Glee and Garbage

It is usually a breath of fresh air to read in the newspapers that some small group of people have embarked upon a “clean-up campaign” along our seawalls; one of the more recent ones would have been the one involving the Ministry of Natural Resources, the EPA (Guyana) along with the Pick It Up Guyana campaign, in the past the Guyana Shines group did a stint, on International Coastal Clean-up Day various NGOs came out in numbers, even the national Football (real football, not that American thing) Team even joined Youths For Guyana on a round of cleaning.

I prefer to re-iterate that cleaning up is an after-the-fact solution, our primary goal should be NOT to litter in the first place, we should be encouraging our peers, and children on a daily basis to do the right thing and put it in the trash!

How hard is it to keep your trash with you until you reach a suitable receptacle (the garbage bin in your yard works marvellously for this) to dispose of it in the right way?

When I take photos along our coast, invariably there is trash within spitting distance, much less within the scope of my camera lens, some of us include it deliberately to make a point, many of us (myself inclusive) try to compose to minimise the presence of the debris and detritus.


When I took this photo two years ago, I dismissed it out of hand as not appropriate for what I was doing at the time, but now, I think it makes a statement.  Why should our children, who look forward gleefully to playing on the seawalls and seashore, be subject to the dangers, physical and health-wise,  of the abundant and widespread disposal and accumulation of garbage on the seawalls?

We shouldn’t have to “Pick It Up” because we shouldn’t have thrown it down in the first place, let us live not for now, but for the future, our children’s future.


Click on the image to see it in the “Streets” gallery

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A Good Photo

For my Deck Photo last week I used a black and white image of a bird walking across a wet expanse, one of my friends and fellow photographers told me that she didn’t like the photo, because it made her feel sad and lonely

When she told me that she didn’t like the photo, I was a little disappointed to tell the truth, but when she told me that it was because it made her feel sad and lonely, I was elated.


One of the things that makes a good photograph is the conveyance of some sort of emotion to the viewer.  For most photos, we look at them and move on, it was a photo of a sunset, or a flower, or an insect, or a door, or a building, or a bird, or any other subject you can think of, but when someone can say that a photo of mine made them reminisce or feel happy or sad, of any other emotion, then I feel that the photo was not only good, but better than I’d hoped for.


Each photo has the potential to reach past the optics of the viewer and into their emotions, when it does, then the photo was worth taking, it was worth the pixels that were spent on it, and the time it took to take and process.

None of these photos are new, but each one has had an emotive response from a viewer, it may not do it to everyone, but to me, that is what makes photography a challenge, to reach into as many of the viewer’s hearts as possible, but to even reach one, is usually enough for me.

As usual, click on the images to see them in their respective Galleries in the Collection.

Pro – defining and refining

Twice in recent times, I’ve been accused of being a “Pro”, as in a Professional Photographer, and both times I’ve been taken aback by it.  Me? a Pro?  Surely they don’t think so!

The first time was on a public discussion on the Guyana Tourism Authority’s Facebook page where we were discussing their Photography Competition, the unfairness of one of the “rules” and the general direction of the competition, the individual calling me a Pro thought that because I was a known name in Photography in Guyana I should not be questioning the rules of the competition (open only to amateur photographers), and stay out of it.  I humbly submit that I am not a known name… stop ten people on the street and ask them if they know Michael Lam, and they’ll all probably ask “Who?”  In the small, but growing, Photography world locally, yes, my name is known alongside those of Nikhil Ramkarran, Dwayne Hackett, Fidal Bassier, Ryan Dos Santos, Amanda Richards, Roshanna Mahadeo, Compton Sarabo, Vishnu Persaud, Philip Williams, Avinash Richard and countless others (sorry if I missed anyone).

The second time was in a newspaper article that covered the recently concluded Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, in which I gained the Bronze Medal in the Photography category, the reporter referred to me as “Pro photographer Michael Lam”, again I felt that it was a distinction I could not accept or live up to.

