Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Nicole Brown - highlighting the unknown

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2016 | 12:00 AM
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Nicole Brown shares a proud moment with her work
Unwrap Me (Photograph of a banana leaf).
Staircase to Heaven
Amitabh Sharma

Photographs are worth a million words, the two-dimension frame that captures colours, hues of light, moments and emotions frozen in a frame. For Nicole Brown, photographs try to capture the stories beyond the framed work - and most of them are told in monochrome.

"Photographs represent conversation pieces," she said. "Black and white photography for me, as an artist, is intended to provoke thought and emotion among my audience."

Encapsulating life as it happens on the streets, in the alleys, the vast expanse of nature, Brown said, is intriguing.

"I relish street photography as I get the opportunity to capture the raw emotions and actions of our Jamaican people in everyday situations," she said, some of her favourite subjects come alfresco like a woman getting her hair done on Princess Street in downtown Kingston or a group of schoolchildren sharing jokes on their way to school.

Some of her street stories have won her accolades; Brown won a merit and bronze for the 2013 Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's National Visual Arts Competition for her work 'Introspection', a black and white photograph with a boy and a shard of glass and 'Spice of Life', a vendor kneeling as she exemplifies her craft.

Brown, who studied photography at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC), was taught by Howard Moo Young, which she said has a major influence in her work.

The focus of her work, she shared, is highlighted by rich, vibrant colours - from the serene tones of blue, to the spirited yellow and red hues. "These evoke energy for the viewers," Brown said.

These hues, according to her, make her subjects pop, and also give varied perspectives in familiar scenarios. "I enjoy photographing bystanders engaged in some form of activity on the street, (as well as) weddings," she said. "I always feel extremely privileged to capture the joy, laughter, and tears expressed on a couples' experience at their wedding."

She said photography goes beyond highlighting the subjects and colours, it is, like any creative media, a vehicle for social change - photoactivism, as she terms it.

"I view photoactivism as the philosophy and history of how activists and social reformers have used the camera as a research tool and instrument for social reform," she said.

"There are topical issues that need to be focused on in Jamaica such as gender and equality, child abuse, and neglect, human trafficking and drug abuse," Brown said. "Documenting them can be engaging, thought-provoking and impact societal change."

For an energy regulation, energy policy and stakeholder relationship management professional, transitioning from the insular corporate environment to the unknowns of the life beyond the confines of the cubicles is gratifying. "I am continuously coming outside of my comfort zone and trying to push the envelope," she said.

To get optimum from the daily life that zips past, conventions sometimes have to be set aside.

"I have an artistic flair to how I photograph," said Brown, who uses both colours and black and white as the media. "I often times try to break the conventional rules of photography in order to present work in a more fresh style."

Brown said she admires and is influenced by American photographer Diane Arbus, who found beauty in the marginalised population, Arbus once said, a photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know. Nicole continues that quest to unravel the mysteries and secrets.