Sun | Oct 17, 2021

Donnette Zacca - An eye for art through the lens

Published:Sunday | January 19, 2020 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill - Senior Gleaner Writer
Donnette Zacca, with her photograph ‘In Tribute To David Boxer’, former chief curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
Donnette Zacca has the attention of Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left), at the annual national exhibition of the National Gallery of Jamaica. Here she explains the composition behind her photograph ‘Empty Promises’. Oneil Lawrence, curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica looks on.

Click! Click! Snap! For the average person, photography might seem very easy. Well, it can be if you just take photographs for a hobby. But for acclaimed Jamaican photographer Donnette Zacca, photography is her life. In her own words, she is obsessed with the art form, as she lives and breathes it through the very essence of her being.

With her petite structure, it is quite likely that she goes unnoticed in a room, but her aura and personality far transcend the average person. Always with her camera in hand, once she gets into action, all eyes are on her, and it is highly unlikely that Zacca will capture an image that the average man can see.

“Life is beautiful and photography can capture that beauty, because with all beauty, time deteriorates the beautiful things in life, like humans, creatures, and even natural landscapes. Photography freezes moments along with beauty in time to cherish forever, and normally, the camera captures the beauty while it softens the ugly,” Zacca said.

Her thought-provoking images range across all genres and capture interesting pieces that are mounted locally and internationally. From exhibition halls to prints and stamp collections, you name it, Zacca has done it all.

“I am not limited by any one expression. My images are based on feeling and what I observe. It has to tell a story and the mood has to be just right. I celebrate new ideas and do so from different angles,” Zacca said.

“When I look at the rule of composition, it makes it easier for me to capture images that will capture the minds of my viewers. It is important to place the subject matter and capture the image so it is palatable for the viewer,” she added.

Zacca graduated from the then Cultural Training Centre (now Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) almost 40 years ago and within that time she feels that she has accomplished a lot in her career.

Photography, she said, has become the overwhelming medium for art, information, documentation, and experimentations in the last decade. According to Zacca, she sees no limit to its speedy expansion in this new era as there is absolutely no competition or restrictions. The entire world, she said, is consumed by the digital process.

“It was not so long ago that photography was a lengthy process. Not as bad as it was Post-Emancipation and certainly not as speedy and available as it is today. The artist or photographer cannot escape its grip in the world today. It has become a process in the creation of expressions,” Zacca said.

Her training in graphic design, photography, and education has contributed greatly to what she does and who she is today. After graduating, Zacca spent five years teaching at Wolmer’s Boys’ School and freelanced as a graphic artist and photographer for a number of organisations. However, her most comfortable place to work has been at the Edna Manley College.

She has had three solo exhibitions, each drawing on a different stage of her development and has participated in a number of group exhibitions. Her professional work can also be seen in journals, in hotels, books, and private collections.

In 2005, Zacca threw in the analogue technology after her studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. At that time, she started her journey to a deeper and more deliberate motive for her artistic productions. Her portfolios are expansive, covering just about anything a camera can take.

“Teaching photography and working at my own productions has been my main work for the last 40 years. Needless to say, I have no regrets. It is said that I am prolific with a wide range of subject matter,” she said.

Photography, she said, employs a kind of consciousness that is almost religious. “As I see and study the environment for light, colours, textures, and forms, I also see people with happy spirits. People with needs and people who just care to belong somewhere. I am driven to help as a fulfilment of my being. I am a lover of life,” Zacca said.

“I have enjoyed an excellent teaching career. I loved all my students and they loved me back. I have shared with many families, schools, and offices using photography as my subject. My work is still my primary connection to the world. I am open for discussions and encouragement,” she added.

Zacca was commissioned by the Jamaica Postal Service in 2003 to create a definitive series of 12 stamps featuring the Jamaica white sorrel and historical and modern buildings in Jamaica. In 2004, she became an invited artist of the National Gallery of Jamaica. In that same year, her work was collected by that institution as part of the national collection.

Mornings is her favourite time of the day to capture images. The light she said is bright, the atmosphere is fresh and landscapes are better taken when the sun is at a certain angle in the sky.

“Without light, we have nothing and photography captures light, including reflected, diffused, transmitted, and directed light that brings life to an image. Light is the lifeblood of an image and photography allows you feel that light,” Zacca said.

As a founding and active member of the Jamaica Photographic Club that started as an extension of the Edna Manley College Continuing Education Department, Zacca is also involved at the national levels in assisting organised groups such as the National Environment and Planning Agency, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, The Jamaica Environment Trust, The Jamaica Observer, High Schools Art and Photographic Departments in Kingston and rural Jamaica.

She has written short stories for the Jamaica Observer photographic column and has been involved with the Liguanea Fine Art and Photographic annual exposition.

“Photography is powerful, it can help build or rebuild self-esteem. It can change world views on something major or change individual views on something so minute. Regardless, photography has impact on emotions, values, beliefs and sometimes even faith,” Zacca said.