t others, but they all had something in common that I treasure.
The nonpareil experience of bearing photographic witness to something so communal, so authentic, so absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful that all you can do is thank the divine graces that led you to that place at that time and put a camera in your hand.

This year, I didn’t even look at my photographs from Carnival Tuesday until four days later.
That’s some distance from rushing home after a ten-hour day photographing to heat up E-6 chemistry to run a batch of film so that you could see just what you’d got out of the day.

I haven’t even bothered to post the last two years of Carnival photography that I’ve done to my website. It’s not that the work isn’t any good; it’s simply that I feel no connection with it at all.
I’ve railed in the past about the way photography gets done in Carnival these days.

There is now a whole generation of young photographers who have come to expect that photographing the festival means inserting yourself into the mas itself, engaging in that curious back and forth between individual groups of masqueraders and clots of photographers that results in a
record of Carnival that reflects nothing more than meaningless poses and a thunderous roar of accompanying shutter clicks.

I sift through the proud Facebook galleries of photographers whose work is otherwise smart, considered and thoughtful and see the same photo over and over again. The comments salute these images enthusiastically, adding a stamp of public endorsement to the blatantly fake, saluting pictures of joy manufactured in 1/125th of a second at f8, flash at - 1 stop, ETTL, and just as quickly dispensed with.

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Finding an honest moment on Carnival Tuesday is now a task worthy of Diogenes, and I don’t think there’s a lamp left that’s bright enough to light the way.
I do have one photograph that I like from the event. A photo of a Tribe masquerader partying hard framed between two other players. It's a moment that feels like the type of thing that was once commonplace in the photography of the event.

But placed against the visual blizzard of images available of this year’s street party, all shot at close range with a hard flash on camera, it feels wrong, invasive, voyeuristic, perhaps, an unguarded view of pure pleasure.
So much of the photography of Carnival has become such a personal and specific thing, shared between a couple of masqueraders and a shooter. It’s no longer a performance captured while it’s addressed to an audience.

Unlike the Wee Gee clarity of today’s strobe-lit Carnival evidence record, this troubling image has both natural light and what seems for all the world like a natural moment inscribed into it. So why does it seem so very odd?
I leave it to you to consider and comment on that, if you wish.

Meanwhile, my interests in Carnival have drifted from the collection of moments that were once in such abundant supply to the quieter and less aggressively scrutinized creative engines of its creation.
Since 2007, I’ve devoted one installment of my Local Lives photo essay series to Carnival each year, beginning with my examination of the work of Anra Bobb, a Carnival queen contestant for many decades.

Local Lives is driven by curiosity, and my interest in Carnival’s execution remains undimmed even when I find so little of true interest at the core of the actual presentation on what was once its premium day, the culmination of the event, Carnival Tuesday.

There is so little left of what was once true Carnival documentation, the recording of the reality that was Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival celebrations and so much of what is a continuously manufactured fiction, cock-up and pose galleries of staged merriment that it’s far easier to seek the truths of the festival offstage, where cameras rarely venture.

So at great length, this is why I don’t comment on your galleries. It’s not that I have nothing to say. It’s that I have too much in my head to dump on you.

And really, you don’t deserve it. You’re doing what you see other people doing and you’re probably doing it quite well.
I just know what it used to look like and I…well I just can’t.

Coda: Among the responses there have been mutterings that suggest that I don't know what popular event photography is like today.
Such comments are justified. I do not photograph for the popular party websites, nor is there any likelihood that I ever will.
I did, however, as a favour to Kevan Gibbs, a good friend of mine, cover three consecutive years of his Great Fete event in Tobago.
That coverage might seek to suggest other ways that popular parties might be represented in photographs.
The expansive galleries related to that event are to be found here.

