Pictures with purpose

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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FOR Brooklyn-based, Jamaica-born photographer Radcliffe Roye, his objective is to bring into focus the plight of society's downtrodden through his work.

With credits in such industry standards as Vogue, the New Yorker, Essence, Ebony and the Associated Press, Roye — who was born and raised in Montego Bay — could easily rest on his laurels. Instead, he has a deep-seated desire to bring the existence of groups on the lower rung of society to the fore.

"I shoot this subject matter, not because it's easy, but rather because it's easier to ignore the hopeless and destitute in our society. I find it heart-wrenching, and help them through the lens of my camera," Roye tells the Jamaica Observer.

He describes a photo essay he is currently shooting for an unnamed magazine which tracks the daily life of a family in New York.

"Britney, Riley and their two-year-old child live on the streets of New York. It is now winter and they sleep in the subway. What I want to do is bring their existence into focus through my photos."

He explains that already this work has begun to pay off, as having released images via the social media platform Instagram, he has been able to get response, with persons making offers to assist with food and clothing as well as a job for that family's patriarch.

Roye is currently completing his upcoming project — a book on dancehall titled, The Fine Art of Daggering.

"Seven years ago, Vogue magazine hired me to capture the fashion of the dancehall. Being Jamaican, dancehall/ reggae is my thing, but seeing it through the lens of my camera was an eye-opener. It really changed my view of this music and culture. Dancehall made me open up to social ills," he said.

It is this experience which for him presented dancehall, a culture often frowned on, as fine art.

"I stay away from the sexual overtones — that's why I never shoot under the skirt of a woman as it takes away from what I am trying to achieve — and what you have is a window into how these persons live," he says. "Furthermore, just look at the global reach of dancehall. It has made it into North America, Britain, not to mention Japanese culture and society. Really fascinating stuff," Roye adds

A regular in the press pit at major reggae events in Jamaica, Roye says he will be back in Jamaica shortly for a three-month jaunt collecting his final set of images for 'The Fine Art'.

This sociological/ anthropological take on life has paid dividends for this father of two boys, ages seven and four.

Following Super Storm Sandy, Roye was among the top 10 photographers chosen by The New Yorker magazine to submit works for its Instagram feed. This is one of the highlights of his career, he states.

"It wasn't until I realised how vast an audience this reaches, as many as 300,000 at any given time, that it came home to me... and I was like, 'whoa'!"

Roye currently has two works in the National Biennial exhibition at the National Gallery in downtown Kingston.

The pieces, Shivering and Petula- Sunset Queen, are taken from his Nigga Beach series which takes its name from the term used by Montego Bay's affluent to describe the popular public beach in that city.


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