By Lakhram Bhagirat
French-American photographer Elliott Erwitt once said “Photography is an art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them” and that is how photojournalist Abel Harris approaches his work.
For Abel, the opportunity to be behind the camera means more than he can express. He said that photography is an extension of himself and every time he composes an image, it is reflective of a part of him.
The 19-year-old hails from the township of Bartica in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region and is attached to the Guyana Times/Evening News as a photojournalist/videographer.
Recounting his journey into the world of photography, Abel said that it was not a profession he even thought about while deciding on a career path.
The young man grew up in the diverse township with his family.
“My family wasn’t well off so mostly it was a struggle for me at the beginning, but regardless my parents were able to provide enough to support me while I grow up. I attended St John the Baptist Primary School in Bartica, after writing common entrance and I scored top 4 in Region 7, giving me the opportunity to attend St Roses High School,” he said.
For the Harris family, moving was a bit of a challenge because finding accommodation for them was hard, however, they were able to acquire a plot of land and built a house on the coast so that Abel could attend school.
“Everything was so different at first, the travelling, the people, the teachers. I struggled at first but I managed to get a grasp of everything after. Now while attending school, I had my first smartphone with a camera and I would find myself taking photos with my phone, random objects and random stuff. Eventually, I found myself liking this hobby and I always try to capture something that’s not been seen before. I never sat and think about a field I wanted to be into, I was just relying on the best to happen to me,” he added.
It was from then that he entered the world of photography and started to seriously contemplate a career in the field. He never attended any formal training classes, rather, whatever he knows about photography and the composition of images comes from trial and error and online videos.
Additionally, during his start-up days, Abel would accompany professional photographers and observe techniques and style of shooting. It was from them that he learnt the most about image composition, camera settings, lighting and other functions to better enhance his skills.
Abel does not limit himself when it comes to his photography style. He experiments with all types of photography whether it is landscape or portrait.
“Being a photographer means everything to me because I’m able to show the world art through a lens and it’s literally part of me. So, when you see my work it’s part of me you’re seeing. Plus, it’s my main source of income as well as my profession, so it means merely everything to me. I believe that there is no best photographer because literally everyone has their style and major different types of photography but one of the challenges is being able be recognised for the work you do.”
The world of photography is extremely expensive and in Guyana photo equipment is not readily available. Abel, like many photographers, would have to import gears and one of the things that affects them is the cost to import those critical gears.
“Most gears you’d have to import or order online when you’d pay another fortune to clear that gear. Also staying creative in your field of art is somewhat a struggle because you eventually and temporarily run out of ideas and inspiration.
“Some of the best moments in my profession is being recognised from other seasoned photographers, then being able to identify my work and being able to give me critiques to improve my work has been some of the best moments. Also covering different important events in Guyana are all favourite memories of mine.”
For Abel, while he enjoys the work of many photographers, he looks up to presidential photographer Latchman Singh not just because of his impeccable work but for his willingness to give pointers and teach others.
“My advice to young people who have thoughts of getting into my field, try photography as a hobby, see if you enjoy photography, because photography is like art, it takes time to perfect.”