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Tuesday 18th October 2011

Jane coombs may be best known in Antigua for being co-founder of Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and for her hard work and endless contributions to that event.  But Jane is also a photographer, artist and seamstress.  In the article below by Eef Armstrong for Caribarena Antigua, Jane shares more about her lesser-known sides.

Jane's 26 foot, 1937 Harrison Butler yacht, Cora A.  Photo compliments of

“I only dropped a camera in the water once. It was my husband's. I was sailing myself and taking pictures at the same time."

Recalling that incident draws a contagious giggle from Jane Coombs, photographer and co-founder of Antigua’s Classic Sailing Regatta.

British-born Jane and her husband sailed to Antigua from Portugal in 1983, and never left. “I have been sailing since I was two years old, and I am yet to stop," she said. "Travelling allows me to experience the beauty of the world, and when I capture it on camera, I can share it with others.”

Her subjects range from sail boats to abstract art. “I also love decay, like old pieces of wood or peeling paint," she said. "It catches my eye. So do simple shapes, repeating patterns and nice lines, and details in nature. Light is also incredibly important.”

Coombs looks a bit dreamy, and I can tell she is picturing every word she says in her mind’s eye. She finds that the light of the early morning and late afternoon in the Caribbean gives texture and warmth to things.

To take pictures, she needs inspiration, and travelling does just that. “I am very lucky," Coombs said. "My travels cost me nothing. As a matter of fact, I get paid to do so.” She signs up as a cook on a sailboat, and when she gets to the destination, spends some time, takes pictures, and flies back all at the expense of her boss. She has visited the Galapagos Islands, Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe.

Coombs shifts in her seat. She explains that her neck is whip-lashed from a sailing accident years ago that makes it stiff. It doesn’t interfere with her photography, as she uses a very light camera. Besides, I don’t think much could stop her. It appears she truly loves what she does, and seems to view the world from a detailed perspective.

“I will drive home, and on the way I see scenes that totally draw me in," she said. "One day, I was travelling through a small village with little tattered shacks, and right in the middle of it all stood this young, tall black girl on the side of the road talking to an old man. She wore this beautiful, bright shimmery pink gown with a matching scarf wrapped around her shoulders. There were puddles of water all around. It could have been straight out of a modeling shoot.”

About five years ago, she teamed up with her friend, Nick Philp, to present her photos is a more unique way. “When it comes to photos, matting and frame work are very important," Coombs explained. "I wanted to work outside the box. Nick owns The Frame Shop in Falmouth and is an amazing framer and printer. We would spend many hours working together and produced these huge canvasses with my photos printed on them. My abstract photos or photos of a sail would call for a canvas. It is the perfect texture for the subject.” In her enthusiasm, she starts gesturing with her hands to help visualize what she is explaining.

Sometimes they use deep frames to give the impression that the image needs to be contained, as if you were looking into a box. Other times, the print would stretch all the way over the side of the canvas, giving it the feel of endlessness. Incorporating materials that relate to the subject also show her creativity.

Coombs had found some wooden mast hoops under her house that were left over from a job on a boat. She and Nick worked it into a frame. “I sold many pieces. I love working with Nick, as we bring ideas into reality. He is a perfectionist just like me," she said.

Coombs finds it more important to share "the beauty of the world" with others than get rich. She sells her art for a small price because she wants it to keep moving, as she believes that when the old goes out there is room for the new to come in. “I don’t want to be greedy, I rather people enjoy my art," she said.

Coombs' work is sold overseas, and has been displayed in various art galleries around the island. She also has a series of greeting cards that she sells to agents, boats, and shops around the Caribbean. She says that being creative and working with her hands is genetic. Her father was a photographer and painter, and her mother and grandmother were dress designers.

She also enjoys gardening, playing with her animals, and writing, especially for their Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta programme. She and her husband have managed to keep this beautiful event alive for over 25 years. Coombs was surprised when I asked her to sit down with me for an interview, as she is not used to being in the spotlight. But I believe it was about time that that happened, as her passions have brought this island a lot of beauty indeed.

Article by Eef Armstrong.  Reproduced from Caribarena Antigua, Sunday, 09 October 2011.

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