A great artist

The photography of Bobby Fernandes has been a grace and glory in this land for decades. He is in the company of our great artists – I think of Aubrey Williams, Stanley Greaves, Ron Savory, Denis Williams, Bernadette Persaud, Winston Craig, George Simon and masters of our literature like Martin Carter and Wilson Harris – as a creator of genius whose works shine in our lives and will never die.

Now Bobby Fernandes has chosen his 99 best photographs and published them in a book which surely will be hailed as a masterpiece: Photographing Guyana. The book is beautiful in itself and every photograph in it is a work of art.

I have learnt that Bobby composes with intense care and love every photograph he ever takes to release to others like poems. Meticulous attention to detail goes without saying – but much more than that – he does it with the hope pursued of capturing something elusive in what he has especially noticed – some unblemished natural trait, some unusual glimpse of heaven in even the ordinary, some sign of eternity in the moment.

And these are the best of all those many, many assaults he has made on the fortress which hides the beauty and the mystery of this world. A wondrous book. I salute you in my heart, my old and marvellous friend.

One of the greatest poems ever written was by the poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. When I read it I think of the creators of exceptional beauty – of Derek Walcott and Martin in their poetry, of Stanley Greaves in his masterpieces over the years, of Frank Worrell and Rohan Kanhai batting – and of Bobby Fernandes in his unequalled art. When you have this book in your hand I think you will see why my mind and heart react in that way to the poem.

 

The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

 

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

                                dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his

                              riding

                                Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

                                High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

                                In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing,

                                As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and

                                         gliding

                                Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

                                Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

 

 

                    Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume here

                    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

                    Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

                    No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion

      Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

                    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

 

Those words of praise – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! That is exactly right. Something incomparably well done.

 

There is a picture in this book of river rocks painted in liquid golds and fierce reds by the artist’s camera. It tells of the fiery birth of the rocks in aeons long ago. I pause a long time to consider a composition containing so much thought and perfected craft. Time and again – 99 times in fact – one is transfixed by beauty. In the last picture a figure lies on his/her side on a Georgetown street’s grass verge in the middle of the day sleeping amidst a profusion of pink blossoms. You catch the scent of that royal bed of flowers. You close this great book with love – yearning for the 100th picture.

 

The poet John Keats wrote very well about beauty:

 

                                                                A thing of beauty is a joy forever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

 

Bobby has aged and he has grown sick – but the mind and soul that created this astonishing work of art are ageless and eternally strong. Over the years I see him smiling as he explains with quiet satisfaction the truth and beauty he has put into the photographs of his beloved Guyana. That I own this lovely book is a great privilege. I will treasure it for my own personal forever. And long after Bobby and I have gone the generations will inherit and possess it – a thing of beauty that will never pass into nothingness.

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