This Surely Must Be Paradise is a photography project set on the island of Saint Martin. Gilleam Trapenberg, currently based in Amsterdam, was born in Curaçao and frequently visited Saint Martin, where his father’s business is located, as a youngster. In this photo installation, he captures life on this island through a critical use of landscape imagery and local portraits.
A couple embracing on the beach, high-school students, a woman worker he encountered in a hotel patio, a friend whom he met in the street, and another at a local carnival, are presented alongside photos with visual details and overviews from the surrounding environment. He shows a multifaceted daily life, augmenting the images of white sandy beaches, golden sunsets, and glossy attractions that abound in travel brochures.
By juxtaposing different aspects of the island, he composes a more nuanced picture of Saint Martin. “This surely must be paradise” was a hotel review cited by Polly Pattullo in her book about European tourism in the Caribbean. Trapenberg uses this quote as an opportunity to complicate such sentiments, and to suggest a more critical view of the Caribbean that goes beyond oversimplified tourist depictions.
- Excerpt from the wall-text as part of the group show In The Presence of Absence at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam