For the past three years, Alvin K Henry has been working with the rapso group 3canal as the photographer for their Carnival production. Henry’s gig with 3canal culminates on Carnival Monday when he immerses himself in the 3canal J’Ouvert band. The photos he produces tell an unusual story of J’Ouvert celebrations.
J’Ouvert celebrations are also the culmination of Henry’s Carnival experience. Unlike others in his field who grab opportunities to shoot the large, popular mas bands, J’Ouvert is Henry’s sole Carnival focus.
“To me, J’Ouvert is one of the last few expressions of Trini culture that hasn’t really changed—whether it’s mud or oil or paint or whatever we use to cover ourselves, it’s one of the few times we don’t pretend,” said the 31-year-old primary school teacher.
It’s been eight years since Henry picked up his first point-and-shoot camera. He is self-taught and had an initial interest in landscape and architectural photography. When Henry first shot the 3canal show in 2011, it was a challenge to himself: how well could he shoot people?
The photos were well received and he’s continued to work with the group ever since. Henry recently upgraded to a more elite Nikon D600, which he used to capture the indescribable spirit of J’ouvert this year. He said he couldn’t describe his approach to his photography.
“Too many people have asked, and it’s just how I see the world. Anybody could take a picture of anything. What has set me apart is how I look at everything else unfolding,” he said in a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian on Thursday.
For the Couva-based photographer, the next challenge will be destination photography.
“I want to be able to travel and see the colours of the world. I want to do things like shoot Phagwa in India and other festivals around the world.”
Where ever Henry goes, however, his photography will remain people focused.
“I really just want to show people as they are, without pretence. I want to show the honesty in people. And I think that’s what happened in J’Ouvert. For some reason I’m just able to capture people just being themselves,” he said.