Documenting the dancehall scene in Jamaica through out the 90s, Wayne Tippetts photographs make you feel like you could of been there with him writhing around on the floor to Chaka Demus and Pliers.
How and why did you end up in Jamaica?
I was going out with a girl who came from Jamaica. her parents had a farm and a place on the North coast, so I was able to travel about the Island and take photos of Jamaican life in the raw…
…I was drawn to the emerging dancehall scene because of the energy and excitement that came from attending street, yard dances and sound systems. I initially hooked up with Sugar Minott and his Youth Man promotion sound system in the 1980s and photographed Tenor Saw on a memorable night on Robert crescent in down town kingston. But at the early part of the 1990s things started to change and women started to wear outrageous outfits and a regular system would play in southdale plaza on tuesday evenings in new Kingston attracting an uptown and down town crowd. It was great you could really feel the energy and everybody knew that something big was happening in reggae. At this time Stone Love would also play down town at the House of Leo on Thursday nights causing a road block on Cargil avenue every week!
What inspires you about dancehall and reggae?
For me reggae music has always been about word on the street, a dialogue exploring how people feel. So when reggae has a positive, serious or humorous look at society, is when it grabs my attention and gives me inspiration.
How do you think music photography has changed since the 90s?
As soon as the music started to be too much about guns and sex and pay lip service to American Hip-hop, it lost it’s edge for me. They are still some great reggae/dancehall artists out there like Luciano, who cross over with reggae on a dancehall tip, but they are few and far between. I feel that dancehall music has to evolve.
What is the best thing about 90s DIY “Ghetto Couture”?
When I first started to photograph ‘Ghetto Couture’ in the 90s I had no idea how influential it would become. I was constantly amazed at the different clothes women would wear each week and the inventiveness of them. I remember photographing a dancehall girl dress in a pack of cards chain-mailed together and another fuller figured woman wearing nothing but measure.
What is the most memorable performance you photographed?
I suppose the most memorabe performance was ‘Sting’ 98 at the national stadium in Kingston JA and it was the first photos I had taken in six months, due to an accident with my car that could have cost me my leg. At the end of the evening there was a clash between Bounty Killer and Merciless that got the crowd so whipped up that the 12 foot fence in front of the stage was pushed down – the crowd rushed the stage, and police dogs and gun shot were let loose. At this point I crawled under the stage and tried to escape to my car. As I poked my head out from under the stage I was approached by two swedish tourists who were staying near where I lived in the mountains – a neighbour had told them to look out for me, so they could get a ride home. They seemed totally oblivious of what was going on.
BIG UP WAYNE for this years Carnival Flyer!!!!…Come feel the dancehall vibes at the After party…
Chaka Demus and Pliers Session, Old Hope Road, Jamaica, 1993. Photography, Wayne Tippett.