Susanne ‘Selah’ Moss
Translation by Solange
In 1980, Susanne Moss is fascinated by Bob Marley’s music and it’s by listening to his lyrics attentively that she discovers the Rastafari culture. In 1985, she takes her first trip to Jamaica and travels the island in a minivan. Since then, she hasn’t stopped returning as well as exploring other regions where she meets members of the Rasta community in West Africa, Ethiopia, Brazil, the Caribbean… Susanne Moss has crossed roads with great figures of the Rastafari community, Howellites to the Nyhabinghi patriarchs such as Bongo Watto, Ras Derminite, Ras Shadrach, Bongo Tawney, Bongo Lloyd and many others. Built patiently and passionately over 30 years, her photographic work has documentary, memorial and testimonial qualities. Her portraits manifest a great amity, a relationship of strong and lasting trust with the “people of Jah”. Photography also becomes a place to share and encounter, and what she photographs is never considered as an object of disembodied study, separate from her. With Susanne Moss, a shot doesn’t limit itself to a simple caption; it instills an exchange and creates affinities.
Susanne ‘Selah’ Moss’s photos have been published in numerous magazines such as The Source, The Beat, Rhythm Magazine, Carribean Magazine, Ragga magazine and as well as Reggae Vibes, where she regularly offers her photos in the section Rastalogie. Moreover, she has presented several exhibitions and conferences devoted to the Rastafari movement : “Countenance Brighten Countenance: The Visage of Rastafari” in New York, where she lives ; “In My House are many Mansions: Unity and Diversity in Rastafari” in 2002 in Santiago de Cuba ; and more recently “Discovering Rastafari!”, organized by Jakes Homiak at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. Her photos also illustrate the cover of many books and CDs. In 2001, the Smithsonian Institute credited her with an Award for the quality of her photographic work. Independent photographer, Susanne Moss is also a video maker and has directed the documentary “Ras Cuba” at the request of Rastas de Santiago de Cuba, as well as “Rastas at home and Abroad”, projected in preview in 2010 at the first international conference of the Rastafarian movement at the West Indies University, Kingston, JA.
Observing Susanne Moss’s photos is like plunging into the heart of a live culture, dense and diverse. The photos she offers here seem to have a dialogue amongst themselves, they feed off of each other. The eye, the gaze, the acuity occupy a privileged place in the Rastafari cosmology (“Rasta-Far-Eye”). They symbolize the opening to the world, to the ‘other’, but also imply an introspective gaze, reflexive (“Eye-in-I”) that leads to the knowledge of self. “I and I”, “I and Eye” - in the Rasta point of view, these expressions surpass the simple homophonic coincidence; the words and the visual language carry a profoundly mystical dimension. In such conditions, the photographic practice as Susanne Moss conceives it requires a presence in the world and a vision of the world. A way of seeing and giving the sight.