More shameless self promotion translated for the hopelessly monolingual (like myself). Clark Magazine from Paris. Issue 38.

See the full interview after the jump.

CLARK: According to you “This is the Afflicted Yard. A place of extremes where you will see life as we see it.” There are pretty much controversial, rebellious and conscious reasons behind the creation of your website, what could you first tell on us on that please ?

PDR: The creation of The Afflicted Yard was actually just my way of getting involved with the Internet. At the time I was in post-grad at the University of the West Indies in Kingston and the Internet was still very slow. There were only a handful of people who were actually online and even fewer who had created their own websites. My choice to share information and images about things that were seldom talked about in the Jamaican media seemed like a natural thing to do since there was so much to say and so few sites providing something other than day-old news or tourist information.

The fact that it became known as ‘controversial’ was probably a result of the language and subject matter that I often used. I enjoyed pushing buttons and laughing at certain things in the society, but I never actually set out to be more conscious than anyone else, or to set any sort of example. It was just a way to share my words and images in a way that was new and exciting. The Afflicted Yard was really just a blog before there were blogs.

CLARK: For you “anyone with the basic equipment can become ‘the media.'” What do you mean ?

PDR: I think the statement was just a bit of optimistic excitement at the possibilities of the web. After all, I’m from a generation that was suddenly introduced to this sort of technology as opposed to having it around since childhood, so it really was something to be excited about, particularly if you were a writer or a photographer.

Overnight, it seemed that everyone with a computer was capable of being seen and heard by anyone on the planet, theoretically presenting an alternative to established information media. The problem with this of course if that ‘anyone’ also includes morons, talentless opportunists, hacks, and people who actually describe themselves as ‘citizen journalists.’ With hindsight, perhaps the statement should be adjusted to read: ‘…any twat with the basic equipment can become the media.’

CLARK: “We are Jamaicans living within and without cultural control.” Same, what do you mean there, maybe French audiences won’t catch that.

PDR:
I suppose this is another way of saying that The Afflicted Yard was a website made by people who expressed themselves firstly as individuals and secondly as Jamaicans. In other words, being Jamaican doesn’t mean that one is bound to write from some sort of cheesy cultural perspective. While much of the site’s subject matter had to do with the experience of living in Jamaica, the perspective was entirely from a personal view as opposed to some sort of material intended to explain the island or any of its cultural activities. It was never a friendly tourist-guide or a place to find recipes for Escovitch snapper.

CLARK: Apart from that, we knew you last year with a first report in Clark. How and why did you start photography, what is the story?

PDR: Quite frankly, it was an accident. I was working at a music studio and webcasting live soundsystems and I needed to show people what was going on. So I started taking pictures with a Canon Powershot and just kept doing it as a routine. Eventually, I became interested in shooting different sorts of things and soon I began to incorporate wider subjects into the rest of my work.

After I left the webcasting job, I got into photography fulltime and discovered that people actually liked it enough to pay me to do it. I enjoyed photography but it made me a lazy writer which was really what I was passionate about. However, I think my work with still-cameras trained me to use video cameras and now I can combine the writing and storytelling with the visuals that I enjoy creating.

CLARK: With what kind of materials do you work with?

PDR:Nikons, but I’m not picky or obsessive about equipment. I figure you should be able to do the same thing with any camera if what is important is the image and not the process of making that image.

CLARK: A lot of really nice girls are in your picture, do you do fashion ?

PDR: I do shoot fashion photography but I guess not in the conventional sense. I don’t like overproduction and fake lighting and I prefer to photograph women in their natural state (or as close to their natural state as possible). To me it’s much more about photographing a girl’s style than a photograph intended to sell clothing.

CLARK: Speaking of girls, they’re all super crazy girls. What have the Jamaican girls in special and how is it to work with them girls ?

PDR:I think women are in general are crazy, not just the Jamaican ones. That said, anyone who lives here will tell you that the most dangerous people in Jamaica are not the men but the women who know those men. Jamaican women can be gentle, loving creatures, but it’s not advisable to cross them…it can get really messy.

