Imaging her own island view

  • Sonny immortalised: Jayde Gibbons’s photographs are part of an exhibit now on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. She took the picture of Reginald “Sonny” Furbert about a year before his death last week (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Sonny immortalised: Jayde Gibbons’s photographs are part of an exhibit now on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. She took the picture of Reginald “Sonny” Furbert about a year before his death last week (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

If you want to know Jayde Gibbons’s Bermuda, take a look at her photographs.

Spoiler alert: there aren’t any beach scenes or palm trees; you won’t see businessmen posing around Hamilton.

“My pictures are more about our culture, which is not defined by pink sand and Bermuda shorts,” she said. “I like to capture the essence of Bermudian life.”

The 25 images she has on display at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art give insight. There’s a shot of Misty’s, the takeout restaurant in Somerset Village, of Cleveland County’s self-proclaimed mayor, Colin “Bo” Smith, and of Reginald “Sonny” Furbert, the well-known homeless man who died last week.

Apart from YouTube tutorials, she’s completely self-taught; as she describes it, photography is “just something I’ve always been into”.

The 27-year-old got her start as a primary student. After much begging, her mother gave in and bought her a “plastic film camera”.

“I took it to school where it got confiscated, and never saw it again.”

Where those early pictures are today, is anyone’s guess. For a while she took a break, although painting kept her creative juices flowing.

“In school I did GCSE art but photography is my niche. I would prefer to take a picture of someone and capture the moment or expression, as opposed to spending hours painting.

“I don’t like pictures where people are posed. I like to capture the essence of what’s going on as opposed to portrait photography.”

She’s grateful to work at Pembroke Tile & Stone where owners Bill and Carol Outerbridge are supportive of her interest and “very in tune with the Bermuda art scene”.

Fascinated by her Instagram posts, Masterworks invited her to be a part of 441: A Group Show. The exhibit in the Rick Faires Gallery showcases her work alongside that of Alshante Foggo, Jaylaka Jayathunga and Carlos Santana.

Choosing which of her 10,000-plus images to highlight was “a difficult decision”.

“I narrowed it down to black and white because I have a lot less than colour,” she said. “[From there I considered] who represents me as a photographer? Who represents me as a Bermudian?”

The 12 images she initially selected soon grew to 25.

“Every Bermudian can resonate with three or more of these pictures. I wanted the obvious — things people see every day, stuff that’s taken for granted.

“With this being my first showcase, I really wasn’t sure what the feedback would be from the viewers, so I chose what I consider to be ‘safe’ images, still powerful and all images that resonate with true Bermudian culture, but safe by my opinion.

“I don’t think Bermuda is truly ready for the types of images I’d like to put out there, but I feel it coming.

“As long as there are platforms like Masterworks that provide opportunities for artists of all mediums to have creative control of what is showcased, then I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

Her problem with the pink sand and Bermuda shorts images traditionally used to market the island is they don’t represent her, or any of the people like her.

“I feel [those images] misrepresent the other side of Bermuda and are why we’re in the situation we’re in right now with a disconnect between middle-class Bermuda and what is being portrayed about Bermuda to the rest of the world.

“People see our beaches, they see our wealth — we feel we need to catch up with the rest of Bermuda.

“We need to show the world what Bermuda is really like. Wealthy millionaires can go to Bahamas if they want palm trees; we [should be showing] what makes Bermuda stand out from the rest.”

Doing so would have the added benefit of giving “Bermudians something to be proud of”, Ms Gibbons said.

“Middle-class Bermuda life is just as beautiful as the wealthy, squeaky-clean life being portrayed to the rest of the world.

“As Bermudians, we have to see images of things and people that resonate with us in order to have a sense of pride in our island.”

It’s part of the reason why she began posting on Instagram. “I don’t know what I expected, but Instagram is the best free marketing tool.

“At first, I was hesitant to take my camera out [and start shooting], but I got more comfortable taking it to county games, to all the places I go.

“I didn’t expect people to take to my social media page the way they did; that’s what inspired me to actually take my little passion of mine seriously and reach out to people.

“I figured I don’t have anything to lose, so why not? “The worst thing someone can tell you is no, and then you ask someone else.

“But it’s also just to pretty much get a different sense of Bermuda out there; to share my Bermuda with the world.

“I’m very passionate about every single thing and it was starting to get on my nerves that the other side, my side, was not being represented to the world.”

She’s equally concerned about how Bermuda plans to navigate its future with so many social issues on the rise.

“People now feel so sad that [Sonny is] gone, but it’s an epidemic.

“Unfortunately, we don’t pay attention to the homeless and homelessness has skyrocketed in the past year.

“It’s becoming hard to ignore. For so long Bermuda has been portrayed as a beautiful place that’s problem free. It should be a wake-up call to the Government.

“How can we expect people to survive when we spend so much time catering to the wealthy?

“People need to focus on their own — the teachers are striking, the buses are breaking down. Bermuda is in real trouble and we need leaders who aren’t afraid to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.”

Follow Jayde Gibbons on Instagram: @queendom_heights. 441: A Group Show is on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art through February 14

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Published Feb 1, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 1, 2019 at 1:41 pm)

Imaging her own island view

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