During a trip to Jamaica, photographer Jake Green was fascinated by the printed signs he saw all over the country, especially the ones advertising dancehall events. On his return to the country, Jake tracked down Danny Signmaker and took these fantastic shots – you can almost feel the heat, smell the ink and hear the banter in this stunning slideshow. We also caught up with Jake to find out more.
Hi Jake. Tell us about how you came to meet Danny?
When I was in Jamaica recently I was determined to research the dancehall sign makers. I’d been there two years before and was really taken by the hand-painted and screen-printed signs – I asked around and was told that it was mainly artists with little studios or garages that produced the signs.
The more I asked the more specific the directions became until eventually I arrived at Danny’s workshop behind Zacks Pharmacy in Downtown Montego Bay. As I looked around I could see original screens of signs that I recognised from up and down the north coast. I introduced myself and was taken upstairs into an office to meet Danny.
What was it about him or his work that made you want to photograph him? How long did you spend with him?
When I got to Danny’s workshop I was so excited that I just wanted to start shooting straight away. I wanted to meet the guys that were screen printing all these amazing signs, I wanted to document the process and see the studio set-ups. For me it is a magnificent aspect of Jamaican culture, all the hand-painted signage, especially the signage of the influential dancehall music scene.
I felt like what I wanted to capture was the person responsible for the signs and their process. You can see the signs all over the streets and roads, nailed to lampposts.
I didn’t get to spend much time with Danny, maybe an hour or so.
The signs themselves look really interesting but they seem to be incidental in quite a few of the pictures – was that deliberate?
I think that the signs are a completely different project. It wasn’t deliberate to leave out the signs, but what interested me was the process. The fact that these are hand printed onto hardboard reminded me a lot of Bob and Roberta Smith. A very cheap process, with the some of the cheapest materials, done with such skill and style.
A picture of one sign isn’t enough and I think it’s really interesting to see them in situ, I could probably produce a whole book of signs from Jamaica.