I Believe

How do I capture pain, hope and beauty simultaneously?

I Believe

Believe. (verb) Accept that something is true, especially without proof.

In my home country of Trinidad, Omavi Langevine’s ongoing battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia has been quite public partially due to his status as an influential emerging figure in the spoken word world (equal parts writer, rapper, singer, photographer and poet) but also as a result of his transparency about his journey. My knowledge of this journey started with an incredibly painful, viral, coming out piece that he wrote earlier this year.

It’s the 12th of July, and I’m on a full work blackout in Thailand and Omavi DMs me. His growing gofundme campaign for treatment in Cuba is frozen, and he desperately needs money to continue his fight. He is pulling together his artiste friends and producing a benefit concert, and he wants me to do the artwork. Having been following his journey for a while, it was an immediate yes.

He told me the name of the concert was ‘I Believe’. During my questioning, this part of his voice note stood out to me.

“…I have a lot of cognitive dissonance, not with the diagnosis but with the prognosis because the case is so rare. It’s very hard to hold belief right through. To me, it is almost humanly impossible to be positive 24/7.”

It wreaks havoc on your body but somehow never manages to kill the beautiful human inside.

I immediately see the image in my mind. I know what Leukaemia looks like, I spent all of 2018 standing alongside my good friend Natasha in her battle with the same dreaded disease. My idea was to capture that. It wreaks havoc on your body but somehow never manages to kill the beautiful human inside, and if that person is strong and hopeful, maybe, I can capture that also.

I’ve worked with Jamaican photographer Marlon James before, he never really creates pretty pictures but captures the gritty beauty just below the surface. I tell him the story, give him the brief, show him images, have our meetings, and taxi him to south Trinidad to Omavi’s place that neither of us have ever seen (all via whatsapp).

The resulting imagery is everything I hoped for. Starkly powerful, intentionally peering deep into Omavi’s soul. Even Chemo cannot kill this handsome, hopeful body. You see, my friend Natasha didn’t make it, but I BELIEVE Omavi will.

This blog is dedicated to ‘Tash.

Art Direction: Christophe Pierre for designbySPIRIT
Graphic Design: Christophe Pierre for designbySPIRIT
Photography: Marlon James
Model: Omavi Langevine

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