You probably know his pictures, though you may not know his name. Richard Bridgens' drawings are used constantly to illustrate slavery in the Caribbean in exhibitions, books and films. But who was he, and do his pictures of enslaved people accurately depict their lives?
Bridgens had an artistically influential–though not financially successful–career as a furniture designer in Regency England. But in 1826 he and his family sailed for Trinidad, where his wife owned part of a sugar estate in Arouca.
Here Bridgens drew what he saw around him, in particular the cycle of sugar cultivation, and the creole culture being created by enslaved people and their free counterparts. Though a planter himself, in his book West India Scenery he didn't attempt to disguise the wretched conditions under which enslaved people lived.
In The Colour of Shadows, Judy Raymond has used Bridgens's drawings and contemporary documents such as the slave registers and the reports of the Protector of Slaves, to tell the story of slavery in Trinidad in the last years before Emancipation, focusing on the people who lived on Richard and Maria Bridgens' St Clair estate.
She has also unearthed previously unknown facts about Bridgens's life and work, some of his unpublished images, and about what became of his family after his death in Port-of-Spain in 1846.
Raymond, a former editor-in-chief of the T&T Guardian, has written two previous biographical studies of local artists, jeweller Barbara Jardine and fashion designer Meiling, a release said.
The Colour of Shadows: Images of Caribbean Slavery is published by the Caribbean Studies Press of Florida.
It will be launched at the Bocas Lit Fest on May 1 at 3 pm at the Old Fire Station, Hart Street, as part of the OCM Bocas Lit Fest 2016.