Carnival of the Selfie

In pursuing my story on 2016's Carnival of the Selfie, I asked two photographers about their experiences photographing "pretty mas" this year.

Nisha Kong, photo courtesy Nisha Kong.
I've been shooting Carnival since 2009.
When I shoot traditional mas (blue devils, moko jumbles, whipmasters), I try to put more thought into story and expression. When it comes to bikini and beads, I look for the jubilation that I know as Carnival - something about the stage makes people lose control and go into a sort of trancelike euphoric state - that which I have come to know and sometimes get caught up in over the years seemed to be missing this year.

People seemed more caught up either skyping on stage, taking selfies or doing videos on their phones and others seemed downright bored and dancing was either short bursts of energy followed by posing / walking off the stage. At one point it seemed like the story was - taking photos of people taking photos of themselves - which wasn't worth the time in the sun and I ended up calling it a wrap by lunchtime Tuesday.

The vibe wasn't there and I found myself not even wanting to edit photos from this Carnival with the exception of my Paramin blue devils which has been the one thing I consistently look forward to that never disappoints.

Sarita Rampersad, photo courtesy Antony Scully.
I've shot traditional mas at Victoria Sq. and blue devils in Paramin in this and previous years, but this is actually the first time I've ever shot 'pretty mas'.
I went into Carnival Tuesday at the Socadrome wanting to shoot more portraits and play with some long exposures, so I went armed only with a 70-200 f/2.8, a polariser and a flash, which is great, but very limiting in terms of how close you can get to the action.

When I realised that the ends of the stage were mostly blocked by a line of photographers and security, I took some time to look around to see what else caught my eye, and that's when I noticed a proliferation of masqueraders on their phones.
I took many, many photos like that - you would see a shot of a girl on the phone for instance, surrounded by friends, and about 10 mins later I'd take another shot in that same location, and she would still be on her phone, with her friends looking bored next to her.

Another shot for example, would be a guy surrounded by girls in costume, but his head buried in his phone. Funny. I'm not anti-phone by any means - I use mine all the time:), and I appreciate wanting to take pictures, needing to let friends know where you are and arrange meeting points etc. but what struck me repeatedly was how engrossed the masqueraders were in their devices to the exclusion of what was happening around them and how removed people were from Carnival.

Of course, this didn't apply to the ones taking selfies and pictures of their friends in general - they were very social, but it was pretty interesting to see them instantly bend over their phones to upload the images they'd just taken to social media.
As far as my response to people taking their own shots, I appreciated the entertainment and opportunity to shoot something a little different - especially as I found the Socadrome underwhelming as far as a show went.

We're used to shooting wedding guests taking photos on their phones and have incorporated that trend into the final images we deliver to the clients, so it wasn't a stretch by any means for me to think to shoot what I did on Tuesday.
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