Young Leader. Artistic. Christian. Determined. Enthusiastic. Self-Motivated. Dedicated. Role Model. These are a few descriptors applied to the 19 year old overachiever Ryan Scott from his autobiographical article written for the Christian publication, Involve Magazine. Scott, the recent recipient of a scholarship to Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts now studies at the institution’s School of Visual Arts and harbors dreams of being a successful entrepreneur in the fields of photography, graphic design and animation. Described by many as a natural-born leader, Scott’s life tells the story of a young, socially aware and involved youngster who, through his involvement at the school, community and country level, is poised to be among the articulate minority that lead Jamaica into an era of social progress and development.
Who is Ryan Scott? The first question we asked the ambitious youngster. With confidence and composure he lists memorable details and aspects of his life we as readers dare not forget. His life has not been without its hardships, including his father and sole breadwinner for his family being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Diseases in 2005. However, “adversity builds character” and character Ryan Scott has a lot of.
From birth Ryan has been dealt circumstances of the genome variety that set him at an unfair disadvantage in life. He told me his story of being on the receiving end of discrimination as a result of his being born an Albino. Albinism is a condition that most visibly manifests in a lack of pigmentation in the skin and hair, largely affecting Blacks and some other people of colour, leaving them with blonde hair and very light skin. If this weren’t enough Ryan’s condition also affects his eyesight which has left him nearsighted. This has somewhat disadvantaged Scott in some of his pursuits. However, Ryan Scott being Ryan Scott, this hasn’t stopped him from excelling and pressing on with his dreams of being a visual communicator despite his visual impairment.
Here is his story.
Elton Johnson: Tell us about yourself? Who is Ryan Scott?
Ryan Scott: How do I answer this from the top of my head? Let’s see, Ryan Scott is a young leader who hopes to motivate others. He aims to become an entrepreneur in the field of Visual Communication, Photography and Animation. Yeah, I really love the visual aspect of the arts. Some parts of the performing as well. It’s just that I’m a bit shy. But the main goal is to become a leader and an entrepreneur, also maybe go into politics. I am the Vice president for my community’s youth club, a member of his community’s Community Development Committee (CDC), as well as the Citizen’s Association. So as you can see I’m involved in several things.
EJ: When did you realize you wanted a career in photography?
RS: It was never specifically photography, but I’ve always liked photography. From the first time I got a phone I’ve been taking pictures and trying to enhance the visual aesthetics of it. But then, given my love for Visual Communication, I noticed that to do the enhanced graphics pieces, or any other visual communication pieces, I would need to indulge in illustration. Then interacting with Miss Zacca [Donnette Ingrid Zacca], boy the influence really came from her and her enthusiastic nature… and my love for simply taking photographs overtook me. People seh mi love take photo too much but that’s just me.
I see myself as being a great photographer. Persons see me as being a good photographer. Umm, given that most times, especially before coming to Edna Manley, I had simply been using cameras which persons would not see as being “professional cameras” but most times the turnout people would love it. So now getting to do photography with the “professional cameras” has really improved the quality of photography that I put out. And it’s not really my word. Umm persons have commented and it’s really the [positive] comments that I’ve received from others that leads me to want to become a career photographer and a visual communicator.
EJ: Who are your mentors and inspirations in the photography industry?
RS: Major mentor presently is Miss Zacca because she’s really highlighted to me the possibilities in photography through her work. Before coming to Edna Manley, I saw the photography by persons like Marcia Roberts, her wedding images and I really liked most of the images that she puts out; I really looked at her work and aspire to be as good as her. Seeing the black and white images, the images that were done by the past and current students at Edna Manley really motivated me too. Especially since Miss Zacca keeps telling me she sees me becoming a major part of the photography industry and a model. I see myself as a model as well. So most times in photography class I find myself playing the role of a model as well.
EJ: I’ve heard just a little about a condition with your eyesight. Can you tell us a bit about that?
