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Same Place, Different Picture
A whirlwind trip to Jamaica’s capital, Kingston...

Troy Goodall by Troy Goodall on Aug. 30, 2020

While overseas travel might seem like just a fantasy for many of us right now, thankfully there’s still plenty to reminisce about.

Back in 2018 I got the opportunity to photograph Usain Bolt for a commercial campaign. This involved a whirlwind trip to Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, a city originally founded in 1692 as a refuge for survivors of the Port Royal earthquakes, now home to just over 1 million people.

The city’s topography is captivating — nestled in the Blue Mountains, it’s flanked by reef-lined beaches juxtaposed with a lush rainforest which, as we found out, is teeming with giant insects.

However, the city itself had a very different vibe.

Prior to visiting, most of what I knew about Jamaica I’d seen on television. So in my mind, it was this tropical paradise where everyone is happy and in party mode 24/7.

The reality, however, was rather different.

Although we were warned that there was a lot of political unrest going on and that for our own safety it was best to stay in the hotel, I still wasn’t prepared for the contrast between what I had in my mind and what was in front of me.

Unlike the vibrant picture painted on-screen, the city was eerily quiet.

The colours were there, but faded. Many of the buildings were dilapidated — paint flaking, windows boarded up, in desperate need of some TLC.

The difference in the reception we got from the locals was even starker.

Far from happy-go-lucky hosts, wherever we went we were met with hostility. People barely tolerated our presence, let alone having their photo taken.

After my first few shots on the ground were not well-received (plenty of yelling), I ended up hiring someone to drive us around for a few hours so I could continue from the safety of the car.

Even then, it was very much a “point, shoot and dash” situation. Most of the shots ended up being “drive-bys”, taken while the vehicle was moving to try avoid any further confrontation.

Although it was quite a test of both my stealth and hand steadiness, I managed to get a few shots that I felt provided an accurate representation of my experience in Kingston.

More so, it really made me stop to consider the contrast between what we see on TV and real life — although promoted to tourists as a tropical utopia, daily life in Jamaica, at least for some, is a far different picture.

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More About Troy Goodall

Troy GoodallTroy has the unique and advantageous ability to find the photo in everything. Sure, he can shoot the perfect studio shot, or create the impossible from different elements. That’s not unique. But, you can throw Troy into eight foot surf with a floating rig that doesn’t float and shadowy sub-aquatic shapes that may or may not be sharks, and he’ll get the shot. Send him into an equally treacherous on-set environment working around a prima-donna director and he’ll get the shot. You’ll know you’re asking the ridiculous, and the conditions seem impossible, and the lighting is wrong, but he still comes back with the shots.

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