An exhibition that pulls together five years of conversations, ongoing relationships, and ever-changing landscapes is being put on display for people’s investigation.
TERN Gallery is presenting “In Situ” a solo exhibition by Bahamian portrait and documentary photographer, Melissa Alcena.
“In Situ” represents the dichotomy of Alcena’s approach as a both documentarian and fine art photographer who centers Bahamians in their totality. The exhibition comprises over 20 photographs spanning Alcena’s practice over the past five years.
“I feel like it’s important for us to rethink how we define people, as our perceptions of others are rarely accurate,” said Alcena.
Poetically, Alcena’s documentarian practice is the lens through which she continues to ground herself in the Bahamian landscape and bares the mundane of people’s existence through eloquent and meaningful documentation.
In her day-to-day life, she travels with her camera always within reach, so she can spontaneously engage with her surroundings.
In her new series “Boys of Summer” for example, Alcena was casually traveling on the north-western side of the island and saw a group of young boys diving and swimming. With permission, she began to photograph them in situ, documenting their camaraderie, playfulness and openness to being seen in the comfort of their own environment.
Aesthetically, Alcena toys with the meshing of her subjects into the landscape, rooting the image in chiaroscuro while balancing the natural and unnatural colors of the terrain. Her muses, like Desmondo, are those who she has met through happenstance and with whom she developed a long-lasting friendship.
In Diaspora Blues (2022), Desmondo is adorned with a cowrie-shell and macrame shawl that drapes over his chest and shoulders. His nape, back, and chest are covered in a cerulean blue that electrifies the greens of the banana leaves in the background. Though Desmondo is positioned amongst the bush, Alcena creates a clear delineation between the landscape and her subject enforcing his agency.
“In Situ” is a testament to Alcena’s dedication to kinship and an ode to the landscape. Alcena conjures beauty within the ordinary for those of us who frequently traverse the islands and forces the expansion of the visual vocabulary and gaze of those who visit.
“In Situ” opens on Thursday, November 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will be on veiw through December 10th.
In 2012, Alcena completed an Applied Photography course at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. In 2016, She moved back home to The Bahamas, where her practice developed into highlighting individuality and subsequently shifting the Caribbean narrative.