Portland Rising

Sunday, October 22, 2017

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There's definitely something about Savannah Baker's Portland-lensed portraits. Arresting and infinitely compelling in their subject matter, Baker has a true artist's eye and through her lens has developed an uncanny knack of finding raw beauty in the denizens of the eastern parish which she feels privileged to call her third home (she has residences in her native England and in Los Angeles).

As the progeny of music and hospitality guru Jon Baker, 25-year-old Savannah may be Daddy's girl, but the free-spirited and proud Portie inhabitant is making her own mark on the world as a photographer, creative director, Pum Pum Socks designer and stylist. Savannah Baker has even been recruited by fashion bible Vogue, no less.

On a personal front, through the click of her camera, Baker's maturing aesthetic, which varies between naturalistic and a stylised 'rootsy glam', is a breath of fresh air as she utilises the town of Port Antonio, the seaside haunts, district folk, raggamuffin rude boys, and coloured-tressed hotties, finding unfiltered truth in the images she captures.

SO takes you in front of Baker's visual valentine to the people of Portie.

Baker relishes oxymoronic juxtapositions — coarse with the elegant, refined with the crude and sartorial elements that clash — which force the onlooker to think outside the box and see her representations in more multidimensional perspectives. Baker throws her wares on muses, who unwittingly capture her aesthetic, and uses close famous friends as well as her musician sibling Troy to work out fashion conversations oh-so authentically. It's easy to see why international recording artiste Lana Del Rey and fashion houses like Stella McCartney rely on this creative to present their visual messages to the world.

Who can mine diamonds in the rough better than Baker herself? The creative draws residents of Portie like a moth to a flame, capturing their personalities, varied self-expression and edgy sensibilities as they go about their daily lives. As unobstrustive as a classic sociologist and as invested as a close family member, the artsy photographer, stylist, creative director and sock designer exposes the heart of a parish renowned for its lush and untouched Bohemia with every click.

 

EASTERN PROMISES

Portland — whose coastline stretches from Hectors River in the east to Windsor Castle in the west — was named after the Duke of Portland, a governor of Jamaica between 1722 and 1726.

'PORTIE' OF CALL

Port Antonio was the first town in the country to accommodate tourist visits as a result of the emergence of the banana industry.

INTO THE BLUE

The Blue Lagoon is a 55-metre-deep extinct volcano surrounded by lush tropical foliage fed by underground streams. In its heyday, this area was famous for water skiing.

SWASHBUCKLER'S PARADISE

Old Hollywood screen icon Errol Flynn famously docked his yacht in Kingston during a storm in 1942 and journeyed to Portland and declared the parish “more beautiful than any woman I have ever seen”. He purchased a hotel and a ranch and — local legend has it — won Navy Island in Port Antonio's harbour in a rum-fuelled card game.

PARISH EXPORTS

Famous Jamaicans from Portland: Billionaire business magnate Michael Lee Chin (at right), Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, master potter Cecil Baugh, National Hero Nanny of the Maroons.

REST ASSURED

Where to stay: Geejam (at right), Trident Hotel, San San Tropez, Pimento Lodge Resort, Hotel Tim Bamboo, Goblin Hill Villas and Great Huts

LET'S EAT

Food stops to Instagram: Belinda's Riverside Restaurant (at right), Cynthia's on Winnifred Beach, Soosoomba Vegetarian Restaurant, Soldier Camp

GETAWAY STARS

A major celeb magnet, Portie has hosted vacationers Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Joan Smalls, John Legend, Lorde, Zayn Malik (at right), Sharon Stone, among a storied list of bold faces.

NINJASTAR BRIGHT

Ninja Star, the eccentric, avant-garde Portland jewellery maker, who has collaborated with Savannah Baker on a line called Pum Pum Roxx, was spotlighted by vogue.com in July and counts Snoop Dogg among his customers.

PAST TENSE

Historical points of interest to Facebook: The Titchfield military barracks, built in 1743. Fort George, which overlooks the harbour, was built in 1729... The Cenotaph opposite the market was erected in 1929 by voluntary subscription and dedicated to those who died in the First World War... the St George's Anglican Church (at right) in Buff Bay, erected in 1814.

LET IT FLOW

Reach Falls located in Manchioneal is a must-see and -dip. With cascading waters over limestone rocks and surreal natural scenery, you'll want to stay and play in the overflowing pools all day.

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