‘He was in a class of his own’ - Peter Ferguson hailed for brilliant photography
Last Thursday, Jamaica lost one of its most gifted photographers, said Collin Reid, a fellow lens man and friend of the late Peter Ferguson. “If I were to name the top five within our field, Peter would have to be in the list, and one of the things I have always admired about him, was that he was very meticulous, somewhat of a perfectionist,” Reid told The Gleaner.
A noted photographer, Ferguson passed on Thursday, January 21. “When I got the news, I was seated by my computer and the feeling that pervaded was just as it would be losing a family member. He ran across my mind recently, and though I was aware he had been battling cancer probably for about four years, travelling to and from Canada for treatment, it was hard to digest as it also brought me back to losing another colleague and friend, Bryan Cummings,” he said.
Reid said Ferguson was a quiet person. Their relationship was both professional and personal – treating each other like brothers – as they became close through the art of photography over the past 15 years.
“He brought a sense of responsibility to you and the way he did his work, his overall understanding of light and shadow and how those elements affected the whole character of an image. He was in a class of his own. And people knew this, as he would be asked to take many of the upper echelon of our public figures,” he said.
He said Ferguson’s “instantly recognisable” photographs captured the obvious and hidden essence of his subjects, many of whom were prominent individuals including prime ministers. “Even before seeing the name credited to an image, I could tell when it was his work,” shared Reid.
In a tribute to Ferguson on social media, distinguished media personality and scholar, Fae Ellington, described the photographer as “a class act”.
“He wasn’t just a photographer,” Ellington told The Gleaner. “He was somebody, who, I was in awe of his work. I have never seen another photography studio like Peter Ferguson’s.”
Photographs for many are keepsakes and the veteran radio and television broadcaster said she engaged the photographer several times, the first time almost 18 years ago for a portrait of her and her son Stuart Johnathan Smellie and again, when celebrating her 60th and 65th birthdays.
CAPTURED US WONDERFULLY
“He captured us so wonderfully,” she said, adding that, “I wanted someone to document the milestones, so I went with him. The entire collection of photographs, for which I had two outfit changes – a red dress and another in black, green and gold – was beautiful. For my 65th birthday, I wanted to have Peter take another set of photographs and he informed me his assistant was capable but I had really just preferred that he be the one to do it.”
Ellington is one of many female personalities the photographer had approached about being part of the Changemakers Jamaica: 101 Portraits of Women in Jamaica book, a request she was pleased to accept she said.
“It has to be nearly 10 years ago since he approached me along with the other women; as he had one published prior which featured his portraits of men. So, of course, I was honoured to be one of the women he asked,” Ellington shared.
“In November last year, someone got in touch with me to say the books were ready and inside my copy was a lovely letter from Peter.”
“Dear Fae, my sincere gratitude and thanks for participating in this seminal project Changemakers Jamaica: 101 Portraits of Women in Jamaica. Many thanks also for the confidence and trust you place in me to present you in my own light and creative perspective. If I have somehow managed to captured a small part of who you are and your presence here, then I have succeeded in my quest to define for ourselves, who we are as a Jamaican people and to help write our history,” said the letter, dated November 20, 2020.
Ellington said she had received news that Ferguson was not well, referring again to the letter, “I believe he knew the time was drawing nigh, as I stated in the post made when he died”.
“At the end of the letter he also wrote, ‘So we all celebrate the collected shouts until we are no longer socially distant’. I was not shocked and I am grateful for him leaving this precious gift – it is not just about the book, and it wasn’t just the pictures,” she said as she extended sympathies to his family.