Related...
BitDepth#927: Lessons from the Socadrome
Guardian Editorial for March 10: More transparency in Carnival
BitDepth#926: Carnival's stuttering progress
Guardian Editorial for March 02: The Geography of Carnival
BitDepth#925: How I would fix Carnival
Guardian Editorial for February 26: Elitism or Entrepreneurship?
BitDepth#924: Carnival Copyright Redux
Suggestions to the NCC for accreditation improvements.
Narend Sooknarine's experience with the NCC accreditation team.
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On Marlon James

In search of identity
Originally published in in the Sunday Guardian Arts Magazine for January 05, 2014
Marlon_Girvan
Marlon James reviews a capture of Alex Girvan during a shoot at a Duke Street car park on December 20. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay

“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 photographer and artist has been experiencing much of Trinidad and Tobago since he moved here in January.

Strolling and striding his way through much of his measured 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 gray street under a brooding sky, Marlon James is again engaged in that exercise. We cut a quite ordinary profile as a group, distinguished only by our fast pace.

Marlon_Link
James is wearing jeans, and 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 gray coat that makes him look like more of a factory floor supervisor than a Matrix wannabe.

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 photo.
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 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 Girvan.

It isn’t surprising, given that James’ parents were bankers and he grew up in Jamaica as an “Uptown” boy, someone who had a full and paid education, whose family could fly out of the island regularly.
“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 acknowledges came because of the lure of the ‘instant gratification’of the medium.
When he made that decision, instant meant something else entirely in photography.
“I could process a roll of film and go into the darkroom to develop it,” James said.
“My sculpture would take weeks to take shape. I fell in love with the darkroom.”

JabariLink
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 community 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.

Marlon James has been doing some commercial 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.
“In Jamaica, I’d have to have a nine to five job and probably some side jobs. Some of the work has been hard and fast, but some of it has offered creative freedom and I’ve appreciated that.”

In March 2014 he’ll find out whether moving to T&T was the right move for him as an artist with work to show and sell. Along with group shows in Holland and Washington, he plans a solo show in Trinidad.
“You can’t sell your work in Jamaica for what you’d get for it internationally,” he says.
“Except for a few collectors, the economy just won’t support those prices.”

Whether or not things work out financially, James has been greatly heartened by his experiences in Trinidad over his first year.
He admits to being lonely some of the time and hasn’t gathered the circle of friends and support he had in Jamaica, but appreciates the willingness of local artists to talk and collaborate.

IkemLink
James is particularly hopeful about the possibility of working with Melissa Matthews, a recently returned multimedia artist on a project.
Most striking for the photographer who does much of his work with subjects in their environment has been the way he has been received.

“People are more accepting of the presence of a photographer here, I’ve found.”
Marlon James is known as a portrait photographer, much of his previous work cleanly isolating his subjects from their backgrounds and focusing on still, patient engagements with the lens.

The theatre in his work plays out behind the expressions of his subjects, raising questions about the interplay between photographer and subject, emotional context and reality.
“I like to think of my work as conceptual,” James says. “I like work that’s completely staged but looks totally natural.”

His vision and his sense of light is influenced by the photographers he admires, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Albert Watson and particularly David LaChapelle, whose elaborately choreographed, apparently random and violently colourful images were the toast of magazines at the turn of the century.

James will sometimes sketch out his approach to a particular image before letting things evolve in front of his lens.
“I want to get it right in front of the camera,” he says.
“I don’t want to shoot 200 images, I want to get it in 35 or 50 photos, just the way I did with film. I don’t spend much time on my personal work in Photoshop. I don’t fix wrinkles and blemishes, I celebrate them.”

Download a PDF of the published pages for this story here.
Comments

Photographing Elize

MWL_20131126_6293
Elize Rostant photographed for the Sunday Arts Magazine. Read the story here.

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to photograph Elize Rostant in Cascade.
I'd considered photographing her in studio with some of her bold jewelry and to be honest, if I'd known she was such a babe, I'd probably have proposed it as a first option.

But I really like photographing creative people in the spaces that they work in. I see all such spaces as modern ateliers, their resonance and ambience forming part of the creative process and outcomes of the work.
So I found myself at her apartment and immediately decided to do the interview first.

elize_diagram
The setup of gear for this photograph.

