The islands that time forgot

Exhibit depicts Cayman’s turtle fishermen

Turtle fishermen of the past are coming to the present.

The Cayman Islands National Gallery is partnering with the Cayman Islands National Archive on a new exhibit showcasing the work of legendary American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan, who turned 95 in January.

The Islands Time Forgot exhibit opens Thursday, 17 March, and runs until 12 May.

Duncan’s photographs of Caymanian turtle fishermen were some of the first ever recorded.

“The age-old adage – ‘you can’t know where you are going unless you know where you have been’ – is very true,” says Natalie Urquhart, director of the National Gallery. “Many of our current experiences in Cayman are rooted in this period, and these portraits literally give a face to our history. The ‘proud, hard’ men that DDD writes about peer out at us from these images, each expressing a quiet dignity that is often missing from our modern experience.”

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Duncan is arguably one the most influential photographers of the 20th Century.

He was a US Marine combat photographer, and he worked for Life magazine capturing many historical events including the Korean War, the Saudi Arabian oil boom, and the Vietnam War.

He also photographed Pablo Picasso over a series of seven books.

In 1939, Duncan visited the Cayman Islands – “the islands time forgot” – and photographed the lives of Caymanian turtle fishermen on the Mosquito Cays.

Sixty years later – in 1999 – Duncan donated 24 original images of this set to the Cayman National Archive, which is working with the National Gallery to showcase the work.

“We are delighted to be partnering with CINA to exhibit these stunning portraits for the very first time in the Cayman Islands,” says Urquhart.

“This moving collection will give visitors a direct insight into the life and work of Cayman’s turtle fishermen at a time when this way of life, once the mainstay of our existence, was beginning to disappear.”

The National Gallery and National Archive are bringing this former way of life to the people of Cayman now in hopes of benefitting the future.

“As with all NGCI exhibition’s, The Islands Time Forgot will be accompanied by an extensive school programme, developed in conjunction with CINA, based on our maritime heritage and turtling industry and including a comprehensive guide with several cross-curricular classroom activities,” says Urquhart. “These will be provided free of charge to all residents, visitors and schoolchildren.”

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