Michael Gordon remembered as humble, gracious artist

Michael Gordon remembered as humble, gracious artist

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 05, 2020

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LATE former Jamaica Observer Photo Editor Michael Gordon was remembered yesterday as a humble and gracious artist who performed his photography duties with brilliance, at a service of thanksgiving for his life at Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew.

The 67-year-old died suddenly at home in May leaving the media, corporate and political fraternities in a state of shock.

Due to social distancing measures still in effect to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, attendance at the funeral service was limited to 50 individuals, which comprised Gordon's family members and close friends.

Among the features of the service were the heart-felt tributes given to Gordon, affectionately called MG, who was hailed as a gifted yet unassuming man with an unmistakable dedication, patience and attention to detail.

In his remembrance, Gordon's younger son Daniel, fought back tears and even cracked jokes that he was not crying, rather yawning, as he spoke from the heart about the character of the man he called 'Daddy'.

“Daddy, I learnt a lot from you. I can say you were the first person to teach me about savings, the first person to teach me about life, you gave me the conversation about the birds and the bees and all of those things. I can really and truly say that you are a great man — honestly. There has never been a time where I am hungry, never been a time where my school fee hasn't been paid, never been a time where I am in darkness in the house. Everything was dealt with. Having me as a son and you can go through that — bwoy you is a strong man. What I will say is, daddy, I love you. I know you're looking down on me and I want to make sure that I make you proud, and I will make you proud. I love you so much and I will continuously love you, no matter what, no matter where...Everyone has taken me in warm arms and that is because you were always good with people. Rest in peace and I will see you again soon enough,” the younger Gordon said.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange reflected on the friendship she shared with Gordon from his days at the Jamaica Information Service, remarking that he was among her favourite people. She said “it was hard to imagine what life would be like without photography, and what photography would be like without Michael.

“Since the passing of Michael Gordon, I've been thinking about what life would be without him, without his images of life and without his friendly overtures...Although the camera may limit the photographer to depicting existing objects, rather than imaginary or interpretive views, the skilled photographer can introduce creativity into the mechanical reproduction process bringing you life and energy to remarkable moments in history. That is what Michael Gordon, the photojournalist and artist, was able to do,” Grange said.

Grange added, “To me, each picture carried by his home publisher the Jamaica Observer and other publications seem to remind us that despite Michael's mellowing age, and we all mellow eventually, he had crossed the Rubicon and was creating images more as challenges to the younger generation of photographers, than just simply reinforcing text. Michael has gone on to the promised land but he has left behind a vision and a road map that young photographers can follow to success... To his sons, your father set a great example for you and you must continue to make him proud...let us not forget the example he has set and our duty to carry on the dream he possessed. May it serve as an inspiration for a better life and a more humane world”.

Observer Executive Editor – Publications Vernon Davidson reflected on his most memorable moments with Gordon, whom he met in the 1980s, and shared details of Gordon's early life which involved friendly jest among his siblings as well as raising chickens and growing vegetables with his mother.

Davidson also spoke proudly of Gordon's mettle and discipline displayed in his work, which involved many historic captures on his shutterbug.

“Over his 20 years at the Observer, he sharpened his skills even more capturing some of the country's most historic moments on film in his early years and in digital format in recent times. The list is exhaustive, but here are a few: the visit of world leaders including Nelson Mandela; The Queen; Pope John Paul II; Barak Obama, the crowning of Lisa Hanna as Miss Jamaica World in 1993; Brian Lara's iconic 375 run record in Antigua in 1994; the charred interior of the Carib Cinema when it went up in flames in 1996. In addition, his work captured the funeral of some of the most prominent leaders of Jamaica. Among them, Prime Ministers Michael Manley; Hugh Shearer and Edward Seaga, as well as those of our cultural icons: Louise Bennett Coverly, Olive Lewin and Dennis Brown. Those are just a small number of the assignments he covered,” Davidson said.

But, among Gordon's large catalogue Davidson vividly remembers the moments like the 1993 Ray Charles concert, the capture of criminal Joel Andem in 2004 and the doodling of former Prime Minster Portia Simpson Miller in Parliament, when Gordon's true professional prowess was displayed.

“I had new found respect for his skill and professionalism when we covered the Ray Charles concert at the National Arena in December 1993. I sat in the audience and saw him at the foot of the stage, his head down looking at his camera as he worked feverishly on the instrument. So I went to him and said, 'whappen Paadie?' 'Nuh the flash a gi mi trouble',” he answered. After a few more futile attempts at fixing the problem, Michael started shooting pictures again... Michael's photo of Ray Charles playing the piano and singing was an absolute beauty and one which we have highlighted in every Observer anniversary publication since then.

“Two other pictures stand out for the brilliance and the effort that he put into them. The first was the capture of Joel Andem in 2004... Michael knowing how the army and the police operated decided he was going to get a picture, so he drove his car straight to Up Park Camp...he joined the convoy, drove behind them, broke every red light with them. He got to Horizon Remand Centre and parked as he was not allowed in. It's an electronic gate, but it moves very slowly. He stood by his car and got that famous picture —Joel Andem shirtless, mouth with tape, handcuffed with the police escorting him,” Davidson said.

He added: “The second was the doodling of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in Parliament in 2005, which angered the then Government and led to the Speaker erecting a door preventing journalists from accessing the Hansard area of Parliament. That photo won Michael a National Journalism Award.”

Officiating minister Reverend Devon Dick remembered Gordon, who was appointed a member of the Order of Distinction in the rank of officer in 2016, as a humble man.

“As we learn from the life of Brother Michael Gordon — be humble, be humble. Michael was a humble man, he took pictures of kings and queens, but never lost the common touch. He never blew his own trumpet nor rang his own bell. He was always in the background behind the camera. Life was not centred upon him and he was not selfish and self-absorbed. He was humble. Brothers and sisters in Christ, take a page out of Michael's book and be humble. Don't go around being greedy always wanting more than is necessary for life. “

Broadcaster Ian Andrews also offered a tribute in word and song.

Gordon is survived by his sons Sean and Daniel; his mother Florizel; sisters Pansy, Marcia, Karlene and Damaris; and brother Marlon.


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