A famous destination for old Hollywood, (and new Hollywood too, lest Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani and Sharon Stone be considered passé), Port Antonio is back on the world map as a must-do for those in the know. Men's Journal lensman Keith Morris was on assignment this month for an editorial piece for the well-regarded mag's January 2014 issue, with his photo subjects including recently minted Jamaica Observer Style Awards Style Couple of the Year Luke Flynn, grandson of famed screen legend and avowed Portie lover Errol Flynn, and model-cum-singer Nicole 'Sky' Grey. Could SO's fashion editorial back in August starring the gorgeous lovebirds have triggered international interest? We'd like to think so.
Style Observer: Welcome back to Jamaica. We surmise it's a working trip. What exactly, does your Men's Journal assignment entail?
Keith Ross: Thank you. It's great to be back. A working trip, yes, but more like a labour of love, as I'm out here photographing Port Antonio, one of my all-time, favourite places. With the re-launch of the Trident Hotel as part of the Geejam Collection, there's a lot of buzz happening in and around Port Antonio. They're calling it a renaissance in this rural, seemingly forgotten part of Jamaica, and Men's Journal has asked me to capture it.
SO: How deep is your connection with Jamaica?
KR: Blue Lagoon-deep. I have an endless appreciation for all that Jamaica has to offer, and am on a quest to keep learning. It all started when the Jamaica Tourist Board showed me a side of Jamaica that I never knew existed--the mountains, rivers, caves, waterfalls, food, churches, nationalities and traditions. So much more than a beach vacation. That was the genesis of 'Once you go, you know'. There's more to Jamaica than you think.
SO: What is it about Port Antonio that keeps you returning?
KR: The people. Portland is home to some of the warmest, most welcoming people I've ever met. Every trip down the Rio Grande, up to Reach Falls, and into Boston Bay is profoundly more meaningful when a Portlander shows you the way. Also, good things are happening in Port Antonio with the Geejam Collection, and I'm excited to be a small part of it.
SO: We're excited about the photo shoot with Luke Flynn and his belle Nicole 'Sky' Grey, who nabbed Style Couple of the Year at our Style Awards last month. How did you arrive at the decision to have them as your photo subjects?
KR: Speaking of amazing people, Luke and Sky are the greatest. They're so deeply committed to Port Antonio that it was an easy decision to work with them. Now, having spent some time together, I can say they embody the Port Antonio spirit, they are larger than life and yet, remarkably down-to-earth.
SO: You were senior vice president at FCB, the Jamaica Tourist Board's advertising agency, and created iconic ads. Tell us about some of your other major projects with which we might be familiar.
KR: I wrote the tagline: 'Once you go, you know', which perfectly describes Jamaica's unique value proposition. It entices you to come discover something different and rewards those who have already have. I try to bring that level of insight to every brand I work with.
One worth mentioning is called 'Above the Influence'--a US-based youth media campaign designed to support teenagers at a young and impressionable age. It speaks to them in their own language, helping them recognise negative influences and encourages them to stand up and just be themselves. Our latest spot is in production now. Stay tuned to facebook/abovetheinfluence.com for the launch at the end of this month.
SO: Who is your go-to source on all things Jamaican?
KR: There's no shortage of proud Jamaicans ready to share some wisdom about their country, but Jon Baker has been my main connection to all things Jamaican over the years. He's not only a brilliant hotelier, but he's also a producer, artfully curating a collection of properties and people ready to show you a more authentic Jamaican experience.
SO: Besides Port Antonio, where else on the island do you love?
KR: St Elizabeth shares a lot of the same cultural values, but on a completely different landscape. Where Port Antonio is mountainous and tropical, Treasure Beach is flat, dry and equally distinct. Like Jon, Jason Henzell has done a lot for his little corner of Jamaica. I admire them both.
SO: What counts as your favourite Jamaican experience?
KR: There are too many to list. Yesterday, I went rafting down the Rio Grande and had an amazing lunch prepared by a lady named Belinda. I'm still thinking about her curried crawfish and dumplings. I might have to make another trip.
SO: Do you work with any other periodical other than Men's Journal? If so, what publication (s)?
KR: Just MJ so far. It's a great magazine.
SO: Having been exposed to Jamaican culture and our tourism products, do you think that as an island, we've expanded our offerings to make it as attractive as possible to the widest range of visitors?
KR: There's something in Jamaica for everybody. I would encourage the JTB, and whoever else will listen, to keep highlighting the undiscovered attractions, as visitors will always need a nudge toward new, unexpected experiences.
— Omar Tomlinson