Photographer Of The Quarter: Jeff K. Mayers
  Nerissa Hosein
FEATURES
January 2020

Every quarter, starting January to March 2020, Paradise Pulse and the Photographers Guild Of Trinidad and Tobago will feature an up and coming photographer with exciting and inspiring work. For this quarter we are proud to feature Jeff K. Mayers.

Looking at his photography you would never think of his beginnings as the humble story that it is. Jeff K. Mayers was born in 1982 in the quiet surroundings of Diego Martin, Trinidad. He attended Rosary Boys R.C. and then Diego Martin Government Secondary.

At the tender age of ten, he stumbled upon photography while playing with his father’s camera, a Pentax K1000 with manual lens and flash. Photography fascinated this young mind but he had no idea of the way it would shape his life.

                            Jeff K. Mayers

He continued along his path after high school, taking short courses and landing a job at a bank. But his restless spirit and need to do more could not be contained so he left the job. Doing odd jobs such as pressure washing and grass cutting, Jeff decided to return to the one thing that had captured his young mind all those years ago. He bought his camera, a Sony A200, in 2011 and started taking pictures again. Unfortunately, he did not like the quality that he saw staring back at him and decided that maybe some formal training was needed to make his passion become a reality.

He invested in a short course but that did not teach him anything that he did not already know and did little to boost his enthusiasm for photography. Feeling a little lost but not wanting to give up, he turned to You Tube and started watching tutorials on the art itself in order to teach himself to be better. He practised every chance he got.

He got little or no help from the industry, being turned down as an apprentice by a few photographers, but he did not let that get in the way of making his dream a reality. He taught himself and took jobs whenever he could get them. He worked at events such as engagements, weddings and maternity shoots.

As he continued along his journey and his work started to speak for itself he got more jobs from local organisations such as South TNT, Trinscene, E TNT, Xavier Strings and Stumblin on the Avenue. His hard work and dedication to his craft was starting to pay off.

In 2013, he got his first big break when he was hired as a photographer at the Newsday to work on his first story. It was something he would never forget. His first pictures for a major newspaper were for a story entitled “Granny gets killed by Pitbull”. The gore was horrendous and as he reached on the scene the smell of blood was tangible in the air. Nevertheless he pushed through and turned in his photos.

From then on, Jeff gained steady employment from major media houses such as Newsday and the Guardian. In 2019 he took the position of Chief Photographer at the Newsday and has gotten quite a bit of awards in his career. In 2017 he came in 3rd at the Trinidad and Tobago Photographic Society’s annual competition in the People and Portraits category for his captivating photo of local singing icon Calypso Rose. In 2019 he was awarded the Caribbean Travel Media award by the Caribbean Tourism Organization for Best Photograph in concurrence with a feature article for his photograph portraying TT’s Carnival in Panache Magazine.

In speaking with Jeff there is such a sense of ease and confidence, that it’s hard to believe that he has had no formal training at his craft and that he is a self-taught photographer. He was given no handouts or step ups but worked his way from the bottom to the top. In his first five years of practising his craft he worked twelve hours every day taking pictures and perfecting his work.  He took any job he could get just to create a portfolio that he could be proud of and did not take one second of it for granted. He is now a member of the Photographers Guild of Trinidad and Tobago and would like to work with them to bridge that gap between the novices and the known photographers. He is very aware that there was no information or help readily available to him when he was learning so he would like to work on that. The Photographers Guild has already started to bridge the gap by conducting workshops and ‘meet and greets’ so it’s a start that he wants to continue to grow.

His style as he puts it is very unorthodox. He doesn’t use the fanciest equipment found in big studios. He likes to keep it simple but because he knows his equipment and how to work with the light his photos are uniquely breathtaking. He likes to tell a story through his art and feels his job is complete when he can evoke emotions from people. He was once told by someone that she would pay any price for a photo he had taken of an old house. She said the photo carried her right back to her childhood and made her remember what it was like growing up in that time. To Jeff, that is when he knows he has accomplished what he set out to do.

                           Jeff K. Mayers

His favorite photoshoot in collaboration with make up artist Anika Joyett was in 2015 with a friend named Khadijah who is also a model. She had recently been divorced and they decided to do a photoshoot with her wedding dress… at the Pitch Lake! It was in August so it was the rainy season and they had to go through knee high waters with the equipment to get to the perfect point to do the shoot. As they splattered tar on the dress and used it to tell her story, it was a definitive experience in his career.

So what’s next? Jeff is far from done. He has only scratched the surface of where he wants to go. While he is happy in his current position he still practises at least three hours every day and dreams of branching out into videography and one day working for National Geographic or CNN.  He loves travel photography but does not think he has one particular style. To Jeff, photography is an art of expression for how you feel and it is not just a job but a passion. He strives for excellence and perfection in every portrait.

His hard work has paid off, and it was certainly hard work. He never wants anyone to think that it wasn’t. Funding for photography was not and is not cheap but for Jeff it was worth the sacrifice. His passion is not something he will ever feel selfish about or threatened by. He welcomes up and coming photographers to seek his guidance and help. Just because he did not get the assistance that he needed does not mean that he won’t offer the advice and the wisdom which he has gained to others. He believes the Photographers Guild of Trinidad and Tobago is the answer to bridging this gap and he intends to help as best as he can.

The explosion of social media over the past couple of years has helped him get recognition and exposure where he could not get it before.  Through diversity within his field he was able to accomplish much more in a shorter space of time. Look for Jeff on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jkmayers/ or Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jkmayers/

 

All photographs in this article are courtesy of Jeff K. Mayers.

By: Nerissa Hosein | FEATURES | January 2020


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