In his exhibition, Véyé la vi’w (“Look out for yourself”) on display from 9 November to 16 December at the Clément Foundation’s Case à Léo, Robert Charlotte plays the dual role of ethnologist and photographer, in order to document the cock-fighting scene in Martinique.
Robert Charlotte presents about forty portraits of cockpit owners, soigneurs*, éperonneurs*, referees and followers. Men and women, portrayed as serious and proud, exhibit their champions in the heart of their everyday surroundings.
The motley surroundings, the caloges*, the hangar, the pit terraces, the metal hoardings, the dim light, the muted colours, except for bursts of red or less often yellow, all create a singular atmosphere which brings coherence to this collection, which could be classed as sociological commentary.
The photo, this mirror of memory turned towards humanity, captures the individual in the context of his activities, balancing respect for the subject (the cock-fighting circle) against an original form of photography, which, through its choice of setting, composition and lighting, produces meaning and defines the style and technique of the author.
The image is not stolen unbeknownst to the model, but neither is it an imposed pose. The relationship between the photographer and his model is established on the spot, from the first meeting and within a very short time frame, to seize this fleeting moment as night falls.
The Worker portraits seriesby Rodell Warner of Trinidad similarly combines a documentary series of photographs of labourers, gardeners and road-menders at work with a photographic style that is heavily influenced by the choice of setting, light and composition. The labourer, brandishing his equipment, energetically breaks away from the background of blue sky that dominates two-thirds of the image.
As well as including them in installations, various objects and mural paintings, Ebony Patterson from Jamaica also records the Jamaican dance hall scene by way of her photographic portraits, such as Bulletz and Shellz, Gangstas for life.
Each of these photographers, like many others, has composed a gallery of portraits of Caribbean society today. Robert Charlotte has opened the doors to a world generally seen as enigmatic by the uninitiated. He has struck the right balance, far from violence or eye-catching sensationalism.
Caloges: wooden cages with metal grills
Soigneur: person who feeds, prepares, trains and bandages the cockerel
Eperonneur: person who attaches spurs to the cockerels’ feet before fights