Elize works in a tiny space, working with and on a sewing machine on a tiny second level built into the high ceiling of the apartment space that's jammed right up against the wall.
I'd walked with my medium kit, which includes one big gun, a White Lightning 800 but the space was far too small for me to consider deploying the big umbrella soft box that I use with it.

Hell, there was barely space for the sewing machine, Elize and my big boned self.
So I asked questions and took notes, occasionally sneaking a glance up at the space to consider exactly what I'd do up there.
As engaging as Ms Rostant was, there's a time when the questions and the rambling begin to wear a bit thin and it's time to make the photograph.

I climbed the almost vertical stairs, more ladder than stairwell and immediately realized that I wouldn't be standing up straight for any of this. The ceiling was shorter than I was by a good eight inches.
So I assembled the WL, a light stand and my smaller 42 inch fill umbrella and dialed up to half power, eyeing the expanse of white wall that the artist faced while doing her work.

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My alternate take for this image, done from the far roomier left hand side of the artist's workspace.

The catch? There was no space for me. At all.
So I appealed to the charming artist's sense of humor and invited her to be smart and sweet for a camera that was jammed up against the wall and turned back to face her, just over the sewing machine.
At 24mm, I was just getting the jeweler, the sewing machine, her art work together in the frame, except for the times that the zoom gently crept forward and cropped the image into an unusable detail shot.
Or I simply didn't guess at the framing correctly.
I maintained a never-ending patter throughout the shoot, playing to the absurdity of photographing the artist right alongside her and inviting her to offer great expressions to a lens on a camera jammed up against a wall.
Illuminating her is the light returning from the wall in front of her from the strobe behind us both.

The all-white walls offered enough fill and the soft, though still quite hot light didn't blow out her back and the rear of her head too terribly.
But this is one time that I have to give the kudos for these Hail Mary photos to modern electronics and good autofocus lock, careful metering and a subject who gave her all in a really quite ridiculous situation.
Thanks for being such a good sport, Elize!
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A copyright conversation

A transcript of a recent conversation I had about copyright ownership that highlights issues related to intellectual property that muddy understanding and respect for creative output. Read More...
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Say hello to McIntosh

Sian_Macintosh_Unpublished_Post
Sian McIntosh, unpublished photograph for the Trinidad Guardian.
Click on the image to view the image larger. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay


"We have to do a photograph of Sian McIntosh," Franka Phillip said on the phone, "You know her? You up to it?"
Franka's the Features Editor of the Guardian, and we've been working on some interesting portraits for the paper recently, images that I hope illuminate and enhance the stories while offering their own visual narrative of the people I'm photographing.

Know Sian? Well yeah, kind of. I'd encountered her behind the scenes several times at Tribe's promotional photo sessions.
She's damned hard to miss. Tall, attractive and shapely, she's the type of woman you don't look at directly for too long if you're a guy with any sense of propriety.
Hold a look on a woman like that too long without good reason and it quickly becomes a leer.

Of course, I didn't know her at all really, but I'd had a good sense of her casual sense of humour on the few occasions that I'd very briefly seen her. As for her physique, to be frank, it's unforgettable.

Fit without being muscular, shapely without being excessively curvaceous, it's a figure that speaks agreeably to almost any woman, which accounts for her popularity as a model at Carnival band launches while declaring itself quite clearly to any man with an interest in the unique attributes of the T&T woman.

So, I pitched two alternatives to Franka, one that emphasizes her figure and another of her bundled up, perhaps working out. We agreed to suggest both concepts to Sian.
I found an image that approximated what I had in mind online and sent it along to the young model along with a link to my website.
To my surprise, and an altogether pleasant one at that, Sian not only expressed interest, but trust in the possibility of the project. The final story, published in the Guardian,
is online here.

So what was the concept?
Here we have this attractive, smart girl who has probably had to think, if not outright say, to young men all her adult life, "Hey, I'm up here!"
How do we address that in a photograph that would be about her body?
How to show that figure, but not exactly show it?

I'm a little past lighting images so that they look cool. I'd prefer that the light I use disappear in favor of an idea, a mood, a sense of character that should always lead anyone looking at the photograph to a clear understanding of what I have in mind.

