While we continue to prepare for the Jamaica Biennial 2017, which opens with several events from February 24 to 26, we now present the first of several features on artists in the exhibition, starting with Peter Dean Rickards, one of two artists to whom the Biennial pays special tribute with a special exhibition of his work. Here is a short bio and the tribute text, which was produced by the Afflicted Yard team of Russell Hergert, Ross Sheil and Shayne Morris, who preserve Rickards’ artistic legacy. The Peter Dean Rickards tribute will be on view at the NGJ in Kingston.
Peter Dean Rickards (1969-2014), was an influential and innovative self-taught photographer, videographer and publisher, who straddled the worlds of unique photojournalism, fashion photography, music video production and fine arts. He called himself a “media terrorist” and launched his website The Afflicted Yard, which provided provocative but poetic visual and verbal commentary on various aspects of Jamaican life. He successfully exhibited his work outside of Jamaica, first in Switzerland, then in London along with various unique contributions to projects and venues worldwide, while this Biennial will be his first major exhibition in Jamaica. The art world did not escape his sardonic eye, such as his collaboration with L.A. Lewis who became “The Conceptual Artist,” in a hilarious spoof of the pretentiousness of the art world, while literally exposing and cutting down the cult of Banksy. He also published the magazine FIRST, which was impeccably designed and produced featuring his photographic work and creative direction. FIRST set a new standard in local magazine publishing. At the time of his passing he was also shooting unique fly-on-the-wall documentaries, and gathering incredible international momentum.
“We are Jamaicans living within and without cultural control. We are at once proud nationalists and harsh critics of our country of origin. A country known for its extremes. A place packed with originality and creative energy that continues to flourish despite the current socio-political state that has removed the personal pride of many. An island filled with beauty unsurpassed and ugliness that would make a rat puke. This is the Afflicted Yard. A place of extremes where you will see life as we see it.”
– Peter Dean Rickards (1969-2014)
Peter exposed Jamaica to the world as “an unofficial member of the Jamaican Tourist Board,” as he put it. He captivated by destroying typical stereotypes of the island and replacing them with stronger images of reality. Untrained ‘officially’ as an artist, he started shooting with a 1-megapixel point-and-shoot but with an innate sense of the beauty of natural lighting, how to uniquely frame his subject, and instil a gut-wrenching power of the story behind them. At times harsh but also equally sensitive and dignified.
At the beginning of the millennium, he was figuring out how to use glitchy dial-up internet to stream sound systems live from a Constant Spring Road basement, while intercepting taxi driver radios for street news, all with AfflictedYard.com as his evolving canvas and forum. Photography was a happy accident as he captured a high-point in dancehall culture, while introducing new perspectives on traditional and daily-life subject matter, never before seen in such a way through a lens.
AfflictedYard.com though often controversial was a vital footprint for Jamaica emerging online; Peter was creating blogs, memes and digital videos from a decade-and-a-half-ago, along with the groundbreaking print magazine FIRST. He was always ahead of his time, well before social media and before anyone had smartphones. Above it all, he was infamous for remaining true to his passion, his imagery and his perspectives – and the work he’s left behind will serve his manifesto above, long into the future.
All photos are copyright of the Peter Dean Rickards Estate, all rights reserved.