Who is a Professional?  Generally you need to meet certain criteria to be a Professional:

“Expert and specialized knowledge in field which one is practicing professionally” I don’t possess that knowledge, certainly not to a degree to be teaching it or express an “expert” opinion on it, so that one is out.

“Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to profession”, same as the first, not me!

“High quality work in Photography”, OK, if it’s good enough for the National Art Gallery at Castellani House to exhibit, then I suppose I have to acquiesce to this one

“A professional is an expert who is a master in a specific field”, definitely not me, oh no!

Let’s get specific to a Professional Photographer:  A professional photographer uses photography to earn money; amateur photographers take photographs for pleasure and to record an event, emotion, place, or person.  I have a day job, I’ve always described myself as a Photo-hobbyist, and I still see myself that way.  Photography isn’t my primary income, if it were I’d be starving.  Have I made money off of photography?  No, I spent more than I made.   I’ve been fortunate to have some of my images licensed for use in a few calendars, I’ve also had a few images sold for display, does this make me a Professional?  Simply because I’ve had some income from my hobby?

I have to admit, that this view was the one I had originally taken of Professional Photographers, those who have sold their services or products, so now I fall into that category, but I still can’t see myself as a Professional.

I look at Robert (Bobby) Fernandes, whose years of experience and his natural Photographer’s Eye, can capture a scene with a certain “Je ne sais quoi” that tells you its a great photo, and I think that’s a Professional!

I look at Delano Williams, who has been doing portrait and wedding photography in Guyana for many years, and I think that’s a Professional!

I remember Mark Yhap, who took portrait photos on Camp Street, he used SLR film cameras and light meters, and had everyone wanting their photos looking ethereal because of a “soft lens” that he used, and I think that’s a Professional!

I look at Dwayne Hackett, one of the only trained photographers that I know of, who does spectacular work for everyone from Corporations down to studio portraits, and I think that’s a Professional!  He knows more about lighting, depth of field, and most everything else, than I ever will.

I look at Fidal Bassier, who has taken wedding photography and portrait photography to a level Guyana has not seen before, and I think that’s a Professional!

I look at John Greene, who in a short space of time has carved out for himself a space in the Portrait photography world and is steadily expanding his repertoire, and I think that’s a Professional!  I certainly don’t have that business sense or attitude.

I look at my friend Nikhil Ramkarran, Gold Medal winner in the Photography Category of the Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, whom I always thought “never had an artistic bone in his body”, but who read and looked at every single thing he could find about Photography and Photographers, and tutored himself (and me along the way) in the art of photography, and I think to myself that’s a Professional!  You could ask him almost anything on the subject, and you’ll not only get expert knowledge, but an expert opinion.

Do I rank with these people, or with so many others in the field now?  I am not sure, I’m happy to call them my peers, my fellow Photographers, and I am proud to be among the talented people of The Guyana Photographers.  Can you book my time for a portrait shoot? No.  Can you book my time for a wedding shoot? No. Will I ever do that?  I don’t know, it’s just not my thing right now, and I have a day job  🙂

Why do people think I am a professional?  I don’t know and it really does not matter in the long run.  I know a few things about photography, and I’m willing to share what I know, and learn from others in the process, but in the end, I merely shoot what I see, and sometimes people like what I shoot.


To the Photographs in this post…. both photos were taken during the first week of the year, and both were shortlisted along with two others for the first photo for the Deck Project, but I chose another, just because I felt like it.  The ;little icon of the Newspaper is the article which I mentioned, clicking on it will give you the full PDF version from the Newspaper’s website (Sunday Times Magazine).

Both of the photos are technically composites, that is they are High Dynamic Range (HDR) images each using three exposures.  Of the two, the seascape that I titles “The Lonely Sea” is my favourite.  HDRs are one of my favourite photographic techniques, but as with all techniques it can be misused.  Click on the images for a better view in the Gallery, along with other HDR images in my Scenic Experiments Gallery on my site.


Definitions highlighted in bold taken from Wikipedia.org

Worth Saving

Some things are worth saving.

A friendship of many years is certainly worth saving, after a while you get to the point where an argument is just an argument, not a reason for “falling out”.

