Hilfiger Island: BTS on Tommy Hilfiger Eyewear Campaign

In my 2016 Retrospective blog post, I mentioned working on a Tommy Hilfiger campaign. A few folks have asked about it, so I thought it was time to lay it all out!

Folks were curious!

In February of 2016, I got an email from Tessie Pessers of Influencer Marketing Agency (IMA), the leading digital influencer marketing agency based in the Netherlands. After searching the internet for Jamaican-based photographers, she came across my Instagram page. She was seeking a photography assistant and digital operator for a fashion photography production in Montego Bay. I later learned it was a Tommy Hilfiger campaign called Hilfiger Island, showcasing their new eyewear collection. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to work with a crew from Europe, as in this day and age networking is more important than ever.

After agreeing on cost and conversing with the IMA team via email, I made the journey to Montego Bay to meet them in person. We were split into two crews, and I ended up working with filmmaker Marlon Gervacio, and photographer Dennis Swiatkowski, two immensely talented creatives. I also worked primarily with online influencers, models and bloggers Linda Tol and Leonie Hanne, as well as Michelle Salas and Miguel Carrizo.

The two days spent with this team were pretty invigorating, as we worked with models from across Europe, shared conversations about our respective cultures and customs, and generally had an amazing time. Between takes and during times when I could grab my camera, I took as many behind-the-scenes images as I could to document the production, and below you’ll find some of my favourites. To see the finished product, your can head to Hilfiger Island to see the culmination of beautiful images and footage, shot at Silent Waters in the hills of Montego Bay and the Half Moon Shopping Village.

Jodi & Jordan: Alhambra Inn Wedding

Jodi and Jordan may look familiar to those of you familiar with my site; they’re two members of the rock band The Sky Is Broken, who I shoot from time to time! 

Their wedding was held on a gorgeous afternoon at the Alhambra Inn; a beautiful place nestled away in Kingston with a very rustic vibe. It was a small, intimate ceremony with family and close friends, but what made the wedding truly beautiful was the way everyone came together to pull everything together, the decor being handmade by family adding a very personal touch to the entire day. From the minute Jodi walked down the aisle with her mother to meet Jordan, you could see the anticipation and excitement in her eyes, the emotion as they held hands and walked to the priest. 

The ceremony was short, beautiful and emotional for everyone involved, and I’m honoured to have been chosen to document their nuptials. Below you’ll find some of the highlights from the day, from getting ready to the first dance. Check them out below!

2016: A Retrospective

As the title suggests, I’m here to talk about the year that was 2016. What a wild ride that was, huh? As a lot of us know, it’s been a hard time for the world on a whole; politics, the environment, the world of entertainment. A lot of things seemed to be topsy turvy, but thankfully my 2016 was actually quite good.

Marginally related photo!

Quite a few things happened for me this year. A few people might know this, but I work in the Photography Department at the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts (“the only one of its kind in the English speaking Caribbean!” as we’re so often reminded). Through working there with students and lecturers alike of various artistic backgrounds, I can definitely say I’ve learned quite a bit.

A key person I’m happy to have met is legendary Jamaican photographer Donnette Zacca, who had been head of the department for decades. Watching her teach, seeing how she interacts with students and staff alike, and getting the chance to dissect her work is something I’ll always be grateful for. She has since retired from the college to teach privately, and my only regret is that I never did a portrait session with her. She’s a powerful, energetic woman, and I would’ve loved to photograph her in the department she spent decades building.

Decidedly not Zacca. Pierre Lemaire, Director of the School of Drama at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. A photo I took while assisting a student with portrait lighting.

Working at the college helped me to look at my own work from a new perspective, and informed how I approach it moving forward. In addition to this, as of this past September I’ve been a lecturer as a part of the college’s School of Continuing Education (teaching photography, of course). Those who know me  well know that I have a passion for teaching photography, and I can confidently say that my first semester was a success, and I’m proud of my students.

Even fewer people may know this, but on top of all of this, I also started working as a freelance photojournalist for The Gleaner Company (yes, that’s the newspaper I’ve referred to in previous posts). I was trained in photojournalism while studying in University, and it’s been quite the experience! I’ve met many people, and I do believe working with them had helped to strengthen my skills. I even got a photo on the cover, once! While not a ‘breathtaking’ image, in journalism, timeliness is key; it was taken at the Jamaican premiere of I Am Bolt

This… this is a terrible scan from my cellphone.

Not the exact photo (which is strangely missing). Usain Bolt and his lovely mum.

“Darien, this post is long. SHOW ME SOME PHOTOS

We’re getting to that!

A few other things happened last year that made me feel pretty good as a businessman; getting inquiries from international clients! It might not seem like much, but it means I’m doing something right.

One of the highlights of that particular experience was working on a two-day production for Tommy Hilfiger(!) as a camera assist, working with an amazing team from the Netherlands, but that’s an entire blog post on its own, which is definitely coming soon.

A great team!

A random shot of a model!

A lot of 2016 was about growth, not just as a photographer, but as an entrepreneur, for which I have to thank Format for those guides they’ve been releasing! You can find them here.