RS: I am not sure exactly the percentage of vision – like how they’d refer to a regular person’s vision as 20/20 – I’m not sure what the doctor’s would refer to mine as, but I’m very nearsighted. Being a student, I would typically have to go close to the board to see what’s written on the board, but gladly at Edna Manley we don’t really have much work written on the board. We simply get work to write and only maybe in English class we’d get something on the board that we need to write off. But it’s not that much in comparison to at high school. Most times at high school when I’m sitting at the front of the class I have to get up and look at the board to see what is there. In regards to taking the bus, I most times can’t see the number until the bus stops in front of me and then I might get an opportunity to see the bus in front of me. So what I typically do is ask someone at the bus stop the number. Sometimes I’m a bit too shy or I procrastinate too much so I tend to go to the bus stop in the mornings with my mother. Otherwise, yeah I’ve been in some situations where I’ve walked up into a few poles and stepped into a few holes. At nights, if it’s too dark or without any street lights, I’ll be walking but I can’t see where exactly I’m walking. So I just walk with the faith that I’m on somewhere solid. But I also tend to or try and remember everywhere that I walk. On a specific road, I’ll try to remember all the potholes, even when I’m riding my bicycle. A lot of people might tell me not to do it, but I do it same way because I’ve decided not to limit my life because of this visual impairment. I’ve decided to simply life as a full human being and that has really pushed me forward.
EJ: Do you think this nearsightedness will impede your prospects as a photographer or visual communicator?
RS: In my journey as a photographer, I hope not to let the visual impairment hinder me. Gladly with cameras you can simply zoom in and zoom out to get whatever details you need. So I tend to use that to try to enhance the images. Whatever I can’t see I’ll zoom in a bit more to see what’s happening in the image. I might take a little bit longer than most persons do to take a photograph but at the end of the day it comes out well. But with experience I’ll definitely improve.
EJ: Are you facing any other setbacks in your pursuit of photography?
RS: Apart from needing to purchase a camera [my other setbacks] are really me purchasing equipment for visual communication like maybe a new laptop or any other technical stuff I might need. Thus far, there aren’t many challenges I foresee or at least challenges that I can’t overcome.
EJ: What has it been like growing up in Jamaica with Albinism?
RS: It has been challenging from the get go but… the challenge I guess was somehow intrinsic. I’m not sure if it’s because there are more of us now versus back then, but now the treatment that I receive is much better than they would have treated me before. There is still a certain level of discrimination shown by some Jamaicans but it is not as high as one time. Why I said intrinsic at first; I’ve started to wonder if it’s how much confidence I have an individual that impacted that.
Presently, I find that I’m much more confident and self-esteem is much more high verses back then when I had issues with my own self esteem. It’s either the intrinsic cause or maybe the population growing in knowledge and becoming less harsh in terms of discrimination. They don’t see me and look that much… and the name calling. Once upon a time, when I would be taking a bus or just being at the bus stop, the whole bus or bus stop would be looking when they see me like, “Look at that white bwoy!”
I’ll tell you about this one time when I was on a bus and this rasta man cuss me for simply being an albino. He was like, “Jesus nuh want no white man” and one bag a something. So basically he was classifying me as white and stating I had no purpose on God’s earth. There are several persons who will decide to cuss you out for simply being an albino and the youths, you always have them being troublesome by nature, but my improvement as an individual in terms of confidence and self-esteem has really got me to ignore them even more and find strength in each and every time someone decides to discriminate against me.
EJ: Have you ever experienced any setbacks or discriminatory treatment as a result of your albinism?
RS: I can give you an example. There was one time where a teacher who was quite prejudice against me. Her dislike was reflected in the grades that she gave to me. At a point it was seeming it was a sense of what we Jamaicans call “badmine” because she never liked the skin colour but she liked the eye colour. But in day to day life you are going to have persons who discriminate even in terms of giving you a position of authority or how many persons vote for you for certain positions .You always prepare yourself for a level of bias due to how you’re, or well, how I’m perceived because of the difference in skin colour.
EJ: Have you ever received any preferential treatment?
RS: Yeah, in terms of preferential treatment, most teachers typically treat me good and look out for me. I get the sense that sometimes they did it because they think they might get in trouble for treating me unfairly and not necessarily because they wanted to.
In high school, there was this student in my year whose family was well connected politically and because of that they treated him good. He was visually impaired like me. I received some benefit from that and it wasn’t necessary for my benefit, it was really for the benefit of him and me by extension. If it wasn’t for him maybe I wouldn’t have received that treatment. They couldn’t seem to treat him well and not do the same for me.
For school exams I get extra time and sometimes my school exams don’t even have a time limit. I also got extra big prints in CXC and there is an invigilator that came especially to shade in my answers because I can’t really see the small A, B, C and D.
EJ: What do you think of albinos like model Shaun Ross who have had success for their different look?
RS: He has enlightened me to see that there are great possibilities out there and also to see that there is much benefit to gain from being different. Most persons see it as a negative, but I am a very optimistic person and tend to look at the brighter side of things. That is really a bright side of living with albinism.
His success has me believing I may have potential in the modeling field maybe too. Sometimes I wonder if I should even bother because he’s already there and good at what he does. Really how many albinos can the industry accommodate? But he has definitely been a seriously motivational person and very impacting person in my life.
Seeing him on television and knowing that it’s the same thing that most persons see as being negative that brought him to that level of success is good enough to keep me going to say well I can go into photography or visual communication, and be just as impacting or just as big a star. He is definitely a factor that keeps me going. Presently, my hair style kinda looks like his but it isn’t intentional [laughs].
EJ: This is a kind of serious question. Are you aware of the atrocities that take place with albinos in parts of Eastern Africa?
RS: My friends always run joke about they’re gonna send me to Africa to let people chop me up and whatever. I never saw it as so serious until I read a little bit about it and saw a documentary. There is a country in Africa that has the highest rate of albinism. The temperature is in no way supporting their survival because a lot of them die from skin cancer in their early years.
For me, it really is a sad thought but it gives me more hope and more reason to be grateful for my position and not be saddened by the challenges that I face because obviously the challenges that I face can in no way compare to what they are facing.
I saw where they have a school there that they placed all the albinos for purpose survival because outside of that school people would kill them. And use their limbs for sacrificial purpose claiming that they have supernatural powers. I won’t bash the persons that are doing, but maybe they need to be socialized or enlightened to a different way of thought. The only supernatural power I can recognize is that most of us, the other albinos I know at least, turn out to be academically great.
EJ: Academically great?
RS: You see, I don’t have a bag of friends and because of the whole fact of discrimination persons tend not to jump to being a friend so that limits the amount of distraction. Therefore, I’m more focused on my goals and my personal identity. That may just be a benefit of the person who is discriminated against. Not everyone will love you. Well not as yet, because [my] aim is to become the number one favourite of everyone. But that does give albinos a lot of time to work on themselves and their education.
But back on the issue of East Africa, I’m very saddened by what I see going on there. If I could do something to help them I would. But gladly persons there on the ground are doing what they can. However, the sun itself is just as bad as the persons who are salvaging their limbs. Mi a tell yuh serious, I’m not sure if you’ve ever looked at how the sun damages the skin.
For me, personally, they always recommend that I wear sunblock, and when I don’t, the skin gets so red and its last for all a four days. Then if my lips get burned its swells up gets cuts and is very uncomfortable. The sun is very destructive like the persons attacking them, so both man and nature are against them. They really have it hard. They not only need saving from the [attackers], they also need some assistance in terms of skin care products and whatever else.
More research also needs to be done to reverse the disorder. I’ve read a good amount of research but I think more should be done. I think there must be a way to reverse it. I even saw research where they found a fish that produces melanin and it is possible to harvest that cell that produces the melanin within the skin of the human but they aren’t sure exactly how it would turn out. I’m still waiting to hear about some additional research in the area.
EJ: Aside from photography and visual communication, what are your interests?
RS: Apart from visual communication, I want to become a youth advocate and a political leader… not necessarily a political leader, but a leader who makes a difference. A social progress leader, if you want to call it that, but basically a leader in creating movement of improvement. I also wanna work towards aesthetic improvements to brand Jamaica and how our country is marketed and viewed externally. I’m also a religious leader somewhat with hopes of improving my influence within the Christianity faith… and a long list of things. There are many things to come from Ryan Scott.