Sure shot – a Guyanese father and child, by Jamain Gordon

When you think of home what springs to mind? Family, friends, a house, a room, a town, a city? For Jamain Gordon it meant an entire country.
Gordon, who was a runner-up in the undergraduate single image category for this year’s Breakthrough Awards, was inspired to photograph the people of his native Guyana while studying photography at university in London. One of the few Caribbean countries that is not an island, and the only South American nation in which English is the official language, Guyana is still relatively obscure, mostly because of its small size. Gordon wanted to provide an insight.
“We were given a brief entitled ‘Home’, so I literally went home and photographed my brothers and my mother in our home, because people’s personal surroundings can give a real sense of who they are,” says Gordon. I wanted to create a much larger project and, since some of my family still live in Guyana, it followed that I should document them and others from my home country.”
The resulting series, titled One People, One Nation, One Destiny after Guyana’s official motto, has taken three years of work to put together, and multiple visits. Together, the images offer an insight into the culture and traditions of this country, but it is in the individual portraits – such as Gordon’s shot photograph of Ricardo and his daughter – that universal concepts such as love and family reside.
“This portrait does not simply show a man who earns a living as a tattoo artist but the reason why that living is so important to him – his family,” says Gordon. “It was Ricardo who wanted to have his daughter in the photograph, and the warmth of their relationship can clearly be seen. If you look closely he has a gentle smile on his face – he was really excited to a have his photograph taken with her.”
Capturing such a candid picture took some effort, with Gordon visiting all of his subjects at home before the shoot, and speaking with Ricardo for two hours before getting the camera out. Gordon had originally wanted to photograph Ricardo on his own on the tattoo bed, but it soon became clear that he could tell a more interesting story by showing the family together, Ricardo’s daughter holding a tattooing machine whilst sat in her father’s arms.
“We shot inside Ricardo’s home where he has his tattoo studio – his lace curtains worked like a diffuser, giving the subject a soft shadow with no lens flare or too much highlight. The natural light played a crucial role as it accentuated the feeling of warmth that comes across,” says Gordon.
Now Gordon has included the portrait in a photobook, also titled One People, One Nation, One Destiny. “Although I consider this an ongoing project I have already created a book of portraits,” he says. “I have included my subjects’ hand-written notes about themselves and their lives. I like to think this book is an invitation to the reader to visit Guyana and see what it has to offer.”