Now, I can’t possibly go through every image I’ve shot this past year, but I will put just a few of my favourites below. 

On Assignment: Smile Jamaica

On the 3rd of December I was contacted by the local paper I work with to provide coverage for Smile Jamaica; a concert that was held to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bob Marley’s legendary 1976 concert of the same name. Held at the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road, the venue was crammed with locals and tourists alike paying homage to the late great Robert Nesta Marley. 

Covering an event while on assignment is quite different from covering it for my own purposes. I don’t have the same level of immersion as I shoot for what works best for print in a newspaper, which might not work as well for artistic purposes; nevertheless, I still aim for excellent images.

This concert was powerful, not just performance-wise, but also because of the narrative that was put together by the MCs between performances, dramatically recounting the events leading up to the original Smile Jamaica concert; from Marley being shot, to his unexpected appearance onstage.

I’m sharing some of my personal favourites from the night. Hopefully, my images can convey the aesthetic, mood and emotion of what was a wonderful night of music. Stay blessed

Portraits for The Sky Is Broken

As seen in my latest post on Instagram and S̶n̶a̶p̶c̶h̶a̶t̶ Instagram Stories on Sunday, I did a fun little shoot with the band The Sky Is Broken. They’re a Jamaican rock band with some great, and unique(!) sounds. I shot portraits of them back in 2014 as a part of my final year project at the University of Technology, Jamaica, and I also did a shoot for their album art for the release of their EP, Tribes. It was a great experience working with them again.

Taffarie, the bassist, contacted me a little while back saying that they had a few ideas in mind for a shoot that involved the wilderness, and smoke bombs; somewhat vague, but still interesting! On Saturday morning we trekked to Portmore to scout a location close to Jam World and I took a few test shots to get a feel of the place. Not exactly what I was expecting, but we decided to make a go of it.

We got there on Sunday morning, got my gear set up, and with the help of fellow photogs Kid Bazzle and Stefan Ramdal, (Unik Fotografi) we got to work. Shoutout to Stefan for the behind the scenes shots!

We originally intended to use a 47” softbox, but quickly realised it wasn’t giving us the look we wanted.

Bazzle (on the left) and I making sure the settings were juuuuust right.

Gotta get the shot, no matter what!

Because I needed to overpower the sun (and I don’t exactly have a powerful strobe), I taped two speedlights together and shot them barebulb, and used circular polarizers to get the look I wanted.

After a few group portraits to get things started, we busted out the smoke bombs! Stefan would pull the pin and run across the frame (they lasted for approximately 1 minute) and I timed the shots to get the moment when the smoke looked most pleasing.

The first smoke bomb sparked and hit Taffarie in his back. Poor guy.

And here we have Stefan (in the green) running across the frame. Do NOT try this at home!

There we go! From left, Akiri Cooper (drummer), Matthew Bailey (rhythm guitar), Jodi Chin (keyboard/vocals), Taffarie Hutchinson (bassist) and Jordan Chin (lead guitarist/producer).

We did more or less the same for the individual portraits sans speedlight-use. All in all, the band was super happy with the final results, and I got some great shots. Click this link here to view the full album of portraits and don’t forget to check out the band’s Soundcloud page!

Rockers with Attitude

Taffarie, serving face!

Mission Accomplished

On Assignment: International Mecca of Style 2016

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with one of Jamaica’s leading local newspapers as a freelance photojournalist, and as such, I’ve had quite a few experiences working in places that I might not have been before. In addition to this I have also been working in some of the same spaces but in a different position, or context than I previously have; and quite frankly it’s been refreshing! One such assignment lead me to cover Saint International’s International Mecca of Style, a part of its annual Style Week event, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.

The International Mecca of Style offers a taste of Jamaica’s (and the Caribbean’s) hottest established and up and coming fashion designers. Working a fashion show is quite different from shooting most any other event due to the pace at which things go. It wasn’t my first time in that kind of setting; I’ve worked as a production coordinator on regional television show Mission Catwalk for two seasons. But given that I was now working in a different capacity, it was a whole other kettle of fish.

It starts with finding the perfect spot from which to shoot; if you don’t get there early enough to secure a spot at the front of the runway, you might be in a spot of trouble. And with sections cordoned off for media from specific outlets, it wasn’t easy, but I got it done! Below are some of my favourite images from the night, one of which made the cover of the Sunday magazine in the paper.

Street Photography in Jamaica (And why it can be so damn hard)

This post originally appeared on my Medium blog in August 2013. I’ve recently started working at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (in the Photography Department, naturally), and I’ve been working with and assisting students who had to complete photojournalism assignments centred around street photography. I also received an email from a young man with who seemed to have a passion to tackle it. With that in mind, I thought it prudent to repost it here.

Street photography. It’s something that I’ve studied. It’s something that I love. When I look at street photography, I see the pure, unfiltered activities that can happen at any given time around. No ‘real’ posing. No facades. And it’s an amazing way to be inspired.

