Image and Identity

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The Moray House Trust recently started a series of events targeted at small groups of individuals with common interests. They call it The Third Place, a space to nurture conversation, community and an exchange of ideas. The format includes a short talk by someone knowledgeable in a particular field, followed by a chance to discuss it further over dinner. Dinner is made using local produce, prepared specially for the evening.

On Tuesday March 6th, 2018, I was one of the dinner guests (don’t let the term “guest” fool you, you do pay for dinner) at one titled “Image and Identity”, where the guest of honour and speaker was my good friend Nikhil Ramkarran, a lawyer by profession but an artist at heart. In total, there were 9 dinner guests in attendance, and our backgrounds and professions were considerably diverse.

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I am no expert on food, so the dinner part of the evening won’t be a focus of my reflection, suffice to say that the meal was delicious, and the chef has my compliments.

In the early part of his talk, Nikhil tried to convey to us the notion of art, or artistic intent being a fundamental basis on which we can call ourselves human, that which gives us our humanity, this being an art talk, we’ll take it for granted that our sense of self, and ability to have and convey emotions for others is already part and parcel of our humanity.  It is the expression of our thoughts, our consciousness and our emotions that he says makes us human, and that expression can, and often does, be seen as artistic in its execution.  He used several examples of what is considered to be possible pre-Homo Sapien expressions of art, possibly indicating that our evolutionary ancestors were human, even if they did not resemble us in our current form, whether physically or culturally.

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One of the other guests, NP, asked a question at dinner that I thought apt, and although the answers and ensuing discussion diverged considerably, the question is important to the images that Nikhil did share with us, those that were of his own creation. The question had to do with the idea that people, viewers of art, may read into the pieces an interpretation of the artist, and whether this was true of all images, and how such perceptions may affect the artist. (Some of the images shared with us, I’ve included in this post.)

Present 08The question possibly made more of an impact on me than on the others because a few weeks earlier, I was at a talk in the same venue where two local artists (visual as well as performing artists) were insistent that real art, (yes, they were implying that our market has fake art, or at least not real art as they see it) must have more of the artist, that the artist must throw themselves into their art, that the work of art produced must evince, portray, shout out who, what, the artist is, body, mind and soul.

I do not subscribe to this, and from my knowledge of Nikhil’s work, I can attest that not every piece he produces will be reflective of him, but maybe of things around him. From the images he showed, it is easy to say that he revels in abstract thoughts, and thus in abstract images. He also produces work that when gazed upon deeply, will draw you in from element to element, and send your thoughts on far different paths to what a casual glance will do.

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Another question from a different dinner guest, BC, played upon a different thought that Nikhil shared; Nikhil mentioned that not every photograph is art, and not every photographic work of art was taken by a photographer, or something to that effect, and BC queried whether the popularity of iconic photojournalistic images makes them art, himself being moved by several of them; and it is that emotion of the viewer that makes it art, not the composition or the lighting, or the media used, but the communication of something abstract from the creator to the consumer.

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Although the dinner discussion often went off onto ideas other than “art”, it was interesting to note that it often stayed close to “identity”.

Congrats to the Moray House Trust on a crafty idea, and to whomever put the guest list together, that was even craftier.

Written by Michael C. Lam with edits by Isabelle de Caires of the Moray House Trust

15181567_10154165436288763_7147864344249928009_nNikhil Ramkarran is a partner at Cameron and Shepherd, he has exhibited at the National Art Gallery in Coastal Wanderings (2012), and in the Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition showings in 2012 and 2017 where he won the Gold Medal for Photography on both occasions.  His works adorn the walls of many homes and offices across Guyana, North America and Europe.   Visit his website:  and check his two Instagram accounts; his digital captures:  and his work using analog film cameras:

Michael C. Lam is a Computer Graphic Artist by profession, and a Fine Art Photographer by choice. His first public exhibition was at Coastal Wanderings alongside fellow photographer Nikhil Ramkarran at the National Art Gallery (Castellani House).  He was the Chief Judge at the  Capture Guyana Photography Competition in 2014.  His photos can be seen at his website, although he publishes more to his blog and he can be followed on his Facebook page

2 thoughts on “Image and Identity

  1. Laird Nelson says:

    Wish I was there, seems like it was a very interesting event

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