First Look


Photos © 2002 Jack Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved

The assignment was to photograph on the Caribbean island of Curacao. The clients were the Curacao tourism board and the public relations agency representing the board. Their slogan: "Curacao--for people who think they know the Caribbean." The slogan was perfect: it suggested new experiences and exotic surprises for experienced Caribbean travelers. And they'd picked the right photographer. Although I'd photographed extensively in the Caribbean, I'd never been to Curacao, so I'd be making discoveries and photographing them at the same time.

The only thing I knew about the island was what I read on the five-hour plane trip. Population about 130,000, 55 nationalities, Dutch the official language, but folks also speak English and Spanish. The Spanish were there first, but it was the Dutch West India Company that laid claim in 1634 and turned the island into a mini-Holland and a trading center. One of the ABC islands--with Aruba and Bonaire--and a member of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao today is noted for its many ethnic groups and the easygoing harmony of its people. Europeans like to call it "the Amsterdam of the Caribbean."

Not much more than a tourist would know, I thought as I got off the plane and saw Willemstad, the island's capital and only city. It took only one look at the harbor and cityscape for me to know that the visual tone of my photography had been set: the architecture had a definite European flavor to it, while many of the colors I saw were the bright reds, greens, and yellows of the Caribbean.

An hour after checking in, and checking with my client, I was discovering and photographing what was for me a brand-new place. And I was doing it in much the same way a tourist would. The photograph of the Willemstad harbor at sunset, for instance--who could resist that overall establishing shot?

Making A List
Sure, I had my shot list--I knew what the tourist board wanted covered--but because I was discovering, and falling in love with this island, I took my cues as much from my emotional responses as I did from the words on my list. And I found it was incredibly easy to shoot that way. This wasn't a place I was overly familiar with, and so it seemed that everywhere I looked I found something to respond to. The island kept offering me shapes, colors, textures...and smiles.

My usual plan when setting out to photograph is to cover specific topics and subjects--like architecture, landmarks, monuments, local color and people. That's the plan, but I often diverge from it. A photogenic person in the midst of a day of architectural shooting will get my attention,but generally I try to keep a theme in mind for the day. Going out with a self-assigned goal ties me into the reality of having to get what I need from a location; otherwise, I think I'd just wander around and point my camera at whatever looked good at the moment. Also, having a goal for the day means that the other image possibilities--say, portraits or graphic color--become welcome breaks, nice surprises and changes of pace. It works for me.

I think I most enjoyed photographing the people of the island. They were friendly and cooperative and always gave me their time and their help. They had no problem helping me make the pictures by standing in a different place if I asked politely and kept the session short.

All the photos you see here were taken with my Nikon F4. For this trip, I relied a lot on my zoom Nikkor lenses--especially the 80-200mm and the 28-70mm. The other lenses that saw the most action were the 50mm, the 16mm, and the 20mm. My film was either Kodak 100 VS or Fujichrome Provia 100--both great for warm, saturated colors.

I was on the island for a total of two weeks, and I can hardly wait to get back. I know my next visit won't have that "voyage of discovery" feeling, but the chance to get deeper into this fascinating place is more than enough of an incentive.