On any ordinary day beauty might be hard to see. On the overflowing streets of Port of Spain and elsewhere in TT, people walk by, cars drive by and sometimes beautiful things are seen and forgotten.
But the National Museum and Art Gallery’s six-week photography exhibition, Through My Lens: To Trinidad and Tobago From Me captures those often forgotten moments, giving them permanence. The exhibition is running from May 3 to June 16 at the National Museum and Art Gallery, 117 Frederick Street, Port of Spain.
But what is more interesting is that these beautiful moments were captured by everyday people: nurses, engineers, bankers, hobbyists, amateurs and professionals alike. People were invited to submit via the museum’s social media platforms.
Anita Waldropt, the museum’s education and public programs coordinator told Newsday, “Through My Lens came about trying to figure out how we can reach the public because not everybody is artistically inclined in a sense. I kind of stumbled upon photography having a lot of friends that’s in it. I realised that photography in itself sells art and sells Trinidad and Tobago just like the great Boscoe Holders and Leroy Clarkes.
“I took the idea to the curator (Lorraine Johnson) and thought we could meet the public in this sense. We ran with the idea.
“First we decided to do categories that weren’t the norm. The six categories (motion, street, enhanced, cuisine, urban and natural) gave individuals a space to explore themselves.”
The photographers were given a month to submit, she said.
The museum got over 300 submissions after it issued its first call in March. That was further narrowed to 50 images and Waldropt said, “the curator then said, ‘listen, there are images in here that need to be shown’ and she chose an additional 15 or so. It came up to about 67 images that we have now in the gallery.”
The images all give a glimpse of the beautiful TT that is sometimes unnoticed, whether it is Sanjiv Samaroo’s Aripo Falls, Bunney Allan’s Blue Crab Hustler showing a man selling his string of crabs on a Saturday morning in south Trinidad or Glen Doyle’s Bath at 9485 P.O.S which captured a man bathing at a fire hydrant as he walked along Independence Square.
Waldropt said the opening night (May 3) was “perfect” and the museum and art gallery “was pleased” at the number of submissions it received as well as people’s feedback.
The event also sought to bridge a gap, Waldropt said, between corporate TT and the diplomatic corps letting them know that photography is art as well.
“There are photographers that are doing it. Photographers that may not have names. Some of the people whose work is shown are nurses, accountants, engineers...”
But there was also a greater purpose to the event. “We wanted to show, through photography, the positive side of TT,” Wladropt said.
The exhibition drew a wide cross section of people, with the youngest exhibitor being 12 and the eldest being over 70.
It has been a learning curve for both the museum and its photographers: some learning that the images you take don’t have to stay locked away in cyber space and the museum learning what it takes to put on a event of this nature. Some of the photographers, Waldropt said, had never seen their work in print.
This, she added, has now provided an opportunity for the museum to work closely with the public and to have a say “in their national museum.”
“The public’s feedback to us is very important, whether it is good, bad or indifferent. Seeing what this has done, we are hoping to innovate on it and just reach anyone, everyone. That is why we did not put a category. It was for anyone and we want to drive that to people. The museum is not just for the upper echelons; anyone can walk in here and relate to art on the wall, photography on the wall or a sculpture.”
Exhibitions such as these also open the door to the discovery of new talent in TT, she said.
But what Through my Lens reminds all of TT is that even in the flurry of being Trini there is always something beautiful to see.