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Steve James does it from the art

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The annual Art Basel Miami festival opens tomorrow, with its Let There Be Reggae segment focusing on Jamaican pop culture. Photographer Steve James will be part of this expose.

Let There Be Reggae takes place at The Lab, located in the fashionable Wynwood area of Miami. His two-day, 30-piece exhibit opens tomorrow and closes Friday.

It is the first time James --- who has covered the reggae scene in Jamaica, Europe and North America for over 25 years --- will show at an event of this magnitude.

“The benefits of displaying my work at a show that brings together more than 4,000 artists and 265-plus A-list galleries will be immeasurable. Not only will it give me access to an unprecedented audience estimated to be somewhere in the region of 80,000 people, but it could also open doors to a close-knit international art community that may fall in love with my body of work,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

James' catalogue belongs to his company Semiyah Photography. It includes numerous shots of artistes in concert, fashion, recording sessions and Rastafarian events. Many of his live photos are of Beres Hammond, whom he has accompanied on tour.

James was invited to be part of Let There Be Reggae by David Muir, the face of Jamaican photography in South Florida. Muir is also involved with organising the annual fare which ends on Sunday.

According to a statement from organisers, “Leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia show significant work from the masters of modern and contemporary art, as well as the new generation of emerging stars. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, films, and editioned works of the highest quality are on display in the main exhibition hall.”

Art Basel Miami also provides James with an opportunity to observe the dynamics of professional photography.

“Being a reggae photographer in Jamaica can be both exhilarating and challenging. The thrill of being immersed in such a vibrant aspect of our culture is always satisfying and that feeling never gets old, but sometimes the cost of equipment maintenance and constant upgrades can be an uphill battle,” he said. “Other challenges include the lack of appreciation of the value of your work by some entities who do not want to compensate you appropriately or credit you for your images, which is equally important in today's digital landscape.”