Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Sharing their amazing collection of pictures depicting Jamaican life, collectors, Volney Fray and his award-winning wife, poet, Louisa Calio-Fray, have unveiled the country's changing landscape in moving black-and-white and colour images.
The artistic husband-and-wife team, who have been exhibiting their 'Passion for Jamaica 2' collection at Round Hill since Wednesday, March 26, have captured the history of the varying faces of the island's rich cultural heritage through old and new. One of their highlights is the city of Montego Bay.
Calio-Fray, who recently won first prize from the City of Messina, Sicily, for her poem 'Bhari', which was inspired by her trip to East Africa in the 1970s and her Sicilian roots, is a poet by profession who has unified images and words since the start of her career in the early 1970s.
Calio-Fray uses the colour, the enchantment of nature, and colours of the Jamaican landscape to inspire her work. Water, a precious element, is her favourite study, as well as the sun and people who tell a story through images in the moment. Her poems compliment the photos and are part of a manuscript she is completing. She writes, "Until one knows nature, they cannot know Jamaica". Her photo 'Selling Peanuts' was taken at the opening of World Cup Cricket in 2007. The moment brought her back to Ghana, the West African nation, where she spent time during the mid-1970s.
Calio-Fray does not stop there. Indeed, her rich collection continues with the 'Dread', a uniquely Jamaican Rastafarian, complemented by the 'The Hut' and 'Selling Red Stripe', which both demonstrate the creativity of everyday Jamaican roadside salespeople who use their hand to turn fashion and, in so doing, create an art form that speaks for itself.
Of her history in photography, Calio-Fray says she was given her first camera by her father Joseph Calio, when she was about 10 years old.
"I have been around painters, sculptors, and artists most of my life, and grew up with my grandfather, Rocco Marchesani, a sculptor and creator of fine furniture. His works are in the Rockefeller collection as well as Vizcaya. I started taking pictures early and later worked with Harlem photographer, Silvin Nisbet, while directing City Spirit Artists, Inc in New Haven, Connecticut," she says.
Coming to Jamaica
Her frequent visits to Jamaica came as a result of her aunt and uncle Valentine and Christina Lo Bianco moving to Montego Bay in the mid-1960s.
Her husband, Volney A. Fray, who Montegonians popularly describe as a 'born a Bay', grew up on King Street in the heart of the city. Using black-and-white images, his photos have captured a history of a city that has shifted. His collection on show highlights downtown Montego Bay when a single car was on the road or the Parish Church after the earthquake of 1957.
His Polo series, 1960s includes the image of a Great House in Hanover long gone and many local polo players. A favourite is a photo of the first team of women cricketers at Jarrett Park, which includes Cecile Lennon, a well-known local organiser of charities for the Second City. In images such as 'Cane Cutter', depicting a man at work in the cane fields that no longer exist and have now become ponds, and 'Pocomanic', a stirring photo of women in white captivated by the spirit in the 1960s, he captures old-time Jamaica.
Volney Fray's black and white photos express a lifelong love of Montego Bay and Jamaica, as both a witness to history and a commitment to the preservation of the land he loves. An accountant by profession, his interest in photography grew when his two older brothers, Merrick and Hector, took up the work and created a dark room. He was further taught by Isaac Tenn (father of Tony Tenn), a Chinese Jamaican who had a professional photography studio and business in downtown Montego Bay. However, it wasn't until his wife did an exhibition at Round Hill called 'A Passion for Africa' that he pulled out his old photos and negatives, realising what a collection he had amassed over the years and, using computer imaging with her help, restored many of the photos that are now on display.
'Sun Valley', one of the most joyful images of the show, was taken by him during the '60s and is available in different sizes. Many of his photos were used in the late Pauline Reid's book Montego Bay - A Photographic Journey.