A job is worth saving, especially when there are fewer to find and when you have more to think about than just yourself,

Memories, as in letters and photos, video-clips and newspaper clippings, are worth saving, it is a record of the things we’ve done, things we’ve seen, and it becomes a story to tell our children and grand-children.

In this century (and the end of the last) there’s a great movement to save our forests, certainly worth saving if we intend to continue to breathe.

Endangered species are worth saving, why let a species go extinct because of the actions (or inaction) of another species, especially when we (humans) may be the main cause of their dwindling numbers.

Recently, there’s been a movement (championed by Annette Arjoon-Martins) to save the mangroves that form part of our sea-defence, I certainly don’t want my house washed away because people burn garbage in the mangrove areas, destroying our first line of sea-defence, so that is certainly worth saving.

I think most people may agree with much of what I’ve mentioned, many more will have other things to add to this list, but is a building worth saving?  Is a building that is older than any of us, that has seen more mayors than we have fingers, that is one of the few remaining structures of its kind, that is a reminder of our colonial history worth saving?

Should we let the markers of our heritage, the work of the hands of our ancestors, the beauty of a golden age, fall into disrepair,slowly disappear and be forgotten?

Clink on the photo above to see it in the Gallery, along with other photos from around Georgetown, Guyana.

Walk and Talk

I was processing this photo from 2009 and the title that immediately sprung to mind was “Walk and Talk”, obviously because that’s what the girl was doing; walking leisurely on the jetty, and talking on her cell phone (or mobile phone, or cellular phone, depending on your custom).

Then, of course, being a Caribbean Man, the song from “reggae great” Pluto Shervington popped into my mind as well; that would be “Ram Goat Liver”

As I am fairly certain that not many people outside of the Caribbean would know the song, I’m including the lyrics from the chorus:

Ram goat liver good fi mek mannish water
Billy goat teeth mek the earring for you daughter
Curried goat lunch put de bite in your bark
It mek you daughter … It mek you daughter walk and talk

I think that it is a good bet that the young lady in the photograph may likely be of East Indian descent, so the idea that she might have had Curried for lunch would not be too far fetched, and she can certainly walk and talk 🙂

Walk and Talk.
A cropped telephoto image. Click on it to see it better in the Gallery.

These days I have to wonder if the cell phone is more of a convenience or an intrusion.  As it is, they are now more than just phones, they’re basically what was once your home computer, now in the palm of your hand.  I remember when I owned a PC with a 386 processor that had an 80MB Hard Drive and at the time, that was considered large; now my smartphone has more than that amount of memory built-in and an additional card that can hold an additional 8GB of data.

But I digress.  It is convenient to have a phone always with you, rather than being tied to a land-line.  It is convenient to be able to check your e-mail, your Facebook and Twitter accounts, check stock trades and the latest news, and so much more.  There are, however, times when you can do without the constant interruptions, the unpredictable yet persistent “ping” or “bleep” or whatever “ring-tone” you’ve chosen to notify you of every event that the phone is now capable of alerting you to.  After weighing the Pros and Cons, I came to a decision that the mobile phone is as much as a convenience as you want it to be, and conversely, as much of an inconvenience as you want it to be.

My phone goes on silent when I go to Church, to meetings and to various functions where I prefer not to be disturbed, I feel the vibrations and I am aware that when I finish whatever it is I am doing that, after the hour or two, I will have a few (or quite more than a few) messages to read and maybe calls to return.  But I am the master of the phone, it is not the master of me, and quite frankly, that is how it should be.

Now I’m hungry for some Curried Goat!

2012 Deck – Week 21

Georgetown is changing, every day; some may say it is for the better, newer buildings, more businesses, a boost to the economy, others look at it as a neglect of the traditional, our history, our heritage and, ultimately, our past.

While others countries, even other Caribbean nations, strive to preserve and maintain the “Heritage” buildings, our politicians can’t seem to grasp the idea of Tourism generated by the longing to see just such buildings, they apparently think that tourists come here just to see the Kaieteur Falls.

