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Amber Pinkerton Jamaica photo series
Photography Amber Pinkerton

A snapshot of Jamaican life, as told by the country’s youth

A new photo series shot by photographer Amber Pinkerton celebrates the burgeoning youth of the Caribbean island

“Jamaica will always be my paradise. There’s so much energy, spontaneity, and comedy coming out of the country. Geographically we’re so small, yet globally, we make so much noise,” explains Amber Pinkerton, who was born and raised on the Caribbean island. Having headed home for Christmas, the London-based photographer set out to put her visit to good use, shooting a series of street cast models and friends around the island, in a bid to portray its wildly diverse communities.

Sitting down with each of the people featured, she also discussed with them their experience of living on the island, and how they hope to see it developing culturally in the years to come. “I appreciate Jamaica’s unique way of doing things, and there’s so much to be grateful for, but we have a lot of work to do in terms of our social thinking,” she says. “With this series, I wanted to mainly focus on a young demographic, as well as people of a darker complexion within the black community. Even though the country’s motto is ‘out of many, one people’, lighter skin is still generally seen as superior within our society, and many people of a darker complexion have a different life experience here. I wanted to celebrate darker skin, and bring those people to the forefront. Whether we want to believe it or not, colourism, classism, and violence are real issues back home.”

Shot in various locations throughout the country – from the streets of Kingston to picturesque cascading waterfalls and rock pools – Pinkerton and stylist Kadeem Rodgers wanted to portray its many facets, in terms of both community and landscape. “Each image feels really different, they have a real sense of the individual to them.”

The one that sums it all up, though, is one of a young student, Shantae, floating in the river: “There’s something really majestic about it; the colours, the angle, I just love it.” She and Rodgers had to move quickly when it came to this shot, though. “It was freezing in the water! But she totally nailed it,” she laughs.

Discover the series below.

SHANTAE LESLIE, 15

“I’m 15 years old, and a student at Clarendon College High School, as well as a model too: I want to go on to be a very successful one. The beautiful climate is one of the best things about living in Jamaica, there’s lots and lots of sunshine of course, but probably one of the worst things is the limited amount of jobs here. Jamaican style is pretty unique, with its bright colours – I’d say my style is kind of artsy and casual, all mixed together. My style icon is probably my cousin Shanae.”

JAHMARE’ FERRON, 18

“I love Jamaica’s culture and vibe, it’s such a fun place to live, but as anyone would say, the worst thing about it is the crime. It makes our country look so bad. When it comes to style, Jamaicans are naturally vibrant people, so they’re often in bright colours that express fun and energy. They can put on anything and look good. Generally, I’m happy to wear whatever’s comfortable, hoodies and things like that mainly. I think the Jamaican DJ Assassin and Alkaline, one of my favourite artists, have great style. Right now, I’m working as a recruiter, to build myself up professionally and financially so I can take a new step in life and go live abroad.”

JESSICA WETHERBOURNE, 17

“Right now, I’m a student. When I was younger, I didn’t go to school very often, because I used to be at home helping my mum with my seven siblings because she was in and out of hospital. Now, though, I’m taking my education seriously. I really want to pass my exams so I can go to university and prepare for my future. I think I want to be a teacher. Jamaica is chaotic, and it can be a nice place to live, but I would like to see it become safer and make its communities feel more comfortable. People shouldn’t have to worry about gun violence and trespassers, but again and again we attempt peace and it doesn’t work out. I think we need to talk and communicate to work things out more.”

JAVONIE JOHNSON, 21

“The culture in Jamaica is amazing, but of course, the violence here is a big deal. I’m a footballer, and I want to become a great one. But one day I’d love to be the Prime Minister, so I could have the chance to run the country better. I don’t know how to describe Jamaican style, but I do love how the musician Ding Dong dresses. I love casual style, and Nike Air Force sneakers!”

JEVANI ROBINSON, 13

“Jamaica is very colourful and vibrant, and it’s great to be able to spend time outside playing football, but the crime is really bad. I’m still in school, but my hopes for the future are to become an amazing footballer, and see much less violence. I want people to be able to come out at night and know that they will be safe, and that no one will trouble them.”