Three friends in Kingston, Jamaica, armed with cameras, paints and courage, shoot photographs that tell the story of the turbulent and contradictory reality of their lives in Jamrock.
At a time when contemporary art from the Caribbean is catching fire internationally, Kingston Shottas follows a group of young Jamaican artists who are at the vanguard of a youthful explosion of photography-based work. Marvin Bartley, Marlon James and Ebony G. Patterson make art that tackles, with an arresting honesty, the controversial issues of race, class, slavery and homosexuality; their work reveals the challenges and contradictions of being Jamaican in the 21st century and it is getting them noticed internationally.
Marvin Bartley is is thoroughly charming, in a roguish kind of a way. Yet, despite his appearance of boyish insouciance, Bartley is a skilled photographer, a perfectionist who wields the tools of photoshop as any painter would his paints and brushes. His completed pieces are tableaux comprised of layers of his own photographs, painstakingly constructed over months. Drawing inspiration from the great masters of classical fine art, Bartley’s photographs often echo the composition, lighting and attitude of his favourite masterpieces – with one exception: the subjects of Bartley’s works are invariably people of colour, forcibly inserting black people into visual scenes from which they have historically been absent.
Ebony G. Patterson is as in-your-face and flamboyant as the work she produces (her middle initial, G, is for Gangsta); but this belies her decidedly middle-class upbringing, a profound fascination with the sexual politics of her Jamaican milieu and a tireless work ethic which has made her the most prolific artist of the group and arguably its most successful. Ebony divides her time between Kingston (where her heart and soul seem to reside) and Louisville Kentucky, where she earns a living teaching. Ebony is over six feet tall; she is articulate and commands your attention. Her current work, which comprises stunning, life-sized installations, tapestries, collages, paintings and photographs, focuses on gang culture in Jamaica, the fad of skin bleaching and the paradox of the effeminate and decorous gangsta.
As a portrait photographer, Marlon James seems to be forever searching the faces of people to find himself. His photographs provide nuanced glimpses of people who, like himself, exist on the periphery of the status quo. Aggressive when he’s wielding his camera, Marlon in person is shy and introspective – standing back away from the centre of the action so that he can see the picture as a whole.
Kingston Shottas will be an intimate view into the lives and work of these close friends, told through interlinked vignettes which are connected by their shared work, as they find creative voices with which to articulate the often difficult, violent, poignant and sometimes funny and riotous reality of their lives in Jamaica whilst simultaneously navigating the vicissitudes of rising through the ranks of the international art world. Like Marvin, Ebony and Marlon’s photographs, Kingston Shottas will make a compelling snapshot of life in contemporary Jamaica.
Here’s the production trailer
Producer/ Director: Mariel Brown
Director of Photography: Sean Edghill
Original Music: Lazabeam
Graphic Design: Melanie Archer
Line Producer: Rhian Vialva