Experience Jamaique - Brand Jamaica in Switzerland
One year and five months ago, Jamaican photographer Patrick Planter landed in Zurich, Switzerland. He was understandably nervous, having been catapulted across the world into a new culture with new people and new languages. Nevertheless, he planned to make his name known across the European continent, one photograph at a time.
Little did he know that there was another Jamaican in Switzerland with complementary aspirations.
In August 2016, Jamaican Denise Allen launched Experience Jamaique in Geneva, an online platform designed to target international audiences and buyers for authentic Jamaican goods and services, particularly artwork. The photographer and the entrepreneur have joined forces to introduce and embed Jamaican culture in Switzerland with a live, online gallery exhibition on November 24 called Experience Jamaique. Potential buyers will be able to virtually view the artwork and interact with the artist at the same time. "The promotional effort is designed to reach potential buyers who would like to meet with us to discuss the artworks," Allen told The Sunday Gleaner.
"As a Jamaican in Europe, I want to make a huge difference in fine art photography, with my unique style and concepts. I want my work to be accepted in galleries across Europe and the world," Planter said.
Planter has been a photographer for six years with experience in weddings, photography journalism, product and documentary photography. His work has been mounted in Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competitions and at the Kingston On The Edge art event. Now focused on fine art photography, Planter aspires to be featured in magazines such as Apollo Magazine, Aesthetica, Artists Network Magazine, Hi-Fructose Magazine and City Arts Magazine.
"I'm very honoured to be a part of this exhibition to show the versatility of Jamaican art to the European market. I definitely want to explore that market and be invited to other galleries," he said. Planter may be on the right track. Switzerland lists art galleries in the hundreds a clear indication of the nation's love affair with art, or of an active fine art eco-system.
Brand Jamaica in Switzerland
Reggae music is big around the world, and Switzerland is no exception.
"Jamaican reggae musicians have a market in Switzerland and Europe and continue to draw large crowds, the way Usain Bolt did for athletic events. The annual reggae festivals held across the country invariably have Jamaican performances. Just a few days ago, Protoje performed at a major show in Lausanne, another city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and there were posters in various parts of Geneva featuring him as the lead performer," Allen revealed.
She added: "Brand Jamaica is strong here, so there is a unique opportunity for Jamaican artists to find new markets in Europe, more specifically, Switzerland," she said.
Allen first went to Geneva in 1998 with a human rights organisation on a two-year contract. She had every intention of returning home but fate had other plans. "My employers asked me to stay, and I received a permanent contract. Eventually, Switzerland became home, and I am now a naturalised Swiss citizen."
Though she is permanently based in Switzerland, Allen's family is from Kingston, a compelling reason to travel to Jamaica regularly. "I was last in Jamaica in April for the JAMPRO JEA Expo," she revealed.
Allen hopes to host the Experience Jamaique exhibition quarterly,
Fine Art photography
A graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Planter told The Sunday Gleaner that his photography career developed totally by chance. "It chose me," he said of his career. "I went to study painting, but it was full, and photography was the only course that was open. I didn't even have a professional camera. I bought my first camera at PriceSmart." His then teacher Donnette Zacca became his mentor. He was inspired by the stories her photography told. From then, his goal was to create a body of work with images that connected and told a story. His skills were fine-tuned as a photo journalist at The Gleaner Company Limited, learning from some of the best in the island. But he never lost his love for fine art photography.