As far as working with them, typically it’s just very relaxed and easy going. Even with some of the more risqué material, the girls are usually just themselves because there’s never a big production or lights or people with clipboards or rags dipped in Chloroform.

CLARK: You also work(ed) with a lot of great musicians/artists from Jamaica. Can u tell who ? And what are the best & worst memories you have with them artists ?

PDR: Sizzla was the one who really gave me my first break, but Bounty Killer was the first photograph that I ever had published professionally. If they appear on my site, I’m a listener of their music. I’ve photographed many other artists than the ones who appear on Afflicted Yard, but the ones who are there are the ones I really rate. Yellowman, Scratch Perry, Bounty Killer, Ninjaman, Sizzla, etc. I can’t work with people I can’t get along with so there’s been are no bad experiences, even when Ninjaman pointed a gun at my head …he was just kidding.

CLARK: Afflicted Yard also deeply reflected a strong jamaican social reality through reports from the inside with gangstas and ghetto shits. How is this world and how do you deal with that to get pictures ?

PDR: Well, if you ask for something you just have to be ready to deal with the answer. In Jamaica we have a crime problem and part of that crime problem is an acknowledgement that guns are everywhere, even in our back yards. It doesn’t take a lot of asking to find out where the guns are and who has them. The only difference with me is that I simply decided to take photographs of it.

Jamaica is small so most people know someone who lives this sort of gangster life. For every uptown neighborhood there is a ghetto close by. In a way, these photographs are an admission of my own desensitization, and by extension, the desensitization of the society in general.

CLARK: Another important point: Nature. It seems a really awesome nature environment sometimes and a beautiful environment for pictures there in Jamaica… right?

PDR:I never get bored with the physical beauty of Jamaica. Even in Kingston where concrete is the norm, every sunset is different and you never have to go far to be totally absorbed into greenery or water. There’s a little bit of each island in Jamaica.

CLARK: How do you deal with Afflicted Yard professionally? Is it also an agency? What are your clients and projects to this day ?

PDR: The Afflicted Yard is really just the name of the place where all of my work goes. It’s not an agency or a business; it’s more of a brand or an ongoing project of images and words. When I shoot for magazines or newspapers I use my real name. My stuff has appeared in places like Vanity Fair, French Vogue, Arena, I-D, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Independent, Lodown , etc etc. It’s always nice to see your work in print but somehow I prefer live interaction such as projections or photography set to music.

CLARK: Right now you’re visiting New York City. A lot of Jamaicans live there. What kind of relationship do you have yourself with this city?

PDR: I love New York and every time I visit I love it more. In this city you could be happy, depressed, crazy or completely lost and you can be sure there are at least a thousand other people just like you, walking around, looking for something to distract themselves. The point is that no matter what it is, nothing is a big deal in New York unless it’s really a big deal. So, people have to try harder here and usually that means innovation. Also, I like walking.

CLARK: Did/do you travel in other countries ?

PDR: I’ve travelled quite a bit. All over the Caribbean , Europe and North America. I want to get to Cuba before the old man dies but Haiti is also calling.

CLARK: How do you see the world going Peter. I know its a large and a bit silly question… But as you’re aware and open minded and have this look on mankind, you must have an opinion right?

PDR: Actually, I’m not sure where it is going. I don’t have a theory but when the old people tell you that more has happened in the last ten years than have happened in the last fifty, you know things are getting a bit nuts.

CLARK: How will The Afflicted Yard evolve and what are the upcoming projects for you ?

PDR: It’s definitely moving in the direction of film. I recently partnered with my first cousin PJ (Peter- John) who I only met three years ago in New York. By chance or design, he and I both had a passion for filmmaking and in the last year we’ve collaborated on several projects including a documentary short called The Last Don. We call ourselves The Rickards Bros. and our goal is to write and create films from that same Jamaican- unique perspective.

Also, I may finally publish a book (or two).

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