The Illustrated Story of Pan by Kim Johnson

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger


There seems no prevarication to be made about it: The Illustrated Story of Pan is a thing of spectacular beauty, the crown jewel in a Carnival music lover’s catalogue of  visual literature. In this remarkable, necessary tome, it is the photographs — from the rare, to the previously unseen, to the iconic — that guide the arc of the narrative, and never before have you been so eager to be led by images for the sake of art and cultural history.

As Kim Johnson himself remarks, in a Caribbean Beat feature (March/April 2011), “It began with a single photograph”. Speaking on the hundreds of photos he painstakingly curated, Johnson said, “Every photograph had been lovingly preserved for decades, which spoke of their importance to their owners, and as such every owner had stories surrounding each photo, stories of adventure and discovery, of love and danger.”

The Illustrated Story of Pan is, like the best type of books tend to be, many things in one: cultural artefact; photographic panorama (pun probably intended!); labour of love, storybook for the ages. In the tradition of the best books, too, it must be beheld, and absorbed, to be believed. All roads to essential Carnival reading and viewing should lead here, to work of this calibre and sentiment.