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NLS Presents an 'Intimate Encounter' With Marlon James

Marlon James

In the tiny room that houses the big ambitions of the NLS art initiative, photographer Marlon James staged his first solo exhibition, Intimate Encounters. The exhibition, comprising 14 images from different points in James’ career opened on Saturday night (March 23, 2013) at the Mountain View venue. The small space also encouraged the added intimacy of  one-on-one conversations with the artist.

Now a resident of Trinidad and Tobago, where he moved to in January, James has been steadily building a reputation for his striking portraits, which have been included in several prestigious exhibitions including Young Talent 5 and the recently closed Jamaica National Biennial. The images curated for Intimate Encounters reflect situations in which the subjects were captured in intimate spaces or moments.

In her engaging essay accompanying the exhibition, Nicole Smythe-Johnson points out that James’ portraits shun the “usual suspects - the beautiful, the powerful, the important” to instead portray the “banal and the unlovely”.

According, to James, this small window into his work was also selected because they are strong enough to have a lasting impact. "These I hope will be considered iconic images, timeless images," he said, explaining that he was drawn to portraiture as a way of documenting people. James explained that different things draw him to a subject. It may be the person’s dress, a sense of style,  or their personality.

Intimate Encunters will run at NLS until late April 2013"Some of them are people that you would overlook because you they just look like the the average Joe, and so I would then take it upon myself to show them differently," he explained.

“Most of the people I photograph I do have knowledge of them,” he says pointing out that his subjects have often been drawn from friends, colleagues, students and other acquaintances. He explained that his photography began with people he was familiar with, because of his own shyness about asking people to pose for him.

James who recently executed fashion and culture based shoots for the Trinidadian magazines Maco People and Six Carlos, explains that he has not quite given up on his homeland, Jamaica just yet.

"They're still people in Jamaica that I want to photograph and I haven't got around to it yet,” he said. “They are people who I want to photograph who won't let me yet."

Additionally, he also intends to begin a series focusing on night shift, blue collar workers, whom he intends to capture them in the buildings and streets as they work. In this series, he will also further explore colour.  

“People are starting to know me for black and white photography,” James said, “So I'm thinking of experimenting with colour or even cross processing.”

A second photography series will focus on exploring the diversity of Trinidadian families, which he hopes will be ready for an exhibition in 2014.

Intimate Encounters will be open for a month at NLS.  The exhibition was curated by Deborah Anzinger and Chajana DenHarder.