Nicole Brown's photography


Sunday, May 03, 2015

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SHE'S jovial, opinionated, adventurous, persistent, and she has an undying love for things of an artistic nature.

Nicole Brown, 32, tells All Woman that it was while she was an introverted student at St Hugh's Preparatory School that the arts programme at the school gave her an outlet to express herself.

After leaving high school at Wolmer's she enrolled at Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts college for women in Massachusetts because of its diversity in culture.

Later, she would work with Caribbean Research Policy Institute (CAPRI) locally, and it was there that her interest in art resurfaced.

"Since I was somebody who was always interested in art and when I was younger I used to dabble in painting, that interest resurfaced while at CAPRI and I enrolled in some photography courses at Carimac in 2009 with Howard Moo Young. I always had this interest in street photography, documenting photos of ordinary people, telling stories through images," she says.

In 2010 Brown decided to delve into fine art photography and showcased her work at the Liguanea Art Festival as well as Kingston on Edge. Subsequently she built her own website, Nicole Brown Photography.

Brown, who's currently the Government and regulatory affairs officer at Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), transformed her hobby into a business in 2012 based on comments and feedback she received from friends and family members.

In 2013 she won a bronze medal from the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission for a photo she dubbed 'Introspection', which was a black and white portrait of a boy she took at Reggae Falls seated on a table, looking at a shard of glass in his hand with soap on his face. This she said made her see photography as a tool for advocacy.

"Looking at it made me think to myself, 'What can I do to help disadvantaged youths?'. I'm looking at him in a beautiful place and in all of this there was poverty. It propelled me to spend more time documenting photographs of children in Jamaica. There are a lot of people you pass every day that you may not take notice of, so when you have time to pause and take a look at a photograph and ponder or look at the effect it has, when you look through a lens and encounter it, it does much for the audience as they can't run from the problem when it's documented. In terms of photography you are able to give a voice or a form of representation to people who may be overlooked."

Additionally, she enjoys photographing dichotomies in the Jamaican society.

"There are different characters from Jamaica, like the wicker man. I once took a photo where you had a wicker man on a beach in Negril with beer enjoying himself, but at the same time you are faced with someone who has to get up every day not knowing where they're going to sell and might go home with nothing. It's a beautiful place, but it's filled with people struggling to make ends meet. Then you have people who look at the Corporate Area and admire the building structures, but nobody sees the everyday person who has to hustle. They are the ones who add colour and character to the vibrancy of Jamaica. I use photography as a story board to educate people on real issues."

Brown also has plans of exploring the social enterprise component of her business to teach disadvantaged youth in underdeveloped communities the art of photography.

"Art is an escape, and photography can be used as a tool for emotional healing. I have volunteered with the Jamaica National Resolution Project, which had photography clubs in high schools where they used photography as a tool for advocacy and a tool to influence public opinion," Brown said.

Also a former executive member of the Women's Leadership Initiative and founder of the University of Chicago and Mount Holyoke Jamaican alumni chapters, Brown is passionate about helping younger women.

"At Mount Holyoke I worked with an organisation called CAUSE in Springfield, Massachusetts, where I tutored family refugees from Somalia. As a foreigner I had the privilege, while they were residents experiencing poverty. From there I wondered how I could use my privilege to change people's lives as a public policy practitioner and also a photographer," she says. "We were taught to be a generation of women to lead and change the world. People have a responsibility to take care of their neighbours. One small act of kindness can go a long way. Be change agents. You don't have to be a Bill Gates. Use what you have to give back."

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