I must admit my early years as a photographer I was not concerned with the plight of my people, however as I have grown as a conscious Afro Caribbean American woman I view images of the African Diaspora with a totally different mindset. As I traveled I observed that people are people no matter where they lived. However, there was always a huge contrast between the images of people of color and others. I became more aware of the images around me of people like me. I was unable to totally identify with most of the images as being only indicative of life in the African American/African communities. My community was/is no different than any other, yet I was hard pressed to find positive images of my people. I began to ask the question: Why are the images from African, the Caribbean or any part of the world where people of color live in abundance are always so negative? It is either war, starvation, drugs or sex. It is not what I see in my daily life. No, I am not denying that there are negative issues to be dealt with, but it’s really no different than in any other community.
I have chosen to label my person as an Afro Caribbean American because I embrace all three as my own. First I am of African decent, I was born on the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago (this may account for my early views on the African Diaspora), and I have lived in the United States since I was 14 years old. Growing up in Trinidad I was exposed to the splendor of color and the artistry of wire bending (this is how elaborate costumes are created) during carnival season. The waves created by the sea of people on the streets moving to the sweet sounds of steelband and soca music it was, it is the most carefree time anyone can experience. As a photographer I have a greater appreciation for my culture, I look forward to photographing the people of Trinidad and Tobago in all their colors.
As an American I am proud of the almost 7 years I spent as an Army Photographer. Being an Army Photographer gave me an opportunity to travel the world gaining a view of other cultures, it also afforded me an opportunity to gain experience working with people in powerful places. This experience has lead me to where I am today, photojournalist/documentary photographer.
I have chosen to focus on the realities of life that include positive images within the African American community. Images of our young people, which I entitled “Our Future,” because they are our future and as such we as the adults have a responsibility to nurture and guide them. “Tears of Pain” is about the President of a block association who was unable to hold back the tears of pain as another young man had fallen victim to gun violence. “Mothers and Sons”, some young and single, some married and some Caucasian, but all raising young boys. As with those African American photographers who have gone before me I too photograph the everyday events in our community (the Black Family Reunion, Drum Talk, church events) both as images to be viewed today and as a record to be viewed by those yet to come, after all “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
The people of the African continent were and some still are divided into kingdoms and tribes, many can trace their heritage 6,7,8 generation pass. As an African descendent I live with an inner struggle, I have an urge to identify with a people on the continent, but which people? Am I Acan, Ashanti, Fulani, Massi, Hutus, Tutsis, I know not, as a result I embrace all of Africa. I am a member of the “African Diaspora.”
Gail L. Manker