The Caribbean in Sepia by Michael Ayre

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Published by Ian Randle, 2013.

This meticulously researched and curated visual assemblage, subtitled A History in Photographs 1840-1900, reveals itself as a superior photographic presentation. It’s not simply because of the vast cross-section of images on display, the majority of which are rare and otherwise difficult to access, but because of Ayre’s keenly seeing interpretation of the history represented in these pictures. Ayre’s interwoven passions of photography and economy come elegantly to bear on The Caribbean in Sepia‘s trajectory, one that spans sixty years of the lives of 19th century Caribbean citizenry. The author’s commentary explores the intricacies of their social systems while examining the persistent effects created by the difficult legacies of slavery and the sugar plantation system.

Solidly praised by historian Pedro Welch as a “treasure trove of resources that will provide data for analysis by historians for quite some time to come”, representing “a unique contribution to the historiography of the Caribbean”, this title promises hours of intelligent introspection, both a visual and text-based meditation on a distinctive period in the region.  Providing that elusive marriage of perspicaciously-shot imagery subjected to rigorous, cogent analysis, The Caribbean in Sepia displays some of the best sociocultural commentary on the fortunes and failures of 19th c. Caribbean society to have appeared in publication.