Although I’m primarily a portrait photographer, I still have a love for documenting the world because I believe travel cures ignorance. It’s important that Black people tell stories. The person behind the camera is just as important as the image itself.
Through a Photographer’s Lens: Naskademini’s Travels
When I went to Japan for the first time 11 years ago, I was struck by how people were governed more by honour than religion. It makes the country a lot more magical seeing how people were working in tandem to make a better life for all citizens. Just look at the cleanliness of the streets and the minimalist approach to everything they do, Tokyo’s urban planning is also on another level. After spending so much time in Japan, I come back to Montreal wanting to be a better person.
Japanese people really know how to maximize their living space. This narrow home is a perfect example with its garage built in right underneath and luxury car tucked inside. Although it’s a small space, that’s just the way you live in Japan and people make the best of it. This would be my ideal type of pad to have if I had a spot in Tokyo.
I shot an image for an enRoute story about a jewelry designer named Goro Takahashi. Although he is no longer with us, he designed jewelry that people would line up for eight hours to buy. The designs are based on a lot of Indigenous and Native American jewelry, specifically Lakota Tribe and the Dakotas. I took this image in Shibuya on the way to his store because I noticed a gentleman at the traffic light rubbing his hands. His rings caught my attention and I was like: “He’s wearing Goro.” I knew this because I own Goro pieces as well.
I think of this photo as a nod to Japan’s minimalist design aesthetic. It was a beautiful thing to see light manifest this way in the real world. Even though Tokyo is a huge city, I still feel alone or invisible being a Black man. By this I mean that people don’t notice me, or they don’t care to notice me. I don’t mean this in a negative way – no one has time to worry about your existence because everyone is on the go.
Before I went to Berlin, I had preconceived notions about how Germany was going to treat me. Although it’s a city with trauma in terms of its history, the way I’ve been treated in Berlin is a testament to the fact that most people there do their very best to embrace and welcome you. I didn’t feel any negative vibes or energy, quite the opposite. Berlin’s nightlife is just mind-blowing. When there is so much visual stimulation coming towards you in all directions you feel empowered to want to capture even more.
This car and the window signage stood out to me. It made me think: Who is the type of person that drives this type of car? Is he a good man? I loved the way the vehicle is kind of leaning forward and that shade of blue is so rich. Being in front of this graffiti laden backdrop makes the car seem out of place, but at the same time it fits the scene perfectly.
Yellow trams are a visual cue that you’re in Berlin. The red umbrella combined with the yellow tram and the anonymous person in a beige outfit caught my eye. In this photo you see a lot of lines leading your eye to the fact she’s heading into darkness with the Berlin TV Tower and Alexanderplatz in the far distance. It was kind of serendipitous, just everything aligning with those perfectly contrasting colours.
As I took this photo, I knew it was going to be a great shot. The mother was on her phone, kind of in her own world, while this child and me were having a photographic moment. I don’t often see mothers carrying a child in this manner and she had these striking features: really strong cheekbones and facial features, while her kid had soft, bubbly cheeks.
The taxi driver was returning with food in hand to his vehicle near Checkpoint Charlie. Framed with all the flags in the background, I thought the photo put the city in perspective. To me, this is Berlin. Coming from Montreal, you don’t see a lot of high-end taxis, whereas in the German capital, they’re all Mercedes Benz painted in an odd eggshell mayonnaise-type colour. When I used to listen to Kanye West, he once did a freestyle and one of his lines went like this: “mayonnaise colored Benz, they call it a miracle whip.” I finally understood what he meant when I got to Berlin.
Haiti was once known as the Pearl of Caribbean because it was the go-to place for a lot of celebrities and actors in the 1960s and ’70s. But its reputation suffered because of corruption and destruction from natural disasters in later years. However, not only is Haiti beautiful, but the resilience of the people and their ability to maintain a smile and a sense of joy and pride is contagious. You can’t walk through the neighbourhoods without finding people who are genuinely happy.
These two kids were on the bike in the coastal city of Gonaïves. I’m assuming one of the kids was the older brother who was taking his younger brother to school. I was enamored by the uniforms because I went to public elementary school and high school and I didn’t have to wear them. The older brother was clean shaven with broad smile. I noticed he was wearing dress shoes on with white socks, which would be considered a fashion faux pas in Western countries, but in the Caribbean, this is everyday life. I sensed a comradery between the brothers. It’s just a beautiful, warm, loving image.
This photograph, taken at Citadelle Laferrière in Cap-Haïtien, would feel like a desktop wallpaper or a free screensaver image had I not left in the cannonballs in view. I did this to show what this armory represents. In the late 18th century, the Haitian people led the only successful slave rebellion in history against French colonialists and a few years later founded the world’s first modern Black republic.
I’m of the mind you photograph first and then ask for permission afterwards. When your camera gets raised, people put on their guard. Instead, I like to be a fly on the wall. I believe this guy was the groundskeeper because I saw him in his big hat out in the hot sun labouring countless hours to make sure the grounds remained pristine. He was a tall slender man, but to my eyes, he had this superhero-like strength. I felt it was a testament to the hard-working people of Haiti: You do your work and then you go home and take care of your family.
I’ve been to Barbados quite a few times for vacation. It’s a great country, with great food. The people are very kind and hospitable. Because the country survives on tourism, people have learned to pull out the red carpet when tourists are in town. It’s always a fun time to go and Bajan cuisine is one of my favourites because it’s hearty home cooking that feels like a warm hug.
I was on assignment with enRoute to shoot the magazine cover for a rum story in 2018. We were traveling through St. James Parish where there’s a lot of street vendors. This one happened to be taking refuge in the shade because we all know Barbados is really hot. It reminded me of Trinidad, where my parents are from.
As I mentioned earlier, something I like about the Caribbean is that kids wear a uniform to school because you notice the pride that comes with wearing freshly ironed outfits. My parents told me stories about growing up in Trinidad and ironing their uniforms every day before school to look presentable. In Caribbean families you’re taught to leave your house looking your best possible, even if it’s a school uniform. In this particular image, I love the colours and the contrast; the mother wearing her pink dress with her umbrella down.