Who knew a picture by a street photographer, a carnival paparazzo, if you will, could generate such heated discussion—alas mainly on Facebook where of course everyone is an anonymous genius.
Following, a discourse of a wholly different kind: one bearing real names and, best of all, clear evidence of intellect.
It begins with a sneaky-sneaky recommendation to his president on Monday morning from a leading Carnival Bands Association official, lawyer, tourist board honcho and the holder of several of other prestigious portfolios, including leader of a popular carnival band. Here now, his letter to Sonia Sifflet:
“Dear Madam President: Under the presidency of Adrian Augier it was made very clear that the negativity of carnival would not be highlighted as the norm and the same stated by you. In light of this, Red Unlimited is requesting of the Carnival Bands Association a statement condemning the publication of a young lady’s breasts popping out of her bra.
“One can clearly see it was a wardrobe malfunction and one should not seek to take advantage of something so unfortunate. Moreover, portray this as being Saint Lucia Carnival. Are there no restrictions on what can be published? Is that what the government grants licenses for? We hope that the association and indeed the managers of CMPA would join you in putting out a joint statement condemning such, which only serves to ridicule carnival.”
The letter, published online, was written by lawyer and reveler Thaddeus Antoine.
There has been no joint statement of condemnation from CBA president Sonia Sifflet. But by Monday afternoon Adrian Augier, who needs no introduction, had once again placed on record his own views on the route that has brought carnival to its present place. Under the heading “Dark Nipples of Distress,” this is what Augier wrote:
“Dear Thaddeus and Fellow Members: When, as CBA president I took a definitive stand against overt vulgarity in the carnival music, I don’t remember much of a supporting statement from fellow band leaders or the carnival community in general. I certainly don’t remember any other body publicly declining to play offensive songs or refusing to feature offending artistes. I was cited as a bourgeois prude, a hypocrite and other things no doubt.
“So if we allow vulgarity on the radio and in our streets, why not also in our newspapers? At any rate, while I am sympathetic to the exposed individual (and note well that her face has been strategically cropped out) it seems to me that our outrage is just a little misplaced. To be honest, we must ask ourselves what is it about the picture that really offends us?
“Sorry Thaddeus, but this is not a picture of ‘a young lady.’ This is a picture of a not-so-young woman past knowing; past caring; past seeing; past feeling; past mattay; past mash up; past even being cared about by her fellow revelers who allowed her to be so exposed. Perhaps, in the words expressed publicly by one male observer from Martinique, Fam Sent Lisi Fini.
“Remember the soca song ‘NUMB?’ Well this is the accompanying image. You see, the Carnival is truly just a candid reflection of us. Nothing more, nothing less. So if that is what we are selling as the ‘new’ carnival, then let us not be surprised to see it front page. Meanwhile, most of us are selling costumes far more scandalous than this. (See accompanying picture on Pg 9.)
“So what message are we really sending? Get on nasty . . . but don’t print photos of us getting on nasty? I think we need to wake up to reality. We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and recognize that, unfortunately, this is what our carnival has become. In the absence of policy and practice from the powers that be and the powers that wannabe (you know yourselves!) this is it.
“It has been said repeatedly by those in the know that the traditional bands are passé, behind the times, in need of new thinking. Well here is your image of the future already upon us, ushered along by a lack of enlightened policy and the strategic frustration of all that is wholesome about carnival. How can it be that the most creative elements of carnival—Kings and Queens, Junior Mas and Pan—where creative growth can occur—are the least respected aspects of the art from? Because they don’t make money?
“Well, sex sells. And breasts sell. And spider panties sell. So by all means let us sell what sells! Now look at almost any photo or any footage of the festival and check the boredom and disgust on the faces of the spectators. That is your audience. That is your taxpayer. Despite the hype and spin, the people sense that the carnival has become something dark and sinister, and empty as this woman’s purple bra cups.
“But that is your market. So you gonna love it or not? In the eyes of the public vulgarity is exactly what our bands are selling. This is exactly why there is no more money for carnival . . . and nary a sympathetic voice out there to say otherwise. Wake up and smell the music; it also stinks. And by association, so do we all, because that what we dance to.
“‘The ultimate carnival experience’ is exactly what Rick Wayne has captured here: meaningless costumes, the skimpier the better, drunkenness, wanton vulgarity . . . Anything can happen and it’s okay. But for God’s sake don’t print the pictures? Rick must rightfully be laughing at us all. Take a good look, people. This is the future of your festival. Is this not what you wanted? Carnival, Trini-style? Rio-style?
“But rest assured, Trinidad and Rio are spending big bucks to preserve the creative, traditional, the authentic, the cultural well-spring of their carnivals, even as the nakedness finds the eager lens of the cheap-thrill seeker. Now Ash Wednesday reach we realize that this is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s mother, somebody’s sister, somebody’s teacher?
“So Rick is wrong to bring these dark nipples of truth to light? Perhaps The STAR has merely taken a picture of our carnival and thrown it back in our faces. Recommended reading: article in the same newspaper by Toni Nicholas. “And while we’re at it, let’s ask ourselves if the two images featured here are really any different? As a member of the public I find them equally ‘revealing’ except that the orange exposure is no accident. Definitely no malfunction there, right?”
It is absolutely what the eye of the beholder can see. All we set out to do was our job: photograph CARNIVAL HURT IT! We did not dress the performers, neither did we choreograph their moves. As for those who say certain pictures do not belong on the front pages of newspapers, we say they are as entitled to their views as our editors are entitled to theirs. Just as carnival revelers are free to jump and prance in costumes that free up their goodies and put them on public display before thousands at home and millions via the internet.
Wardrobe malfunction? What wardrobe? And even if those now famous unidentified mammaries were accidently put on display, since when have photographers been banned from photographing accidents, whether involving speeding vehicles, drunk drivers or black nipples run amuck?
For the record, not one word have I said about the morality of carnival or of the owner of those breasts. After all, carnival is bacchanal, we are told. And since when has bacchanal been synonymous with morals?
An online article by a reporter who interviewed me on the phone obviously did not quite get what I told him when he suggested my placing that photograph on The STAR’s front page was “unethical.” Neither did I consider his opinion “valued judgment,” as he wrote: “Value judgment” was the phrase I used. Big difference!
Neither did I say I was protesting against the road-march winning “Hurt It.” What I tried to get across to the reporter was that my decision to publish had little to do with the unidentified individual behind the exposed breasts; it had nothing to do with her morality. The picture served only to suggest what Carnival Hurt It was about.
I also told the reporter, as food for thought: “Maybe the woman on The STAR’s front page was staging her own personal protest against what carnival has become, in the same way that Bruce Willis’ protesting daughter had recently gone topless while shopping in LA. Maybe I, too, was protesting against the ‘Hurt It’ song.”
I repeat; that was not the case. Protest was the last thing on my mind when I decided to feature the picture as I did. I was merely handing the oh-so-ethical online reporter some food for thought.
The face of CARNIVAL HURT IT deserved front-page status—and once again The STAR delivered!
Check out Rick’s response on his new online talk show Rick Wayne Rants. click here