Jamaican Photographer Peter Dean Rickards Dies

rickardsJamaican photographer and publisher Peter Dean Rickards died on December 31. According to The Guardian, he “was considered a maverick and was an inspiration for many regional creatives.” This are excerpts from a tribute written by Janine Mendes-Franco for Global Voices (accessed via The Guardian). [Photos below are from the artists’ page.]

In the early hours of the last day of 2014, the inventive Peter Dean Rickards lost his battle with cancer. Rickards was a photographer, cinematographer and director with an original eye, quick wit and unique perspective. He was also an astute user of social media as a vehicle for his thoughts and his art—right up until his death, he held active accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, under the handle Afflicted Yard.

And he was. The consummate creative, Rickards was smart, edgy and a little off the wall. On Facebook, people who knew him said he was a man before his time— that Jamaica and the world weren’t yet ready for him.

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In a piece shared by ARC Magazine, the pulse of the region’s artistic community, Ross Sheil called him Jamaica’s “most important artist”. Sheil began by recounting his first encounter with Rickards:

“The day I met Peter summed him up perfectly. Sometime in 2003 I was sitting with my then boss by the Kingston Hilton poolside preparing for a meeting with some businessmen or other, when this man with crazy hair showed up for the first time. ‘I’m gonna go shoot Ninjaman (a dancehall DJ) on the run from police…guns…somewhere in the bush…ya wanna come?’

“But that was Peter: prepared to do something complete; a something that occurred only to him, and that only he would risk doing; and trusting me, basically a stranger at that time, to share the experience. The end result was that iconic photo of Ninjaman holding Peter’s ‘Get out of jail free’ Monopoly card, one of a series of shots, which included the DJ waving around a loaded gun.

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[. . .] “Peter had lived life to its fullest. And it was his appreciation of life that which was such an essential quality of his art. There weren’t the conventional divides in his work: he crisscrossed uptown as much as downtown as much as country; and he looked outwards of Jamaica as much as he proudly celebrated his own culture. His eye for a story enabled him to work across different media—from writing to video—and to chance upon random, fascinating subjects that the rest of us would pass on by. Peter would show them in an honest and fresh light: he loved the underdog the unusual, and equally, he shunned the fake or hypocrites. A self-proclaimed “media terrorist”, Rickards often spoke his mind quite bluntly, which didn’t always go over well with those with something to lose by it. As an artist and as a Jamaican who understood the nuances and contradictions of his society, Rickards was keenly interested in “challenging not just the competing foreign depictions of Jamaica as either some ‘Hearts of Darkness’ versus ‘Happy Rastas’ serenading tourists on the beach; but in doing so also to challenge our own insecurities as a small island nation.”

Sheil praised Rickards’ “natural sense of inquiry” and autodidacticism: “The moment he found a subject, the little boy inside him became immediately fascinated. He didn’t know how to webcast, so he taught himself, the same way he learned how to build a Web site and as a photographer began with a crappy one-megapixel, moving onto a more ‘professional’ camera only after he’d already learned how to frame shots beautifully as well as capture Jamaica’s breathtaking natural light. I think we call that ‘creativity’. And in the Jamaican context where so many must make do with so little it made his work all the more authentic.”

For the Guardian article, see http://www4.guardian.co.tt/entertainment/2015-01-07/jamaica-loses-visionary-artist

Read the original at http://globalvoicesonline.org/2015/01/05/jamaica-loses-a-visionary-with-the-passing-of-artist-peter-dean-rickards/

See the artist’s work at http://peterdeanrickards.com/

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