WHAT does a lawyer, pilot, politician and photographer have in common? They are all the ambitions of Micah James – the 16-year-old student who won the TT Photography Society's National Photograph of the Year award.
When he was six, James began taking photos with his grandmother’s Samsung point and shoot camera. His grandmother and mother were always taking photographs, and he learned from them, developing his skills when he got older from books and YouTube videos.
“My technique got a lot better. The way I see things or perceive things. Lighting and composition play a major part of how I take photos. Everything can be turned into an image if you put a camera in my hand.”
He sees himself as having a special eye for capturing images.
“Usually people would see something and it would be a cup, but for me it is not just a cup. There are different perspectives, different techniques you could use, instead of taking it straight on you can take it from above.”
James submitted a photograph he took of Killarney to a photography competition held in 2018 by the European Union and won a day to work with acclaimed Trinidadian wildlife photographer Roger Neckles – whose work has been featured in National Geographic.
In January, they went to Woodlands, Princes Town, to photograph birds early one morning – it took two to three hours for them to see the first one, a parrot. James was able to get six photos with his Canon T6 before the parrot flew off.
"After seeing the birds feed in their natural habitat, then in the zoo, I can never look at them the same way again. I wouldn't see them as just animals but as living things with families and lives. Just majestic – to have them in captivity is just not right.”
He submitted a photo he took of a macaw – which he titled The Blue and Gold Angel – to the society's 2019 Photomania competition which won him National Photograph of the Year.
In total, in the under-18 category of Photomania, James has won six awards – first and second place for nature, first place for street photography and journalism, third place in landscape and third place in digital art, on top of the photo of the year prize.
His principal at St Joseph's College asked him to create a photography club so he could share his knowledge with other students. When he leaves St Joseph's after form five, James wants to do sixth form at St Joseph's Convent to further his studies in the sciences, so he could attend Aerial World Services in Couva – a flight school that offers training to become a commercial pilot.
The cost of his education would come up to more than $400,000. The programme is not approved by the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses Programme (GATE). He is hoping his photography can help fund part of his tuition.
James has already started a photography business to fund his dream of becoming a pilot. He’s obsessed with planes.
“I love the sky. The sky is interesting to me. Human's can't normally fly, so being able to fly is a gift and the icing on the cake is being paid to fly.”
His favourite plane is the Boeing 777, and he wants to be a pilot for British Airways or Emirate.
As James wants to fly around the world, he also wants to take photos of his travels. His top spot is The Netherlands. He loves that homes are built right on the water and wants to take photos of them. He is also enamoured by the buildings in Greece.
He wants to scale Mount Everest and take a photo at the top of the mountain. As his mother dreams of going to Venice, he wants to take a picture of her there. Lastly, he wants an aerial shot of the Colosseum in Rome.
Aviation is not the only career James is interested in pursuing. He also wants to go to the University of the West Indies to study law so he could become a politician, and aspires to be the prime minister because he has many ideas on how to develop the country.
He wants to improve the tourism sector, particularly in Tobago where there are many natural attractions.
“I believe our country is a tourism powerhouse. We could boost tourism and have a massive form of cash flow where we could come out of this financial deficit. Tourism is one of my main focus, if I get into politics. Trinidad can stay with the more industrial aspects, but Tobago has a lot of potential tourism, we could be a tourism hub.”
One of his priorities, would be to be the people’s prime minister and take public transportation and utilise the public healthcare services.
“If I was prime minister, that is one thing I would eliminate, not to my ministers, but for myself. I would be sure to show my face on the ground instead of the television, so people would know I am here for them and not myself.
“It may be dangerous, but just because you end up as prime minister does not mean you aren't a citizen of a country. Yes, we would still have to see what the average citizen of the country goes through. By doing that you have a better understanding of what they go through and combat all the negative effects they have on them.”
He sees corruption as a major problem and thinks removing all the "institutional politicians" would make it easier to weed out those who are corrupt.
“When you run for a party, you're a party leader and the same people out there for years and years and decades. Some are linked with the bigger criminals in our society today. Better safe than sorry, get rid of everyone. I believe doing that would eliminate the corrupt members.”
James is the head acolyte at St Joseph RC Church and has been an altar server for almost nine years. He credits his focus and good judgment on his faith.
“Religion is a big part of my life and my family life. We pray every night and every meal. My grandmother is very active in the church and she started me off at a young age. My mom was an altar server and in the choir. My sister is also an altar server.
“Aside for my parents and friends keeping me on a straight path, God as well is keeping me straight, not to follow delinquents or the bad company. I kept on a straight path and kept me focused.”
He is also a member of TT youth ambassadors, an NGO which promotes sustainable development based on the UN's goals. They host charity events, beach clean-ups and more.
Recently the ambassadors held Operation Backpack, a donation drive that collected backpacks and school supplies for children in need and distributed them. Tomorrow, they have a beach clean-up in Granville Beach, Cedros.