Each Sunday evening, from preschool until I was a 4th grader at the Combermere Primary School (now Violet O. Jeffers-Nicholls) my mother hunched her back and contorted her limbs, like the woman in Degas’ The Laundress. Three cotton yellow shirts and two khaki pants, steamed, ironed, and starched to perfection.
At mornings she marvelled at her work and cautioned, “Go to school and learn, and bring this uniform back home just how you left with it.” I tried my best to dodge chewing gum, ink, and schoolyard scuffles while keeping up my grades and having fun. My shirt stayed in my pants, pants firmly on my waist, with seams remaining razor sharp.
She passed the baton–the iron–with eagerness and some reluctance. She had good reason to. The occasional burning of fabric proved that I could never live up to her standards. By the time I was a pupil at the Gingerland Secondary School, each morning I sleepily dragged the iron across my brown cotton shirt and khaki pants. No grace, no elegance. The finished garments looked okay, as if I was preoccupied with self-preservation and navigating my teen years more than I was with self-presentation.
Twelve years ago, while attending the Nevis Sixth Form College, I wore a white cotton shirt with brown pants. This uniform holds weight. It says, “Here is a young professional man. He is serious about education and his future.”
I was an 18-year-old filled with uncertainty: Questioning the status quo, wanting more but unable to define it, longing to belong, and desiring fuller expression. At the end of the school year, my dark brown pants faded to a lighter shade, and bright white shirts dimmed. But a creative spirit was slowly awakening within me.
And now, here we are. Full circle.
UNIFORM unfolded over the course of two weeks at the end of the school year, in abandoned spaces, classrooms, libraries, halls, and music rooms. The project features 28 students, in ages ranging from 10-18, from 14 schools here in Nevis.
Our brief conversations revealed youths who are engaged with the world around them. I left feeling impressed with how they framed topics such as female empowerment, self-acceptance, bullying, and loss within the context of their personal experiences.
What started as an idea to catalog the different school uniforms of Nevis, evolved into a nostalgic desire to recognize individuality.
UNIFORM, is a message in a bottle; celebrating the ever-evolving distinctiveness that lives within all of us.
Growing up in Nevis, Kacey Jeffers was intrigued by the human condition. Curious to know more he ventured out, camera in hand, to New York City. Photography solidifies his desire to strip away artifice; to sustain an eye-to-eye connection; and to crystallize a beating heart. This motivates him to create cross-genre narratives that are sensitive and authentic. His use of light, shadow, color, space and texture reveals the emotional realms of his subjects. Ultimately, every frame is a resolution to unearth self-truth, both theirs and his.