Jayde Gibbons is a self-taught photographer. Her 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork All The Kings Men is part of an ongoing series My Negus For Real (MNFR) that showcases black Bermudian men.
She says of her work ‘The goal for MNFR is to instill a sense of pride and purpose using photography by showcasing the everyday beauty of my people.’
In the exhibition, the photographs are presented on the wall of the gallery as one would see them in someone’s home, intended to serve as a symbol of family and unity.
We caught up with Jayde to discuss the importance of togetherness and brotherhood within our communities.
BNG: When did you first get into photography and how did you develop your practice?
JG: My first memories of being interested in photography are from childhood. I asked for my first camera in primary school. When I got into middle school, I used to buy disposal cameras from the local supermarket when I was packing groceries. I’d take pictures of my friends and stuff like that.
BNG: Your aunt Tiffani Paynter is an artist and has also exhibited in the Bermuda Biennial. How has she influenced you?
JG: My aunt Tiff is arguably my biggest artistic influence. Bring she’s only 6 years older than me and we were more like sisters growing up, as opposed to niece and aunty. I felt a little different from people in my family, so I’m glad I had her there to understand and to hone my creative abilities from such a young age. She taught me how to draw, introduced me to painting, poetry and alternative music genres. If I didn’t have that foundation coming up, I probably wouldn’t be as comfortable with myself and my art, so I’m incredibly grateful.
BNG: This is your first Bermuda Biennial. What does it meant to you to be included in the exhibition?
JG: I feel honoured! To have my work displayed alongside some of Bermuda’s most prestigious artists is an honour, especially Gherdai Hassell. When people think of photographers in Bermuda, it’s usually just services photography for hire, it’s not really looked at as a form of creative expression.
BNG: As a photojournalist you have a very powerful voice. How do you choose to use it and why?
JG: I’ve never been good at expressing myself verbally so I let my art do that for me. I understand how important visuals are and the impact they have on people and society. When I look at the imagery out there of Bermuda, and then I look at the state my people are in, both mentally and physically, I feel that it’s my job to do something about it. My main goal is to instill a sense of pride in my people, by showing Bermuda the way we see it, minus the pink sands.
BNG: The photographs in All The Kings Men are part of the ongoing series My Negus For Real (MNFR) that showcases black Bermudian men. Can you tell us about the series?
JG: It’s no secret that black men are judged based on appearance. And I believe that if you look good, you feel good and will do good things. We barely see images of black Bermudians, especially males, in a positive light, and that’s a problem to me. The imagery put out to the masses has a huge impact on society and the way people think. If black boys see no positive images of other black men, then how are they to view themselves in a positive light?
BNG: In your artist’s statement for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial you say that your piece intends to ‘highlight the importance of togetherness and brotherhood within our communities’. This has never been more important – both within the black community and the black and white communities coming together – as protests take place across the globe. How can we move forward?
JG: I believe that the first step is to look in the mirror and have that honest conversation with ourselves. What have we or haven’t we done to help the underlying issues? Do we support our peers? We should listen. Listen to understand as opposed to listening to respond. White people who don’t understand why black people are frustrated should listen and understand that we don’t share the same experiences they do. Black communities need to stop pointing fingers and causing harm amongst each other and support and uplift eachother more.
BNG: You once said in an interview, when asked for advice to up and coming photographers: “Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, if it’s uncomfortable you’re probably on the right track.” Is this something that you apply to your own practice?
JG: One hundred percent. How are we to grow, especially as artists, if we don’t try new things? Anything in life that you’re not used to will make you uncomfortable. I’m not saying it isn’t scary taking risks, but eventually you reap the reward. Good things don’t come to those who wait, they come to those who make sacrifices and work their tails off.
Follow Jayde at @queendomheights