British-Jamaican photographer and writer lizzy brown is tapping into her Jamaican roots for her first major solo exhibition, ‘Dis Yah Reggae Music: The Greatest Hits’ at Pure Vinyl Records, Brixton, in the UK’.
The aim of the exhibition is to bring some of Jamaica’s Reggae Month energy overseas this February. “My Jamaican heritage is an integral part of my identity and a passion for reggae, dancehall music and Jamaican literature was fostered in me from a very early age. One of the ways I continue to explore and express this part of me is through the medium of photography,” brown explained.
Born in London, she moved to St Ann, Jamaica with her family at three months old and lived there through her formative years. For the past 15 years, she has resided in the UK. Although a lover of photography since her early teens, the route to Dis Yah Reggae Music really began developing after brown took her camera to a Damian Marley performance in 2012. Since that time, she’s been a part of group exhibitions in the UK and Martinique. Her work has also appeared in the National Gallery of Jamaica as part of the annual Reggae Poster Competition.
“I have always been interested in stories and how they are told. Photography is just another way of storytelling, a visual language that is universally understood,” she added.
The last 5 five years have seen her focused on capturing images of rising reggae stars such as Koffee and icons like Buju Banton, not just on stage but behind the scenes as well. Her work, supported by in-depth editorials, has graced the pages of LargeUp.com, Red Bull Music and Backayard Magazine.
“It’s important to note that all this work is done in my own time and with my own resources. I have managed this around parenting and working with young people as my fulltime role. I truly do this all for the love of my culture. I titled the exhibition Dis Yah Reggae Music, a play on the lyrics from Bob Marley’s Roots Rock Reggae song off his Rastaman Vibration album.”
She also has a blog of the same name. “Dis Yah Reggae music celebrates our living icons and those on the rise while they are right here, right now—not posthumously which can often be the case. Following on from this, I want to be able to formally photograph and create portraits of as many in the genre as possible and I would love to see this work shared not only at prestigious events such as Art Basel but with the wider community. It has to be inclusive. I want to document not just artistes, but producers, engineers, the dancers, the peanut vendors, those in academia. That is a dream of mine and I aim to make it a reality. Representation is also important and as a woman and a passionate advocate for all things Jamaican, it’s practically my civic responsibility.”
It‘s this philosophy that drives brown as she discounts the technicalities of camera. Instead, she focuses on the emotion in her photography alongside her responsibility to champion Jamaican culture.
“I have curated this small exhibition with my daughter and it was intentional choosing to show it in a record shop, in the heart of the UK’s largest Caribbean communities. We believe this will also help to bring attention to the fact that Reggae music is very much alive and well, not just in Jamaica but right here in the UK, a country which has actually played and plays a critical role in the reggae industry.”
brown’s aim is to also showcase the culture to a wider audience. Dis Yah Reggae Music: The Greatest Hits, featuring around eighty of her dramatic photos in black and white and colour, will exhibit from February 2 through 29 for the public at large, during the operating hours of the venue. A private viewing which is free to the public, featuring Lucky Cat Zoe and Sweetie, DJs from the Sisters of Reggae Collective, will take place on February 1 at Pure Vinyl Records. brown will also be playing a set on vinyl with a selection of tracks that reflect some of the artistes she has photographed.