Culture, Visit Jamaica

RIP Peter Dean Rickards: Jamaica just lost its most important artist

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The day I met Peter summed him up perfectly. Sometime in 2003 I was sitting with my then boss by the Kingston Hilton poolside preparing for a meeting with some businessmen or other, when this man with crazy hair showed up for the first time. “I’m gonna go shoot Ninjaman on the run from police…guns…somewhere in the bush…ya wanna come?”

This didn’t take long for my boss to consider before giving a polite “No.”

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But that was Peter: prepared to do something completely nuts; a something that occurred only to him, and that only he would risk doing; and trusting me, basically a stranger at that time, to share the experience. The end result was that iconic photo of Ninjaman holding Peter’s “Get out of jail free” Monopoly card – one of a series of shots, which included the deejay waving around a loaded gun.

Little did I know then that later I’d have the privilege of crashing on his pleather couch for a year…and dodging the occasional firework he liked to let off inside the apartment.

Visiting him at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre hospital in Toronto, Canada this week he was in a bad state, but knew it, and remained, outwardly at least, interested only in hearing news about others: how’s so-and-so, when’s the baby going to come? It’s not easy seeing your best friend like that and while the mental spark and jokes were ever-present, his physical state jarred with the man who had been so full of life and who had shared so much of it with others.

We dropped some Chinese food off with him at 11pm. And at 2am the hospital called…

And even after death his instruction to upload the following image to Afflicted Yard was so typically him.

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first magazine jamaica peter dean rickards>His eye for a story enabled him to work across different media – from writing to video – and to chance upon random, fascinating subjects that the rest of us would pass on by. Peter would show them in an honest and fresh light: he loved the underdog, the unusual; and equally, he shunned the fake or hypocrites.


Which is where he sometimes got into trouble, never afraid to speak his mind and frequently troubling the corrupt that keep Jamaica in their greedy grip. Or of course he could be a complete troublemaker – a “media terrorist” as he put it. That it was the youth arm of a political party that was sent to kill him speaks volumes of how at odds this young artist was with mainstream society, which is exactly why his AfflictedYard.com website built such a cult following.

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  • Kingston Signals: dancehall webcast live back when dialup Internet was all we had.
  • Afflicted Yard: the website that pioneered blogging in Jamaica and showcased his evolving photographic work: everything from hilarious satire pieces to carefully put together pictorials.
  • FIRST Magazine: a bi-monthly print magazine turned blog that attracted praise from the likes of Vanity Fair…and Jamaica’s then minister of information!
  • And in recent years he moved more into video, including some unfinished TV and documentary projects.
  • Peterdeanrickards.com features a lot of his recent work.
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    Peter’s natural sense of inquiry remained constant throughout all of this work. The moment he found a subject, the little boy inside him became immediately fascinated. He didn’t know how to webcast, so he taught himself, the same way he learned how to build a website and as a photographer began with a crappy 1-megapixel, moving onto a more ‘professional’ camera only after he’d already learned how to frame shots beautifully as well as capture Jamaica’s breathtaking natural light.

    I think we call that “creativity”. And in the Jamaican context where so many must make do with so little it made his work all the more authentic.

    There’s so much I can say about him, stories personal and professional, and we’re yet to begin the process of organising Peter’s work and many, many hard drives. Then we can begin to honour his last wishes.

    Walk good pikcha man.

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