Ray Traboulay isn't a Trini, nor does he play one on TV. The photographer, born to Trinidadian parents who moved around a lot during his childhood, talks about his peripatetic life in the documentary Where is Home? (The movie is currently in production. You can watch a trailer and contribute to a fund-raising campaign for it here: http://www.indiegogo.com/Whereishome.) Traboulay, 29, returned to Trinidad and shot a series of photos called Farewell to the Flesh: Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and has been showing them internationally. Traboulay had them on sale at the Dr!nk Wine Bar November Art Sale in Woodbrook on November 25, and showed them at Brooklyn Bar, Woodbrook, last night, at the launch of the J'Ouvert band Section Eight. LISA?ALLEN-AGOSTINI asked him a few questions in an e-mail interview last week.
Q: You're a Trini by descent but have moved around a lot. How did you come to shoot this series and what did you discover about yourself or your "Trini-ness" in shooting it?
A: I was born in Brazil but only lived there for a month. I grew up in four continents, living in diverse places for significant periods of time. These places include Borneo, Indonesia, Paris, Argentina, Texas, Canada, Jakarta and more. I did live in Trinidad for a short while when I was very young, but didn't at the time partake in mas, so doing this whole project for me was a form of self-discovery and discovery of my parents' heritage that I was never really around to be a part of and never fully understood until now.
Actually, during 2011, while photographing, I almost broke out in tears of joy and wonder. The pan, tassa, soca, calypso and rapso music accompanied by the traditional characters as well as the rest of the Carnival masqueraders was a truly euphoric experience for me. The sounds and visuals combined stirred emotions within my soul which I never even knew existed. It was as if I met a long-lost twin that I never knew. It was at that moment that I realised the "Trini-ness" within me.
Why did you choose to frame many of the photos as such formal portraits?
I am mainly a portrait/fashion /advertising photographer, so naturally I wanted to rent a studio in Trinidad and photograph hundreds of masqueraders in a studio setting. Since it's impossible to get hundreds of people into a studio, especially during Carnival season, I decided to simply bring the studio to them.
With this in mind, I decided to try to cover as many areas of Trinidad as possible–everywhere from Laventille to Victoria Square, to Piccadilly Greens and the Savannah stage, and especially on the streets, live in the action and frenzy of the two days.The majority of the masqueraders willingly posed for me and most of the photos aren't staged. However, there are a few photographs where I would ask them to pose in the streets if they were in a group.
Are you planning to show the photos in a gallery or other show? If not, where can one see them? Are they for sale?
Right after last year's Carnival, I went to Houston, Texas, and exhibited the photos at the House of Blues. Shortly thereafter, I exhibited the complete body of work (at) the Commerce Street Gallery in Houston. I also have had photographs exhibited at the Williams Tower Gallery as part of Joe Aker's Show, Aker Imaging–Last Film Lab Standing, at the Williams Tower in Houston.
Some of my photos are also at the Royal Ontario Museum as part of Brian Mac Farlane's exhibition entitled Carnival: From Emancipation To Celebration. (The exhibition runs until February 24.) I am currently working on exhibiting in Trinidad the complete body of work, some of which are life-size and are archival Gicl�e high-gloss museum-quality prints mounted on half-inch black Gatorboard. Yes, they are all for sale.
Ray Traboulay's Carnival photos are on his Web site, traboulayphotography.com. Info: 732-5448.