Even while I was talking with Franka that Monday afternoon, I knew exactly what I wanted the image to look like. Her body rimmed with light and a tight beam spot illuminating her face with all the womanly bits that normally hold the attention of her admirers dressed in shadow.

So I began the complete re-engineering of my normal studio setup, which is by default set to do captures on a clean white background to one that would deliver what I had in mind.
After two hours of setup, I was ready for a serious test of the scenario.

Sian_lighting-diagram
Here's the setup diagrammed...

Two White Lightning 10,000 strobes in 3x4 foot soft boxes as kicker lights to the left and right rear of the subject.

One White Lightning 800 Ultrazap in a 4 x 0.8 foot striplight angled to the top rear of the subject.

One White Lightning 3200 Ultra with a 30 degree grid and a snoot pointed directly at the subject. The two light modifiers create a tiny beam of light, but they also soak up light like crazy. The strobe is at half power and the resulting beam of light is like a Maglite positioned above her face.

Two
Dean Collins Finelight collapsible panels (no longer manufactured) with black skins positioned to flag the spill from the rear strobes, killing flare and deepening the shadow on the front of Sian's body.

Sian_Macintosh_StudioLink
To describe the light I've deployed here is to miss its fundamental cruelty. Skimming light across human skin is a particularly efficient way of pointing out its flaws, and slamming a narrow beam spotlight into a woman's face may actually be illegal in some parts of the world.

Both techniques have been used as part of the lighting of women, but usually in conjunction with some type of softer, flattering light. That's what I've left out here to create an image that's all shape and face. If it works, it should echo the impression we form of Sian, filling in here for many, many women judged almost exclusively by the distribution of their bodies.

I suggested that Sian think of herself as a sculpture for the image. This isn't so much a photograph of Sian Macintosh as it is a photograph of the idea of Sian and her peers.
To wrap up the shoot, we did some traditional portraits with much softer light to round out the coverage of the subject for the story.
It was during these photos, as Sian really relaxed, that her fun, vivacious personality really emerged in the photographs.

So much so that I invited Franka down to the studio to look through the final selects. There was a bounty of imagery, and I really wanted her to decide based on the tone of the story she was working with.

In one of those quirky turns that provides some of the unexpected excitement of working as a photographer, this photograph, the one that I'd been working on conceptually from the start got turned down for publication in the paper *cue chorus of I'm too sexy for my paper*.
Right, said I.

There was also some concern that the press wouldn't be able to hold the extremes of the image, but this is an image with a flowing histogram that's just weighted to
the quarter tones . There are no combs in the data, the payoff for editing in 16-bit mode and it would have printed just fine.

Sian__PublishedLink
So I returned to the overall collection of photographs to choose other images that were unlikely to be deemed too risqué for general readership and completely retooled the approach to the image support for the story, pulling a photograph of the model from an earlier bit of journalism I'd done while Tribe was preparing its band for public viewing.
So that's what I did for publication.

Those photographs are fine representations of an attractive young woman, but this image had another mission beyond depicting young Ms McIntosh's awesomeness.
I'd hoped to bring a subtle sense of disorientation to the traditional scrutiny of a pretty girl in a swimsuit. I apologize to Sian if I've burdened a simple photo for a Guardian story with needless conceptual weight, but I really hoped for an image that would draw a viewer in and then leave them with a sense of disquiet.

The viewer is offered no visual consummation of the promise of her body. Where there should be the fulfillment of lush feminine beauty, instead, there is a visual hole, darkness where they should be abundance.
And atop it all, there is a person, looking intently and confidently back at the viewer. Perhaps the image says, without the benefit of words, "Hey, I'm up here."
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New vidcast posted

Today, Yesterday + Tomorrow from Mark Lyndersay on Vimeo.



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Me and the peoples and them. Photograph of the talk courtesy of Peter Limchoy.

