Bahamian photographer Melissa Alcena turns the narrative of her homeland around and focuses on the inhabitants of The Bahamas themselves instead of the picturesque vacation paradise. Alcena’s works are situated between documentary and staged photography and show the country and its people as complex, sensual and diverse way.
Studio shots of bright flowers against a black background blend into atmospheric outdoor portraits and arranged indoor settings. The striking back- and profile views take up large areas of individual motifs. They obscure the otherwise widespread tourists’ images of the »vacation paradise«.
Melissa Alcena's strong sense for color and the alternation between deep shadows and bright light characterize her photographs just like The Bahamas itself. Even in her photographs taken in bright sunlight or in front of turquoise waters, the photographer gives little spotlight to the scenery and avoids stereotypical depictions of paradise, by modeling the protagonists with light and darkness in tightly defined settings.
Melissa Alcena was born in Nassau in 1988 and is a Bahamian portrait and documentary photographer. In 2012, Alcena studied Photography at the Sheridan College in Oakville, Canada. She moved back to the Bahamas in 2016, where she focuses her photographic work on changing the Caribbean narrative, the outsider’s view of the Caribbean and to present the individuality of her homeland and the everyday life of its residents. Alcena's work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions, such as Some (Re)assembly Required (2017) at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Nassau; See Me Here (2019) at the Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Gallery, Nassau; or The Other Side of The Pentaprism (2021) at the Tern Gallery, Nassau. Her photographs have been published in international print media, including the ZEIT Magazine on the topic "How racist are you?" in 2020, or the New York Times about the subject on the effects of climate change in the Bahamas in 2021.