Prichard Gibson: Photographer as Artist

POSTED: 11/20/13 6:21 PM

St. Maarten / By Jason Lista – “Yeah, I started when I was a teenager. I always wanted to get into photography,” the young woman said as she adjusted in her chair and relaxed; her face pensive as she reflected. Prichard Gibson is a professional photographer now, a local entrepreneur who also hosts photography workshops at the Belair Community Center teaching people to take better pictures.

Like many St. Maarteners, Gibson left the island when she was in her teens, first to the Netherlands for high school, then on to the US for college. After an Associate’s degree in liberal arts, she went on to the School of Visual Arts in New York City to pursue a photography career.

“New York is stressful,” she laughed, as she reminisced about her time there. “You either sink or swim. I swam!” She ended up staying for about 8 or 9 years in the Big Apple, honing her craft and gaining valuable real world experience in perhaps the most competitive city in the world. Her words bear the mark of her long time in America: they come out in a soft north eastern American accent. But underneath the American layer is the tell tale St. Maarten accent that will pop up in an expression that only be said in a St. Maarten way.

She enjoyed it there, and initially didn’t want to return to St. Maarten just yet. Then the stock market catastrophically crashed in 2008, causing the long and painful Great Recession, crippling the United States economy and severely wobbling the global economy. The company she was working for at the time in New York, like many others, went bankrupt as demand for its services dried up.

But like any resourceful person, she decided to continue to invest in herself. She pursued an MBA, upgrading her marketable skills in a rough and dreary labor market. She recalled getting back in the film and photography industry, but, ironically, the business degree was not as helpful as she thought. The pure creative types felt a business degree, even an MBA, didn’t help an artist at all.

“So I came back to St. Maarten as a photographer,” she said calmly, after the turmoil of a bleak American economy. She found a lot of people here who were interested in photograph portraits, which she does. “I slow down the process a lot,” she drifted off, thinking about how she creates a piece of work. “It’s kind of like painting.” She makes her subject relax as much as possible until their essence is captured on camera.

Asked if the market here was competitive on a small island like St. Maarten, and she replied, “I don’t feel that it’s hugely competitive. Everyone sort of has their niche,” regarding most of the photographers here.

For Gibson, it’s a sustainable entrepreneurial path. “It’s a skill that not everyone has. I do think it’s sustainable,” she remarked. You need a “strong eye, a strong educational background. It’s not about an expensive camera.” In fact, Gibson says there is really no such thing these days as a bad camera, only bad pictures. She feels that she has a lot to offer: a 4 year Fine Arts degree combined with another 4 years of work experience in a city like New York, 8 years of insight and knowledge and skill.

“I’m hosting classes at the Belair Community Centre” to help people improve their photography, she explained. The workshops started this summer. “It’s going well,” Gibson said proudly. “I really like teaching.” She described teaching as very gratifying. “I’ve done something,” she said, when she sees the improvements in the students’ work from the 1st week to the last week of her class. “My main focus right now is on workshops,” Gibson said.

She didn’t hesitate to say, “It’s scary. It’s putting yourself out there,” when asked what it was like to venture out on her own as an entrepreneur.

But there is also a certain self confidence that Gibson has in the quality of her work and her own artistic sensibilities too, because for Gibson photography is also an art form, not merely a means to an income. “I’m a fine arts artist,” she said, describing how a photograph that “hits the right note” can say so much. “I would like to see more fine art here.”

The discussion naturally shifted to the arts in general on the island, and St. Maarten’s socially conservative culture which can inhibit genuine creativity. But her advice for people who want to express themselves in creative ways, in particular with photography, was blunt and simple. “Get weird with it. Don’t hold back.”

Gibson will be hosting 2 workshops starting November 30 at the Belair Community Centre for those interested in improving their picture taking skills. As she said earlier, it’s not about how expensive a camera is, but how skilled the hand and eye behind the camera are. “Figure out what your main needs and interests are” and choose a camera based on that is her advice to those looking to buy a camera.

The first is a 4 week digital photography workshop that will teach a person how to use their camera. The only requirement is that the student has access to a DLSR camera.

The second is 2 week practical workshop that focuses on camera work inside a studio and outdoors as well. There are no specific camera requirements for this one.

For more information on Gibson’s work and workshops, go to or email




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