At midnight and even 1 am, Jimmel Daniel would roam the streets, going to places like Laventille, the Bamboo, Moruga, George Street and spaces frequented by the LGBTQI community, searching for that shot. Daniel wanted the shot to show his real Trinidad, not the “feathers and Carnival” for which TT is commonly known. Rather, he wanted to show “it is a very gritty Caribbean reality.”
The photographer and videographer has put together 35 still shots of the TT he knows. Daniel’s second exhibition is called Only in Trinidad and is currently showing at Akimbo, 27 Prince Street, Arima. It runs until November 18. The exhibition was launched on November 4.
“I was looking for the shot that would show TT differently. Not touristy,” he said to Newsday. Originally, Daniel was not a photographer but always had an appreciation for the visual. His understanding of lines, shapes, frames and textures was fostered at a young age, working in a family-owned printery.
“I started off working in a printery my family ran at one point in time. I worked with my father [Cliff Daniel]. I was in primary school and would make greeting cards etc after school.” Daniel described his photos as being done with a “filmic eye.”
That is because the 30-year-old’s formal training is in film. His love for the visual and storytelling resulted in Daniel receiving a BA in Film from the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus in 2012. While he has done work in film, working with some of TT’s well-known film personalities like Lisa Wickham and Renee Pollonais, he also wanted to explore his talents with photography. His work in film has gotten him awards. His 2009 documentary, The Power of the Vagina co-produced with Renee Pollonais, in that same year, received an honourable mention at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. In 2010, it was nominated for best documentary at the Portobello Film Festival, London.
When he visited the UK in 2016, he took up the camera as a form of freedom and a way to simply express himself. This, a year and a half later, gave rise to Only in Trinidad.
But his outlook on the real TT is not to be confined to still photography only. Daniel is also working on a film also called only in Trinidad showing, “his upbringing in Trinidad. My childhood. My growing up in Central and how that space is...and how Maloney, Trincity style is...going into Arima and these communities interact with each other. [It is] looking at a modern Caribbean landscape.” He expects to finish this film by next month.
But whether it is film or photography, Daniel wants to present a real view of TT, his style fostered by film legends like Spike Lee as well as local film-makers, Bruce Paddington and Yao Ramesar.
He patterns his style in the likes of film noir [one of Hollywood’s only organic artistic movements. Beginning in the early 1940s, numerous screenplays inspired by hard-boiled American crime fiction were brought to the screen, primarily by European émigré directors who shared a certain storytelling sensibility: highly-stylized, overtly theatrical, with imagery often drawn from an earlier era of German ‘expressionist’ cinema according to www.filmnoirfoundation.org]. Yet, the showing of TT and the Caribbean is always sharply in focus.
Even as a videographer and editor at the Ministry of Works and Transport, he wants to bring his style to how Government documents and shows its events. Daniel does not want his work to be confined to one space but to have it “pop up everywhere”, even one day walking down the street and seeing it on a large screen on Independence Square.