Following Jamaica’s emancipation in 1838, the nation’s economy was in decline. To restore the island’s prosperity, Jamaica’s governor Sir Henry Blake brought together a group of local businessmen and landowners to form the Awakening Jamaica committee and promote the country as a thriving, tropical destination for tourism.
Scores of photographs, lantern slides and stereocards were produced in the late 1800s for the Jamaican campaign and have since been collected by the New York-based Caribbean Photo Archive. Hosted by Autograph ABP, Making Jamaica: Photography from the 1890s exhibits over 70 tourism photographs, created to show off a nation during a transition.
In 1891, the country’s newly formed tourism board commissioned the internationally renowned Scottish landscape photographers Valentine & Sons to capture the island’s inhabitants, portside villages and exotic beaches. The selection of tourism images were carefully curated in order to shape Jamaica as an unspoiled beauty and were sent to clients around Europe and the United States, aiming to lure potential commercial opportunities.
Other photographs of busy street scenes and working communities portray Jamaica as an industrious, modern nation – one that had left slavery in its wake some 50 years ago. At first glance, the exhibition captures the nation in a state of transition. But, in fact, the story behind the images act as a reminder that carefully-done marketing stands the test of time.