St Thomas youth in shooting spree
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
LYSSONS, St Thomas
ST THOMAS is a scenic parish of magnificent mountains, dramatic coastlines and verdant belts of sugar cane, meandering rivers, sparkling waterfalls, and historical ruins. It is also home to the world-famous Bath Fountains and Botanical Gardens. But within this abundance of natural and manmade beauty hardship lingers, daily gripping and suffocating many young people.
Ten of them, however, now have the opportunity to make some money by capturing the beauty of Paul Bogle and George William Gordon's parish with their Canon A1200 Powershot digital cameras, which were given to them by Danny De Blassio and Kateri Likoudis, two trained professional photographers from the United States.
It's now a shooting spree for the 'graduates' as they embark upon practising and executing what they were taught by De Blassio and Likoudis in a recently concluded two-week photography workshop held at their school, Paul Bogle Vocational Training Institute and Trade School, in Lyssons.
The workshop was the brainchild of Dwight Shirley, a Jamaica-born interior designer living in the United States and one of the stakeholders in Source Farm Ecovillage at Johns Town, St Thomas. Teaching artistic skills is part of the mandate of this fledgling eco/artist village, so when Shirley met De Blassio on a mansion-decoration project and saw his work and attitude, he jumped at the opportunity to invite him to Jamaica.
De Blassio, a former domestic Peace Corps volunteer, took up the offer readily because he said he loves art, photography and volunteer work. So, he partially financed the project by holding a nine-band paid concert, a silent auction, and online fund-raising activities, among other efforts. The objective he said, was "to change some lives through photography, to give them a different view on life". No pun intended.
But De Blassio was not satisfied in coming alone, so he, in turn, invited friend and former art schoolmate Likoudis, of Philadel-phia, Pennsylvannia, to join him. Likoudis, who said she loves art, especially photography, had been to Jamaica before, and because she knows that there are youth here with "issues" and "lack of opportunities", also said it was "a chance for me to share something I love" and "to inspire" and "empower" them.
With that in mind, the students were taught the basic functions of a camera, basic principles of photography, elements of art such as texturing and lines, composing and framing. Much time was spent in critiquing and discussing art. The aim was to get the participants to "see things through the language of art and from a creative point of view. They were also trained to have a rationale for each photograph and how it was composed.
In evaluating the attitude of the students, De Blassio and Likoudis had nothing but high commendations for them. They said they had made "incredible progress" with their positive approach. "They never felt frustrated. They are very easy to work with, and willing and eager," Likoudis said. "We were blown away," De Blassio chipped in.
To them, Daine Gray was the stand-out trainee. "Some people need to be trained, but Daine Gray is so enthusiastic he got it right away. He is very natural, especially with composition and lighting," De Blassio said. Likoudis was very impressed by his interest in how galleries work. This interest was demonstrated at an exhibition appropriately named 'Seen' at Roktowa Gallery, downtown Kingston, on Sunday, January 22, to showcase the students' work.
And Gray, who described himself as a creative person and an inventor, beamed with pride all evening with his first gallery appearance. Prior to that, he told The Gleaner on Wednesday, January 18, at his school, that "this programme I would invite anyone and everyone to be engaged in. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".
When asked about balancing photography and electrical installation, which he is now studying, the 20-year-old, who had long had a passion for photography, said, "Once you love something, it's not very difficult for you to balance it with your regular routine."
Photos by Paul Williams/Gleaner Writer