Andrea de Silva: over the rainbow

Photographer Andrea De Silva is having a hard time selecting 150 images for her exhibition at the London High Commission...

Andrea De Silva. Photograph courtesy Andrea De SilvaRainbow Nation, De Silva`s favourite photo, taken at Salybia, Trinidad. Photograph courtesy Andrea De Silva

Andrea De Silva’s favourite photo, Rainbow Nation, was taken at Salybia, a picturesque beach on the northeastern tip of Trinidad. It captures a perfect moment as a rainbow is reflected in the river where it meets the sea, with a few people wading in the river’s mouth. For De Silva, it was very poignant, since the rainbow disappeared immediately after she took the shot. Apart from that image, with over 24 years of work under her belt, she’s having a hard time selecting 150 of the pictures she has taken over the years for her exhibition, In My View.

To be launched with a reception on July 31 at Trinidad and Tobago’s High Commission in Belgrave Square, London, to tie in with Emancipation Day (August 1), the show will run for two weeks. De Silva’s first exhibition will feature sports and culture in Trinidad and Tobago; the carnivals common to the various countries in the region—with Trinidad’s taking pride of place; the British royal family, since they are of international note and have always been a subject of great curiosity worldwide; and scenes from around the world, such as New York, Holland, Paris, and Cuba.

Dionne Ligoure, the commercial attaché at the High Commission, became familiar with De Silva’s photography when she was the communications manager at BWIA, Caribbean Airlines’ predecessor, and was always impressed with her work. One of the roles of the high commission is to promote the arts, culture, trade and tourism of Trinidad and Tobago. And since it’s revamping its website, on which De Silva’s work will feature extensively, it was only natural that Ligoure approached her about an exhibition. De Silva was sceptical at first, considering her very packed schedule and knowing the major commitment it would require, but after giving it thought, and with encouragement and support from family and others, she felt it was an appropriate time to showcase her work.

De Silva started her career without formal training, at a time when negatives were the rule and digital cameras still in the teething stage. Her first job was an unpaid internship at the Trinidad Guardian in 1982, when the late Rudy Taylor, the chief photographer, gave her a Canon 400mm lens and told her to “go out and just shoot.” He was impressed with the results, and started sending her out on “real” assignments. She spent over 13 years at the Guardian, covering everything—sports, entertainment, business, breaking news—before moving to the Express.

The single parent of four, De Silva has been able to juggle motherhood with a job that can take her anywhere around the world at any time. She’s managed by setting up support systems for her children and herself. It has been very challenging and there have been times when she fell below her children’s expectations, but, as she said in an e-mail interview, family life is a work in progress.

After another spell at the Guardian, where she became chief photographer, De Silva struck out on her own in December 2006, forming Silva Image, an all-purpose photography company catering for both individual and corporate clients. She does not specialise in any particular type of photography, but her favourite subject is people, since she loves “the vitality and the emotion that is often reflected, whether it is positive or negative.” As for her overall approach, “In my head I could envision what a photograph would look like before I capture it. The photograph should live. It is important to me that the viewer could feel the life of the photograph.”

She’s won awards for her photography, among them Best News Photo from the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago in 1997, as well as first and third prize in a photo competition held by Caribbean Beat in 2000. De Silva’s work has appeared in local and international publications such as Vibe Magazine (USA), Reuters, Germany’s Riddum Magazine, Poland’s Fakt Newspaper, and Billboard magazine in addition to Discover Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Beat, and Generation Lion.

A long the way, she hopes to find the time to squeeze a book of her work into her busy schedule.

After all these years in the business, De Silva is still passionate about photography and in a world where the daily grind can be demoralising, thinks of her job as the best form of therapy.

For more information: www.silvaimage.com