We are happy to introduce Nathan, who makes us look good in portraits. Photoshoots with Nathan always have a sense of fun and ease due to his calm presence and encouragement. Continue reading to learn about his love of photography, and some of his magical food memories from growing up in Jamaica.
Please start by telling us a bit about yourself, and N8Images.
Well, my name is Nathan. I grew up in Jamaica & about 6 years ago, moved to the city of Victoria. I didn’t know I had an interest in photography until the summer of 2016 when I was backpacking through Europe and found myself thinking about the composition of the photo I was about to take instead of just snapping for the sake of it. From there, a personal photography project pushed me in the direction of portraiture, and then in early 2019 I registered N8 Images as a business operating in Victoria.
What do you love to photograph and why?
I love photographing people. I love to capture the essence of a person and to show them the beauty that I see in them. I love that feeling I get when I take a photo of someone and just know that for me, that picture I’ve just taken is THE photo.
You often use photography as a way to bring attention to social justice issues. Why is photography an effective way to do this?
The way that I like to bring about social justice through photography is by showing the joy in people. Joy really seems to resonate with the viewer, and can be effective at opening up dialogue around issues. One of the challenges with social justice is apathy, and joy is such a universal language that it speaks to everyone (or at least to most).
If you could photograph anyone, who would it be, and why?
If I could photograph anyone, it would be Major Frank D. Smith of the Royal Air Force. He’s my grandfather and was a navigator in bomber planes in World War 2. I have a really great sense of direction and I always say I got that from him. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was only 3 and living in a different country, so I would love to be able to spend some time with him, photographing him, catching him up on my life, and taking some nuggets of wisdom, and probably a few stories.
The phrase, “you are what you eat,” is often used to describe how food is a determinant of health. However, both humans and food are much more complex and nuanced than that. So, what does the phrase, “you are what you eat,” mean to you?
When I think about the phrase you are what you eat, I think about how your culture influences your food. For me, I love banana chips, and ackee & saltfish, and bun & cheese and rum & coconut water. I experienced all of those things growing up in Jamaica and those foods that I eat for me are a sign of my culture. So when someone says to me, “you are what you eat,” I say, “yeah. I am Jamaican.”
What food do you think is most underrated?
Rum and coconut water. If you haven’t tried it yet you really need to. Most people in Canada haven’t yet tried this delicious combination, but once you do it really changes how you have rum. The smoothest rum in the world still has a bit of a sting going down as it is alcohol, the coconut water cuts the sting and adds just a touch of sweetness to the drink. It’s so refreshing!
Is there a recipe or dish that changed you?
The first time I had tres leches cake in Toronto. I had it on the night of my birthday when I was out for dinner with my brother and best friend, and it was so rich, so delicious, that it became my favourite dessert and I want it for my birthday every year since then. At the time of writing this, my birthday is next week and I am still hoping for a tres leches cake. Mmmm mmm!
Are there cookbooks or books about food you are currently enamoured with and/or often revisit? What are they, and why do you love them?
Right now, the only cookbook that has me enthralled is, “Vegetable Kingdom,” by Bryant Terry. It is such an interesting take on Afro-Carribean food that really allows you to enjoy those foods from a different perspective. There’s a recipe in there which is a twist on the Jamaican dish of rice and peas (which is really rice and kidney beans), the twist is that Terry replaces the rice with faro. When you cook it, with the coconut milk and all the spices, it is so so good.
What is your comfort food?
Rum and coconut water, Chippies banana chips (when in Jamaica), plantain chips (when in North America).
What is your earliest food memory?
I don’t know if this is my earliest food memory, or just the most memorable food event from my younger years, but when I was quite young, my younger sister and I tried to make Jamaican patties. We got as far as having the dough more or less together but then didn’t have any meat or really anything else to put INTO the patties, so we decided it would be a pretty easy jump to be making cookies instead. Let me tell you that Jamaican patty dough and cookie dough are not at all similar. They were more akin to (VERY) salty chocolate chip cookies and had to be tossed. A shame!
What is your fondest food memory?
Getting home from mas camp (a weekly carnival party celebrated during Lent) on a Friday night with my friends, Michael and Chelsea in tow, and then putting together grilled cheese sandwiches with smoked marlin and sun dried tomatoes, and garlic butter coating the outside, and then sitting on the patio chatting until none of us could stay awake anymore.
Another favourite memory of mine is from when I used to sail with Uncle Wayne. We would drop anchor off the coast of the little island, Lime Cay, and he would have me swim about 100ft to shore to get him some fish soup. I would have to swim back holding the fish soup above my head until I got to the boat. The soup was incredible.
Do you have a food goal or cooking aspiration?
I really want to learn how to make rum cake and Jamaican Easter bun. If anybody ever offers you either of those things and you haven’t tried them before, I highly recommend you try them and enrich your life!
When you cook, you are ________.
Who would you most want in your kitchen? Are they cooking for you, are you cooking together, or are you cooking for them?
I would want my family to be in the kitchen, as we all fight over space on the counter. We are all cooking together. Right now, we are all over the place, globally. So, it would be nice to have everyone in one kitchen.
What is your staple dish for a potluck?
Roasted potato seasoned with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, scotch bonnet pepper sauce and olive oil. I love the flavourful kick from the scotch bonnet, and the feeling of comfort I get from roasted potatoes.
What is on your grocery list?
- Salted Almond Chocolate Bar from the Seattle Chocolate Co.
- Root veggies, like yams and potatoes
- Coconut water
- Jerk sausage
- Chicken breast
- Baby spinach
- Plantain chips
What do you feel like eating for dinner tonight?
What is your most memorable meal? Why?
Grilled lobster at Lobster Trap on the North coast of Jamaica. They pull the lobster out of the sea when you arrive. I went there with my mom when she was writing an article on food in Montego Bay and I really enjoyed that weekend trip with her. Also, the food was out of this world.
Where do you love to eat in Victoria?
As a way to connect with others, and celebrate food, we decided to organize a recipe exchange of your favourite sweet treats.
COVID-19 has illuminated many of the existing problems in our society, including food insecurity. We wanted to learn more about who is most affected, and discuss why these conversations are necessary, especially in the health and wellness world.
Ariel and Jess Reyes Barton are the creators of Palenke Greens, which is a burlap sack gardening initiative aimed at assisting people of African descent facing food insecurity. Not only do they provide all of the supplies to create a burlap sack garden, they also help to install it, and have exciting ideas for the future.