When serial expat/photographer Ray Traboulay turned his lens to Trindad and Tobago’s Carnival, he found something close to home
Ray Traboulay was born in Brazil, but he didn’t stay there long. Growing up, he moved all over the world with his father, an engineer, and mother, a substitute teacher. Argentina. Trindad and Tobago. France. Indonesia. Texas. “I didn’t have a chance to understand my own culture,” he says.
After studying film in California and photography at Toronto’s Ryerson University, Traboulay, who now lives in Houston, started his freelance career shooting fashion editorial and advertising. While on vacation in Trinidad in 2011, he stumbled upon the world-famous Carnival: a two-day cultural extravaganza unlike any he’d seen before. There was plenty to catch his eye — parades, performances, dancing, singing — but the costumes were what captivated him.
Traboulay vowed to return the following year to document the masqueraders, and has spent the past two years compiling his Farewell to the Flesh: Trinidad and Tobago Carnival series into a book, which he hopes to publish this year. The images are atypical of festival photos — Traboulay carries around studio lighting to highlight the masqueraders in action, swiftly setting up and taking down as he moves along the parade route. “The photos aren’t staged. The people pose how they want to,” he explains.
His images are a detailed portrayal of the classic-style mas (costumes), which often are overshadowed by the feathers, beads and fanfare seen at other, more commercialized festivals. “This Carnival isn’t really about that. It focuses on the traditional masqueraders, and each costume tells a story about the culture,” he says. “The type of Carnival I’m showing in my photographs is slowly diminishing because of the [dominance of] pretty mas.”
The mas are created painstakingly by hand, and take two months to a year to complete. Sharing these folk stories has not only solidified Traboulay’s interest in pursuing cultural photography with a high-fashion aesthetic as a career, but also has garnered him international attention. His photographs have been displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum and he was interviewed about life as an expat for Where is Home?, a documentary currently in post-production.
“The film inspired me to really figure out what my heritage is about,” Traboulay says. “It’s been a process of self-discovery.”
We're making much of our print content available online, free of charge, for your enjoyment through the end of the year. In 2015, this content will be available to subscribers only. Content from our current issue will be viewable for two to three weeks, and reposted after the issue is off newsstands. See more of Ray Traboulay's photographs in the July/August 2014 edition of Applied Arts.
July 26, 2014
Fantastic photography and fascinating story on the photographer.
August 1, 2014
Ray is a real master piece and so is his work! You inspire me.
November 11, 2014
Awesome work man.... especially love your black and white photography. Would like to see more
Are you a designer, ad exec, copywriter, illustraotr, interactive designer or photographer with a flare for the written word? We're always looking for guest columnists and contributors for the Applied Arts website! Email editorial[at]appliedartsmag.com to introduce yourself!