Taking up the Camera
At nine years old, Ronnie received his first camera and was eager to put it to use. “It was a gift from my aunt and that aroused my curiosity. I began taking images of everything around me,”he shared. From this early age, the young photographer was intrigued by the sights and everyday scenes of Barbadian life. “I was fortunate that I had a father that would take us out driving around the country and so by being exposed to both rural and urban Barbados on a frequent basis, it brought imagery to life,” he reflected.
As a young man, he was a proud member of the Barbados Rally Club and this gave him the opportunity to see parts of the island of which he had never known. Sometimes the group would cover up to 500 miles of driving on weekend trips around the island. “Covering 500 miles in a weekend gives you exposure to a lot of nooks and crannies of the plantation tracks and so on,” Ronnie said.
While working with a local media house, Ronnie, accompanied by a reporter, spearheaded a weekly series entitled ‘Bajan Folkways’. Together, they would visit many rural villages across this tropical island, learning more of the history and culture of each area. During this time, the photojournalist snapped over 12,000 photos of rural Barbados. Ronnie shared, “That gave me a deep knowledge of village life in Barbados.” The insight Ronnie gained during this time was to be of great benefit to him, and the tourism industry, in years to come. “I have recorded over the years aspects of Barbadian life which are changing and that has led me to know Barbados really well- going into nooks and crannies, talking to people, looking at traditions and customs.”
‘Author’ is also one of the titles which Ronnie carries. His book, ‘Pathways...thoughts on the journey’ was published in 2011. Through stunning black and white photos of chattel houses, cane fields and other images synonymous to the Barbadian landscape, fascinating stories of life in on this tropical island are depicted. Ronnie referred to his collection as “iconic” since these photos hold memories of Barbados which no longer exist.
The Barbados PhotoAdventure
With all that he has seen and knows about beautiful Barbados, Ronnie is always enthusiastic to share some of this knowledge with those who are on a quest to experience more of this island paradise. Cruise ship visitors to Barbados are often eager to indulge in Barbados’ history, culture and see this tropical island through the eyes of locals. The Barbados PhotoAdventure allows them to see and capture Barbados beyond the typical tourist experience. For just over three hours, equipped with their cameras, visitors, led by Ronnie, make their way to special locations. “In a short time we get a taste of the real Barbados,” Ronnie shared.
Capturing the dynamic and best motions of the island’s coasts is a visitor favourite. Ronnie believes that this may be so due to Barbados’ distinctive geographic make-up. “Barbados is quite unique. We’re not volcanic, we’re relatively flat...We’re the furthest island east of the Caribbean chain. So when we get out to the East Coast and look out to the sea, there’s nothing out there until you come to Africa,” he noted.
While it may be natural to assume that visitors would want to see the island’s premier attractions, Ronnie noted that oftentimes, visitors were more interested in photographing the simplicities of daily life in Barbados. “Visitors are interested in the ways how people live,” the photographer noted. One such area which piques tourists’ interest is the Scotland District in St. Andrew. Though generally rural, “there are some pockets of development there that show Barbados’ progression from a plantation society to a more urbanised society,” Ronnie shared. “So you go through the countryside, go through villages and pass by plantations, but you also see modern developments that are tucked away in the middle of the countryside. People tend to like that.”
As eager photographers traverse the island, Ronnie is sure to share professional tips to help them get the best shots. “This tour is basically a photographic tour. I give you some photographic tips, I will tell you about using the rule of thirds, balancing your picture, looking for shapes, for textures and so on.” And in true Bajan fashion, the day’s activities on a high note: “And we go to a rum shop at the end of it,” Ronnie jokingly added.
Those who have experienced the PhotoAdventure are often eager to share their photos online, providing a virtual peek of Barbados for those yet to encounter the island’s beauty for themselves. In his role as tour guide and teacher, Ronnie has been described as “a fountain of knowledge about Barbados.” In 2009, Jane Shattuck Hoyos was led by Ronnie on one of the PhotoAdventure tours. She was completely thrilled by what she described as “a first-class way to spend a day in Barbados.” Hoyos described her experience in a blog post. “Throughout the day, we laughed, learned, shot photos, and saw parts of the island off the beaten path. Oh, if only school had taught its lessons so pleasurably,” she wrote.
The Visual Historian
Ronnie’s success in his field is largely attributed to his love for his country and the history which has played a significant role in its standing today. In considering that which makes Barbados ideal Ronnie said, “ Apart from being my home, it's a very peaceful country and the people in Barbados are very peaceful.”
Thousands of pictures captured by Ronnie hold the key to pieces of the Barbadian experience which are slowly fading away. Similarly, through teaching thousands of visitors the skill of capturing this tropical island’s beauty on camera, buildings and fields which have since been transformed now stand immortalised through film. On this thought, Ronnie noted, “It will be a part of our history. I consider myself a visual historian, because a lot of the things I’ve photographed are no longer there. The greatest value of my work will be historical.”
- Ronnie’s mother is known in Barbados as “Aunty Avis”. She is one of the island’s centenarians.
- One of Ronnie’s favourite locations in Barbados is the Scotland District.
- Ronnie especially loves to photograph and tell the history of chattel houses in Barbados.
- In 2007 Ronnie was invited to be a guest lecturer on the cruise liner "The World" on the Caribbean leg of its round the world journey.
- Ronnie was formally trained at the Germain School of Photography in New York.