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Intimate portraits of Bermuda life

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Honest reflections: photographer Amanda Temple

Get ready Bermuda — Amanda Temple might come knocking on your door.

The photographer is looking for residents willing to pose in their homes for an exhibit at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art next year, and a book featuring her work.

It’s an idea that’s been at the back of her mind for years.

“In October 2011 I began contemplating a collection of photographs of people in their homes,” she said. “Beautiful, honest portraits shot with natural light, showing my subjects at home and featuring the objects that bring them joy — perhaps curled up reading a book of poetry given by their beloved, a friendly chess match on an antique board, a small vegetable patch being lovingly tended or a baby being sung to sleep. I am not interested in capturing wide-angle, Architectural Digest-type images, but intimate portraits that reveal the essence of each subject.

“I could immediately visualise the exhibition; the paper I would use for the images and precisely how they would be displayed. But then, for a multitude of reasons, the hope and desire to bring the collection to life has repeatedly come and gone. It has whispered to me from time to time, but I was not willing, or able, to answer. But now I am compelled to give the project the complete attention it deserves; and over the last month it has begun to come to life.”

Ms Temple is hoping to profile between 60 and 100 residents. Most of her subjects will be chosen arbitrarily; Johnny Barnes, United Dance Productions founder Suzette Harvey and City of Hamilton personality Sonny, are among the few people she has handpicked.

She also hopes to shoot the residents at each of the nine houses she’s lived in here.

“In order to weave a truly interesting tapestry of tales, the collection will feature a few portraits of Bermuda’s well-known characters, but for the most part, the people will be chosen randomly,” she said. “Over the next four months, I plan to wander the island from end to end and knock on the doors that intrigue me and hope that I will be invited in. Or maybe, if it is an inconvenient time, I will be invited back.

“For the last few weeks, whenever I am out I have been looking around and taking notes on areas that interest me. As an example I was out last Sunday and heard a symphony of birds chirping in a pretty dense neighbourhood. I am pretty sure it was an aviary. I will try to find it again. I also plan to just wander down driveways I have never been on before — and just hope that if I do ignore the odd no trespassing sign, that the residents will forgive me and like to be included.”

She plans to have a complete collection by the middle of May.

“I am hoping that people will be open to having the photos taken right then. The goal is to show [and] capture authentic portraits; I may ask what they were up to before they answered the door, and then photograph that. The shoots so far have been pretty organic — we talk, I ask a few questions and I listen to their stories,” she said.

“I am sure the portraits will reflect the present — elements of technology may play a part — or maybe, should I interrupt someone reading the newspaper for example, that would illustrate the time. But otherwise, my goal is really to capture intimate portraits of the people I meet. And although I will knock on doors in many different neighbourhoods, it is not really my intention to highlight the differences in our society — I may find there are some similarities when we focus on the things that make people happy — the love between people, and the tales that link us to each other.”

The exhibit is scheduled to open at Masterworks on April 28, 2017

Living legend: Johnny Barnes (Photograph by Amanda Temple)
Labrador love: Suzette Harvey (Photograph by Amanda Temple)
Familiar figure: Sonny (Photograph by Amanda Temple)
Test subject: Amanda Temple’s father, Robin Blackburne, was the first portrait in her collection (Photograph by Amanda Temple)
At home: Laura Smith lives at Woodrina, the photographer’s home for many years (Photograph by Amanda Temple)