These photographs were taken in the summer of 2003 in Ocho Rios, which is on the north coast of Jamaica. I was there assisting photographer Danielle Levitt who was hired to shoot an album package for an American rap group. Simultaneously, Jake Nava (of Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” fame), was shooting the group’s new video. All of the portraits you see here are of the video extras from that video shoot. They are all wearing their own clothes and make-up. The security guard is the only exception. He was a real security guard hired by the production company.
Video shoots are unusually exhausting, and this one was no exception. The shooting went through the night until the morning for three consecutive nights. The extras had to be ready to participate at a moments notice. There was a lot of waiting around in the wings, patiently. As far as their willingness to be photographed, I can say this: despite their endurance and preparation (hair, make-up, clothes, etc.) there was still a bit of apprehension and awkwardness. Coupled with their obvious desire to be seen, this only made them more real and human and charming.
Generalizations are, more often than not, inaccurate, but it seems to me that Jamaicans have an unusually developed sense of style. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps because of their geographical location and interesting mix of influences? Music certainly has played a major role. Also, physically, Jamaicans are beautiful people: long and lean with very dark, glowing skin. Danielle and I spent nine days on the Island and stopped photographing only long enough to do a little water skiing and snorkeling. I can’t wait to go back.