Although my photograph for this week is not one of the exalted buildings, I think the point can be made that there are many buildings worthy of being preserved, saved and cherished.

There is a Heritage Building Corridor that runs through the heart of historic Georgetown, it stretches from the head of High Street where the building that houses the Canadian High Commission marks the first notable Historic building, and stretches down through Main street and into Avenue of the Republic where the Parliament buildings and Saint Stanislaus’ College mark the end of the designated corridor.

Among the numerous buildings in the corridor are the Prime Minister’s Ressidence, Red House, City Hall, the Demerara Mutual building, City Hall, Cameron and Shepherd, The Victorian Law (High) Court and St Andrew’s Kirk.  The National Trust of Guyana has earmarked twenty-four sites along the corridor as Heritage sites.  Some are kept in good condition, whilst others are falling steadily into disrepair.

This photograph is of a junction off the corridor, and while it may not be a historically important building, or of architectural value, it shows that many buildings are ageing, and unlike rum, some of which are said to be “aged to perfection”, this one has passed its prime, and is definitely somewhere the other side of perfection 🙂

In the Key of “D”

I took a photo almost a month ago with the intention to write a blog-post about two Guyanese musicians who have touched my soul through their music.  I know I can easily come under criticism for picking out just these two, especially when there are many more out there, then and now.  I can even mention some that have made me proud to be Guyanese at one time or another, people like Bill Rogers and Terry Gajraj, EC Connections, Mingles Sound Machine and The Ramblers, Eddy Grant and Natural Black, Concert Pianist Ray Luck and local saxophonist Sweet Sax Kilkenny, and there are more.  The two men I had in mind are Dave Martins of Tradewinds fame and Dennis DeSouza.

I decided last night to limit this post to Dennis DeSouza who died this last weekend, sorry Dave 🙂

As Caribbean people, music is in our bones, it is not something we listen to, it is part of who we are.  I grew up listening to a wide variety of music, at home it was everything from Slim Whitman to ABBA, my father has LPs (vinyl records) from a variety of genres, I listened to reggae from Pluto and Marley, instrumentals from Ace Cannon and Victor Sylvester, and loved music from Ray Conniff and his Orchestra.  On the radio I got my dose of the 80s as I grew older.  Among those records in my father’s collection were albums by Dennis DeSouza.

Dennis was born in Guyana, more specifically Mahaica on the East Coast of Demerara.  He later made his home in Trinidad & Tobago, and in Canada.  I was once told my by mother that while learning to play, Dennis practiced the piano at the house they lived in on Broad Street, Charlestown, Guyana (I wish I had known this when I met him some years ago).

I like instrumental music, especially when they do versions of pop-music, but I also appreciate the classics to some degree and also the individual’s own compositions.  Dennis DeSouza had a style of playing that I could pick out easily from any other pianist, I would always say he had very nimble fingers and you could feel the joy that he felt through his playing.

When I started buying CDs and realised that he had started recording on CDs I quickly bought the first one “Caribbean Paradise” at 3H CD and Video Club (now closed), and on a visit to Trinidad I bought his “Best Of” CD that I saw in the airport shop.

On one visit to Trinidad with my wife, we had heard that he was playing at the Lounge at Cascadia, it was a toss-up between going there or going to see Maxi Priest in town, since I had already been to a Maxi Priest concert I chose to go hear Dennis play (much to my cousin’s dismay, he was practically asleep at the table).  We not only heard Dennis and the band perform, but Maureen and I took to the floor to join other couples to dance, it was a beautiful experience for us.  There was a break for the band and I went over and spoke with Dennis for a minute and, to take pity on my cousin, we left shortly after.

His music really touches my soul, from his rendition of Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” to his own compositions like “Pakaraima”, from his playful key-taps on old Latin pieces on his own albums to lending his skill to accompaniment in Byron Lee’s seventh installment of the Soft Lee Series.

I won’t dwell on the loss of a musician, I will rejoice in the music he has given us in his lifetime.  To Dennis DeSouza; a Guyanese by birth, a Caribbean Man at heart and a Musician to the World.