Today, yesterday and tomorrow was a presentation given on August 14, 2013 at Antony Scully's Studio 30 in Woodbrook.
It's a response to a brief from Mr Scully about staying relevant in the industry and seeks to offer some notions for consideration to young photographers just starting their journey in the craft.
This is the 30 minute rehearsal vidcast of the presentation done the night before the presentation.
Or download the 360MB MP4 file here
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Jeffrey Chock, photographer

Jeffrey_Chock_FAS
Jeffrey Chock, photographed in 2004 by Frances Anne Solomon.
Used by permission of the author.


On Friday afternoon, Guardian reporter Kalifa Clyne contacted me for a comment on the passing of Jeffrey Chock.
I sent a note along after a moment's consideration, the first clear thoughts that came to mind about him. Most of it was published in Friday's Guardian along with other comments about the late photographer and his work.

Jeffrey Chock was a photographer's photographer. His work was uncompromising, visually sophisticated, dramatically composed and unrelentingly sensitive to the nuances of light and shadow. He consistently ennobled his subjects with a passion for capturing their essence, something that's far too easy to say and almost impossible to do convincingly.
As a photographer, he was a creator to envy. His silky black and white prints were gorgeous artifacts, his sense of motion in the many dance photographs he did was impeccable and his portraiture was quirky and elegant.

More than anything, Jeffrey Chock was a journalist of the first calibre. He was not a photographer of spot news or action events, but he was a documentarian of life, his concern for the nuances of the world around him captured and filed one still at a time to create a body of work that constitutes a unique and very special view of these islands that's worthy of lasting attention.


Clyne correctly characterised me as Chock's colleague, but I wasn't his friend.
We met occasionally, less frequently in recent years, but we never, as people like to say in Trinidad and Tobago, were able to saddle horse.

We met briefly when he expressed interest in photographing for Tent Theatre in the early 90's, a project that I'd been working on and again a few years later in a similar situation with the Baggasse Company.

By then, I was taking my quiet exit at stage left from the theatre business entirely, but even after that it took a while for me to find my equilibrium with Jeffrey.
I couldn't carry on a long conversation with the man. I found his way of speaking infuriating, and his worldly ways had little impact on a someone so content with meat and potatoes.

I'm not sure if Jeffrey ever remembered that I first met him almost a decade before our first professional encounter at the Little Carib Theatre in 1980, then run by Helen Camps. Back then, I delivered newspapers to an address on Cipriani Boulevard where he had a hairdressing business.

His partner took care of paying the paperboy, so we rarely saw each other, but I never forgot the overfed, waddling dog of the house, the only animal on my route who held no terrors for me.

Years later I'd learn an important lesson in life from no less a person than Derek Walcott, quite specifically at the point when I offered my hand in congratulations after he won his MacArthur grant and he slapped it away during a particularly crowded opening for a play.
I still feel a flush in the cheeks thinking of that moment.

That was when I learned the difference between who a person is and what a person does. It was the start of a long process of rationalizing the impulse to dismiss (and to diss) that some creators provoke even as their work encourages enormous admiration.

For folks who carry on sophisticated campaigns of venom in corporate life with people they despise, this is likely to be an alien concept. On such battlefields, a person is either 'yuh pardner' or a nemesis.

In photography, however, despite the large numbers of people wielding cameras, there are, ultimately few people over the long haul who might be considered one's peers, far less friends. The idea that because a person is the one necessarily and naturally means that they will turn out to be the other is simply absurd.

Ultimately, the only thing that most photographers have in common is photographic equipment. Rationales, attitudes, motivations, and goals vary widely and infinitely.
I have many photographer friends who are personable and charming people whose company I quite enjoy, but whose work has little or nothing to do with my own. We can talk craft and business, but that tends to be about it.

There are far fewer photographers who do work that's in alignment with what I do, and while it might be cool to think of us a cozy and mutually supportive community that isn't the reality for all kinds of reasons.
I can't communicate effectively with some of the colleagues with whom I have the most intuitive professional attraction and Jeffrey was one of those, unfortunately. I am, of course, quite willing to concede that this has more to do with me than anything to do with photography, but that's how things went in my experience.

