Jeano Edwards returns home to shoot a different side to Jamaica

The photographer straddles dual perspectives of the country he left at 16 in ‘EverWonderful’, a self-published new book.

by Ryan White
|
09 August 2021, 7:00am

Last year, we earmarked Jeano Edwards as a young photographer to keep an eye out for as part of our 2020 vision series. In the months since, he's been busy, collaborating with Adidas Originals and Wales Bonner and finishing up 'EverWonderful', his first photobook. Here, as this entirely self-published project becomes available to order, Jeano presents a handful of images from inside the book and discusses his perspective as an artist and a Jamaican who left home for New York and London at 16. 

a man at the bottom of the frame reaches up towards large birds in the sky

“I was born and raised in Jamaica and moved to New York when I was 16. I've been here ever since, except for the two years I spent studying at Goldsmiths in London. And I started taking photos maybe seven or eight years ago. I never wanted to take it seriously -- actually, I remember being very adamant about not wanting to do it as a job! I think this was me finding something that felt very beautiful, special and pure, and I didn't want anything to interfere with that. 

I started taking mostly still-life images around NYC. I love these types of images because so much is reliant on simply being in the right place at the right time with the right elements. Those moments always felt as if time stopped 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 typically share with the world. 

a young man lies on the grass in the foreground and another young man kneels behind wired fence

Coming from a background where I had no exposure to the arts growing up, I started purely on intuition and following what felt right. As time went on, I became more exposed and involved with the arts and art history. The first photographer I felt inspired me was Henri Cartier-Bresson. His philosophy of "the decisive moment" was the first thing I came across that encapsulated everything I was doing. It still informs how I work today. 

I wouldn't say I now make work I am happy with yet. I now make work that I don't think is complete shit and work that I can look at and grow from! But I have an idealistic, elusive idea of what I want my work to be. Elusive in the sense that I'm unconsciously moving the goal post every time I get close to it -- a weird built-in, self-sabotaging 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 photobooks about Jamaica by a Jamaican or anyone for that matter. Maybe there are a ton, and I just don't know about them. Regardless, I wanted to make something that I never had growing up. The title -- EverWonderful -- is inspired by the song "Be Ever Wonderful" by Ted Taylor. It's difficult to say why I went with this. Something about the way I felt when listening to the song felt familiar to how I felt about home. I had the title in mind long before I started to put the book together properly. 

At Goldsmiths, my tutors often said that the process is more important than the output. And while I'm thrilled to be releasing 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 am happy I decided to, as I learned a lot about the photographs, the people in them and my own growth over the years of working towards the book. I realised that there are a ton of images I took that don't show people's faces -- either their backs are turned to the camera, or their faces are obscured in some way. I started to think about how important privacy is to me -- in terms of how much of myself I am willing to share with people -- and how this characteristic has unconsciously seeped into my work. The only images of people's faces are people I know well.

a man squats on the ground holding out a bottled drink

I wanted to capture a version of Jamaica that was quaint, mundane, but beautiful. I didn't want it to feel overly flamboyant or vibrant -- though flamboyant is one characteristic that is almost impossible to escape in Jamaicans. Now that I've spent 12 years living outside of the island, I see myself both as an insider and an outsider. There are lots of ‘external’ elements that have since shaped how I see the world, but obviously, there is a core that is very much Jamaica. So when I go back, I am rediscovering different aspects of that core with fresh eyes while understanding myself within the culture as I am now and as it is -- it's a beautiful dance.

The images I took in Hampstead, Saint Thomas, are perhaps the most special to me. I spent a lot of my childhood there and to go back and photograph the guys there was really special. Actually, the first photos I took for the book were shot there long before I even knew I was going to make a book.”

Purchase ‘EverWonderful’ here.

a group of women and one man play around 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 into a wooded area
the shadows of a blind across two men inside
a young woman with red hair in a bikini leans up against a motorbike
a man in a hat stares into the camera and smokes

Credits


All images courtesy Jeano Edwards

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JAMAICA