NAGB team member, Richardo Barrett, shares his assessment of Sanford Sawyer’s “It’s Better in The Bahamas” that is currently on display at your favourite museum.
This photograph, taken by Sandford Sawyer in the late 70’s only a few years after Bahamian Independence in 1973, features a young man with what appears to be at, first glance, a very humble and calm demeanour about him. He sports a very clean and pressed pair of white bell-bottom pants along with a well fitted pink shirt bearing the infamous quote branded by the then Ministry of Tourism “It’s Better in The Bahamas”. It is such an outstanding outfit that gallery visitors usually comment on it.
As well dressed as he is, I often wonder if they see the scar on his left arm, the fact that he is smiling but not too much, and the way his stance also seems to have been a directive of sorts but he’s trying to be natural about it. There is also the possibility that this would have been his very first professional photo in a photo studio. Having to pass this piece every day during my gallery walkthroughs I can’t help but notice and think about these things. What kind of guy he might have been or where he is now? Did he really believe given the context at the time of this photo that it really was definitely now “…better in The Bahamas”? Artistic pieces like these often seem readable at first glance but often lead viewers into more questions than answers.
The same can be said during this time of uncertainty but there is also the spirit of hopefulness. As we look unto what appears to be a future riddled with unknowns its also important to take this time to reflect but also abide. So that when we look back at this mental picture of this moment in time we can say that we stood tall, arms clasped, took professional instruction and came out of it bearing a scar but with the reassurance that we made it through together.
“It’s Better in The Bahamas” (1978), Sandford Sawyer, Photograph, The National Collection.