Jeano Edwards returns home to shoot another face of Jamaica

Last year we booked Jeano Edwards as a Young Photographer to Watch as part of our Vision 2020 series. Over the following months he has been very busy collaborating with Adidas Originals and Wales Bonner and finished ‘EverWonderful’, her first photo book. Here, as this fully self-published project becomes available to order, Jeano showcases a handful of images from inside the book and discusses his perspective as an artist and Jamaican who left his home for New York and London at 16.

I was born and raised in Jamaica and moved to New York when I was 16. I’ve been here since, except for the two years I spent studying at Goldsmiths in London. And I started taking pictures maybe seven or eight years ago. I never wanted to take it seriously – in fact, I remember being very adamant that I didn’t want to make it my job! I think it was me who found something very beautiful, special and pure, and I didn’t want anything to interfere with that.

I started taking mostly still life images around New York City. I love these kinds of images because it all depends on just being in the right place at the right time with the right elements. Those moments always felt like time stood still just for you to expose that scene on film. I think I prefer still life, but just for myself – it’s not what I would generally share with the world.

a young man is lying on the grass in the foreground and another young man kneels behind a wire fence

Coming from a background where I had not been exposed to the arts growing up, I started out purely on intuition and following what felt right. Over time, I became more and more exposed and involved in the arts and art history. The first photographer who inspired me is Henri Cartier-Bresson. His “decisive moment” philosophy was the first thing I encountered that summed up everything I did. It still informs about my way of working today.

I wouldn’t say that I am now doing a job that I am still satisfied with. I am now doing a job that I don’t think is complete shit and a job that I can watch and develop! But I have an idealistic, elusive idea of ​​what I want my job to be. Elusive in the sense that I subconsciously move the goal post whenever I approach it – a weird built-in self-sabotage mechanism.

three young men wearing jeans and no tops lean against a car

Without any exposure to the arts, I didn’t grow up seeing photo books about Jamaica by a Jamaican or anyone for that matter. Maybe there are a ton of them, and I just don’t know them. Anyway, I wanted to do something that I never had growing up. The title — Always wonderful – is inspired by the song “Be Ever Wonderful” by Ted Taylor. It’s hard to say why I went with this. Something about the way I felt listening to the song felt familiar to how I felt at home. I had the title in mind long before I started putting the book together properly.

At Goldsmiths, my tutors often said that the process is more important than the result. And while I am delighted to release my first book, the process has been the richest. I decided to self-publish and take on the role of editor and designer. And I’m glad I decided to do that, as I’ve learned so much about photographs, the people who make them, and my own growth over the years of working on the book. I realized that there are a ton of images I’ve taken that don’t show people’s faces – either their backs are turned towards the camera or their faces are obscured in some way. other. I started to think about how important privacy is to me – in terms of how much of myself I’m willing to share with people – and how this characteristic has subconsciously crept into my work. The only images of people’s faces are of people I know well.

a man squats on the floor holding a bottled drink

I wanted to capture a version of Jamaica that was quaint, mundane, but beautiful. I didn’t want it to be too flamboyant or vibrant – although flamboyant is a characteristic that is almost impossible to escape among Jamaicans. Now that I have lived off the island for 12 years, I see myself as both an insider and an outsider. There are a lot of “external” elements that have since shaped my way of seeing the world, but obviously there is a core that is very Jamaican. So when I go back there, I rediscover different aspects of this core with new eyes while understanding myself in the culture as I am now and as it is – it’s a beautiful dance.

The pictures I took in Hampstead, Saint Thomas, are perhaps the most special to me. I spent a lot of my childhood there and going back and photographing the guys there was really special. In fact, the first photos I took for the book were taken there long before I even knew I was going to make a book.

Buy ‘EverWonderful’ here.

a group of women and a man have fun on a beach
a woman poses on a ladder, with a white car behind her
a young man with braids, neck tattoos and facial hair
the back of a woman with a pink bandana looking in a wooded area
the shadows of a blind man on two men inside
a young red haired woman in a bikini leans against a motorbike
a man in a hat looks at the camera and smokes

Credits


All images courtesy of Jeano Edwards

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