Ayesha Cantrell
Ayesha Cantrell

Apr 30. 3 mins

Who is Shawn Jackson?

He’s the guy that you don’t see, but he’s also the guy responsible for what you do see!
The jaw-dropping images of April Tobie featured this month, which you’ve somehow managed to tear yourself away from, were captured by him. On Roatan, he’s the man with the cam(era), and we were very keen to work with him. Not only is he an established fashion and lifestyle photographer, but he’s also a superb underwater photographer with an interesting story.

Shawn Jackson

How Did He Become Shawn Jackson?
You never know what life is going to toss your way. I’m sure Shawn, growing up on Roatan, never thought that the president of his country would know his name or that he would rescue twenty Cuban refugees, all as a result of a career he’d never thought of. But that is in fact what happened and much more besides.

Most of us can look back on our lives and can pinpoint a choice we had that pivoted our lives. For Shawn, as a 20-year-old marketing graduate, it was the choice between the ‘better offer’ of a marketing role or the chance to join the underwater videography and photography department of one of the premier resorts on Roatan. Loving the ocean and having an uncle at the helm he literally took the plunge into underwater photography and videography and has figuratively never come up from air!

Shawn in his favorite place.

Shawn Jackson, The President and The Sharks
Having soaked up all he could he struck out on his own and surfaced to include topside photography into his repertoire. Teaching himself, he was soon covering weddings, events, and working with resorts on their commercial images. With a move to the US, his client base grew, and notoriety followed when, in 2011, President Porfirio Lobo Sosa signed a bill to protect sharks in Honduran waters. Shawn’s image of a pair of Caribbean reefs sharks was used to accompany the story everywhere it ran. Roatan’s shark dive is one that Shawn says he’s made at least 500 times, so having his image used to protect these majestic creatures must feel good.

Shawn Jackson, The Refugees and The Sharks
His passion for sharks, this time whale sharks, was what led to his encounter with twenty refugees. Three miles north of Roatan, looking for whale sharks to photograph, he encountered the Cuban refugees being circled by sharks, paddling their makeshift boat with oars due to the loss of their engine. His son, three years old at the time, helped with their adjustment to land after 11 days at sea. Shawn tells me that his son still receives messages from those aboard that day!

Behind the scenes.

Who Is Maggie Jackson?
Shawn’s son is not the only family member to have their life changed by Shawn’s work. Maggie, Shawn’s wife, whose background is education is today as much a part of Shawn Jackson Photography as Shawn himself. As the business grew, Maggie became the first point of contact and found herself advising brides-to-be, scouting locations, liaising with resort clients and organizing fashion and lifestyle photography shoots. Maggie taught herself about creative direction and before long she was styling locations, directing and coaching models and ensuring the shoots ran smoothly.

Today she brings the creative direction for the shoots, and you can see their team works well. Her attention to detail and organisation skills allow Shawn to focus on the view through his lens.

Finding the right location.

Where is Shawn Jackson?
It’s quite likely that you would find Shawn on Roatan. He returned around four years ago and, with Maggie, opened a gallery selling souvenir prints of his images of Roatan from both above and below the waves. Every day seems quite different. Shawn still photographs weddings and portraits on the island and has many local businesses as clients too. International fashion and lifestyle brands use his services, bringing their models to his Caribbean isle to imbue their images with that special island flair.

The Many Faces Of Shawn Jackson
While those things pay the bills, Shawn also does what he can to promote Roatan. He donates time and images to the Roatan Marine Park and works with the island’s governor to promote his home as a destination. His initiative, ‘Faces of Roatan’, was derived to tell the island’s cultural story through the eyes of its elders. The islander’s history accompanied the stunning natural light black and white photography. The idea captured the hearts of locals, and it’s something Shawn is looking to repeat with support from the local government.

He’s also involved in the next generation of Roatan residents. Maybe unconsciously recognizing the opportunity he received, he has run a kid’s photo camp. He secured sponsorship from his print lab in the US for the children’s best images to be printed so they could exhibit at the end of the camp. The kids loved it, and it’s something he’s keen to repeat to inspire the next generation.

For us, bringing Shawn Jackson and April Tobie together on either side of the camera was International Diver’s more youthful version of Faces of Roatan. Both grew up on Roatan and having their work be an integral part of the launch of International Diver delivers a slice more home-grown flavor from our first focus destination – Roatan.

You can find out more about Shawn, see his work and order prints from his gallery here.

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