Capturing the essence of Antigua

March 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Is it possible for someone who doesn’t live in a place, who only visits from time to time, to capture its essence? In some ways, being an outsider is an advantage because all we see is fresh and new. In the environments in which we live we often take for granted what exists around us and hardly notice it. As Freeman Patterson notes in his book Photography and the Art of Seeing, there are a number of barriers to seeing:  preoccupation with self, the mass of stimuli surrounding us, familiarity, even the camera itself. ‘Seeing’, argues Patterson, ‘means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being’.

I have been fortunate to have been involved in a research and intervention project with the Ministry of Education of Antigua and Barbuda since 2009 and have made eight trips to Antigua (though never to Barbuda!). Whilst work has meant limited opportunities to engage fully with all the island has to offer, my growing interest in photography and the desire and intent to really ‘see’ what is around me have led me to build up a set of images and to reflect on the essence of what is Antigua.

So here, for me, is what seems to capture the island.

History – evident in the number of disused sugar mills dotted around the landscape; reminders of Antigua’s dark past, when black slave labour was used by English plantation owners to produce sugar for European markets.

Betty's Hope sugar millsBetty's Hope sugar mills

Culture

  • Music, itself a legacy of the slave period

Steel pans at Shirley HeightsSteel pans at Shirley Heights

  • People, going about their business in the villages or in the market and streets of the capital, St John’s, with people, traffic and road-side stalls jostling for space

In St John'sIn St John'sMJ Warrington

In St John'sIn St John'sMJ Warrington

Roadside stall, St John'sRoadside stall, St John's

  • Cricket, with iconic players immortalised in street names or statues, the national stadium and local games going on in schools and on village playing fields

Monument in St John'sMonument in St John'sMJ Warrington

The national stadiumThe national stadiumMJ Warrington

  • The Christian religion, seen in the numerous places of worship, including the beautiful Anglican cathedral in St John’s (even it’s been closed for repairs ever since we started our visits)

St John's Anglican cathedralSt John's Anglican cathedral

A stunning landscape comprising

  • Mountains

Sherkerley mountainsSherkerley mountainsMJ Warrington

  • Natural harbours

English harbourEnglish harbour

  • Rocky coasts 

Devil's BridgeDevil's BridgeMJ Warrington

  • Sandy beaches (the country boasts 365 beaches!)

Galley BayGalley BayMJ Warrington

Tourism, the mainstay of the economy

Cruise line, St John'sCruise line, St John'sMJ Warrington

Surfing the wavesSurfing the waves

Cocktails at duskCocktails at dusk

  • But also small-scale farming, fishing and service industries

Cows in the road!Cows in the road! Fishing boats, St John'sFishing boats, St John's

 

Loading palm leavesLoading palm leavesMJ Warrington

  • Though evidence of poverty too

Shacks outside St John'sShacks outside St John's

Colour – evident in the flora and fauna and in the schools, as well as in in the wooden houses dotted across the island

BougainvilliaBougainvilliaMJ Warrington

A bananaquitA bananaquit

Mural on a school wallMural on a school wall

Colourful house and gardenColourful house and gardenMJ Warrington

Sun  – though it does sometimes rain, and indeed, the country is vulnerable to hurricanes in the autumn, it’s always warm and often hot, and so the sun, too, is part of what defines Antigua. 

Sunset, Galley BaySunset, Galley Bay

 


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