When he took severely ill in 2008, I participated first in the
direct fundraising exercise organized by Georgia Popplewell and later in an exhibition to raise money to provide ongoing treatment.
That effort and the engagement of many of his friends and colleagues extended Jeffrey's life by almost five years from a point when things were very touch and go for him.

At that exhibit opening he suggested me an image trade for a photo I had in the show of the Midnight Robber 'Puggy' Joseph and fool that I was, I never buckled down to follow up on the offer.
I'd certainly have gotten the better of that deal had I set aside my own skittishness.

There's nothing more than I can do for Jeffrey now, but I have concerns about the ultimate dispensation of his life's work. I'd seen some of his dance photographs online in a gallery posted by a T&T Government Ministry that truly disturbed me.

Modern scanning technologies can do little for black and white photographs and in my experience, almost all 35mm film, including the hundreds of rolls of Tri-X that represent my own work in the theatre, will scan with scratches on them.
Restoring such images calls for hours of pixel-level retouching to restore the photographs and there are no shortcuts.

That Ministry gallery, which has since mercifully disappeared, served up dozens of Jeffrey's fine dance images covered in a blizzard of white specks and streaks, pretty much what you get when you scan legacy B&W film and don't put the effort in to repair the technical problems that arise.
Knowing nothing about how such a thing came to be, I assumed that Jeffrey had sold some of his work to keep going.

Now that he's gone, all that's left is that work.
His 2008 book, Trinidad Carnival remains available, but it's unclear for how long. It will fall to us, his colleagues in the business, to look out for such disrespectful treatment of his work and raise a stink if it ever happens again. The legacy of his work is powerful and important. It shouldn't be destroyed through ignorance or incompetence.
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Justice served

MWL_20100720_0701
Justice Wendell Kangaloo photographed on July 20, 2010 on location at the Hall of Justice.
Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

I did my first photograph for the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago on July 23, 2008. I'd been commissioned to work on the annual report by Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi and after conferring with the Court and Protocol office we decided to photograph the Justices individually, isolated on white with three options, business suit, court collar and robes and formal collar and robes.

The photographs allow anyone working on projects with the Judiciary to build group images with considerable flexibility.
The Justices are busy people, their work is demanding and in any given year, their schedules make it impossible to have everyone photographed. They are also quite different people who approach their photo sessions with a range of attitudes and approaches, but over time, I like to think that I've won a smidgen of respect for ensuring that their images are dignified and authoritative.

The works are quite interesting taken as a collection. I'd hosted a selection of the work on my website for a few months, but eventually responded to a request by the Judiciary to remove it after security concerns were raised about web accessible images of the judges. Keeping the images consistent also ensures that they work together well even when groups are made up of images taken years apart.

The most recent request for such a group image came on the appointment of President Anthony Carmona; for whom the Judiciary wanted to put together a group image of all the Justices he had served with.
With the help of my digital compere Peter Shim, the project came together quickly and well and the Judiciary was able to offer their colleague a one-of-a-kind gift.

Sometimes in long-term projects like these, you get a call that you'd rather not have to answer. I'd had that experience on three occasions
during my long term documentation of Gayelle's presenters.
That call came from the Judiciary two weeks ago, to put me on notice that Justice Wendell Kangaloo, a pleasant and professional member of his corps, was not expected to recover from injuries sustained in an accident a year earlier.

Condolence books would be set up to mark his passing, and a framed photograph would be a part of the setting. The first plan was for a standing photo next to the book, so I headed out to commission appropriate frames.
Normally, I'd leave framing up to framers, but the way the Judiciary operates is something that I've had an opportunity to observe for some time and I had some thoughts about what a suitable frame would look like for this project.

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You can see the final work here in place. It's a black frame with very subtle gold speckling and a gold internal edge. That's buffered by a black mat and edged by a gold internal mat to border the original image.

Picking the gold internal mat consumed the most time. The framer kept suggesting a polished gold finish, but that didn't feel right. I went with a mat with what looked like a hammered, burnished gold finish, not the illusion of decorative metal, but warrior's metal, tempered by work in the field.

Appropriate, I think, for a fine, always polite and cooperative man who had earned the respect and love of his peers.
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