I love street photography because it helps me with my own creativity. And even outside of just being creative, it helps me to know how to capture a specific feeling. I’m not quite certain if what I’m writing is making any sense. But it’s how I feel.

My greatest problem with street photography? The streets of my country. Without the proper mindset or skill it can be extremely difficult to practice street photography in Jamaica, due to the mindset of what seems to be the general populace. Raise a camera on the street?

“Ay, nuh tek nuh pictcha a mi, enuh!”

“Yow boss, mek sure seh mi nuh deh pon dat.”

The majority of the comments and protests come from males, usually the ones who dress and act like ‘thugs’; although those reactions are certainly not limited to them. One strange (or not so strange) thing; a photographer who has ‘lighter’ skin, from my observation, gets more positive feedback than a black one such as myself. The reason behind this could perhaps be a post in and of itself.

Sometimes the setting is perfect, a situation where one can go un-hassled. Like the above photo, taken in Half Way Tree, during the 2012 Olympics’ Men’s 4x100 metre final.

Or this, taken during a concert in Emancipation Park.

There are a number of factors at play, here. In the two instances I listed above, there were tonnes of media personnel around. In instances like these, it’s not uncommon for people to strike poses, deliberately hoping to get their photo taken. However, a lone photographer on the street, with an ‘expensive looking’ camera (a DSLR, no matter how basic), gets a lot of unwanted attention. While shooting on the street I’ve received complaints, insults, and even the occasional death threat. Maybe the threats weren’t serious, but it’s always best to treat them as such.

Hopefully one day Jamaican society will change enough that I won’t need to worry about my safety while walking with my camera. But until then… I can’t stop. And I have no plans to do so.

Lifestyle Shoot with Jherane

In my last blog post, I said I needed to step out of my comfort zone, that shoot allowed me to do just that. This time around, I decided to focus on one thing; keeping it simple. The conditions of the shoot were quite similar to the last, as all I had on hand (yet again) was my trusty camera, a single speedlight, and a very small room. Travelling light equipment-wise has been a boon, as it allows me to get back to basics and focus on what’s at hand.

Jherane, while gorgeous, isn’t a professional model (not that you’d be able to tell from these images). As with many folks, at first she was a bit shy in front of the camera. I’m sure most of us can relate, because I know I can! But once we built our rapport, we decided that the best way to make everything easy-breezy was to have a few episodes of Steven Universe run in the background. The shyness melted quite quickly, and it was smooth sailing from that point on. Full album can be found here.

Portrait Shoot with Alana

I haven’t blogged in a while as the ‘Real World’ has been keeping me quite busy, so it took me a while to get back into the swing of things! I’ve been working on a lot of things lately, but at the same time, I’ve been in something of a creative rut. In my mind I knew I had to do something different, a bit more daring; I had to step out of my comfort zone, and this shoot allowed me to do just that. All I had on hand was my trusty camera, a single speedlight, and a very small room. These forced me to get creative with the space I had, and in the end, the images were great!

I met my friend Alana a few years ago and was blown away by how remarkably chill and comfortable she was. When I called her up for the shoot, I didn’t quite have a concept in mind; all I knew was that I wanted suspenders (she had suspenders) and I wanted to do something risque. Her amazing attitude shone through in the images, and I can’t wait to work with her again! The full gallery can be seen here.

Daniel & Nastassian: Salsa Nuptials

In May I had the pleasure of shooting the fun, intimate wedding of Daniel José Older and Nastassian Brandon (now Brandon-Older) in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.

Meet The Couple

I first met this wonderful couple in the same way that they themselves first met; on Twitter! Daniel is from New York City, and Nastassian is from Jamaica (this is the power of social media). It was through this medium that I really got to know them.

In a quirky twist of fate, Daniel (author of Salsa Nocturna, Half-Resurrection Blues and Shadowshaper) happened to be a writer whose work I had been admiring for quite some time. Nastassian, while a law student, also happened to be a writer, and I could instantly see why they complement each other so well.

Twitter has a funny way of bringing people together and at times bringing out their true nature, and it was because of this that I could see how fun, witty and brilliant they are, not to mention adventurous (he proposed to her in Paris for Pete’s sake!)

The wedding, dubbed Salsa Nuptials by a friend of the bride, was held at Garden House, a guesthouse on the outskirts of Ocho Rios, with an absolutely gorgeous view overlooking the town.

When the day began, conditions were perfect for a day of shooting outdoors; the sky started out overcast, but cleared up quite nicely heading into the ceremony.

Both groom’s and the bride’s camps ensured that they were ready for the day (although the bride’s took a bit longer).

After the guests were settled in and the groom stood at the gazebo that served as the alter, everything went smoothly. Showcasing a bit of her fun side, the Nastassian requested that Big Pimpin’ be played for the bridal march, delighting the guests and causing fits of laughter.

After an excellent ceremony, the newlyweds took some amazing portraits privately and with their families.

The reception was fun-filled, peppered with laughs provided by friends and family through lovely, heartfelt speeches. The day was capped off with the couple having their first dance, completely lost in their own world while they danced arm in arm.

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