A Tiger Woods experience

By Nicosia Smith

It’s Spring in New York City and I was going to meet Tiger Woods.

Yes, the Woods.

The occasion, a Barnes and Nobel Event at 33rd East 17th Street.

Excitement bubbling, I entered the book store, I was already late for the 12:30p.m. event, or so I thought. A poster declared, signing on the Fourth Floor, so I confirmed with the book seller.

However, with sincere firmness I was told the signing was closed. For a moment that sounded strange.

So I kept probing. I asked! So no one else is allowed into the event. A resounding ‘no’, I got. My heart sunk. I heard the bookseller vaguely saying – at 9a,m. the store began sharing wrist bands, 300 bands were shared, allowing Woods to sign two books per person.

How naïve can someone be, I thought. How naïve could I be? Could this really have been a free-for-all event, even on International Happiness Day.

I circled in the store. Pondering, strategizing, rethinking and planning my next move.

I was not the only one trying to get in. Others were too. I got as far as the entrance to the Fourth Floor. A wired security guard was checking for wrist bands.

I watched.

There must be a way, I thought. Seeing Woods may be off the table, but maybe, I can get a signed book. Determined, I went to buy a book. Selling the book, the bookseller reiterated, I will not get it signed. I bought the book.

I returned to the escalator, at the ascent of the Fourth Floor. But who can get it signed for me?

The first person I asked, did not hear me or so I thought. Another man I asked was willing but already had two books. I changed to the other side of the escalator.

it was getting closer to 1 p.m. The event was closing at 2p.m.

I was desperate and I needed a bathroom break. As a slender man came-by with one book in hand – I made a move. I reached out my book pleadingly. Looking at the security he wanted confirmation to take it. Sensing his agitation I yelled, ‘you are allowed to have two books signed’. Satisfied he took the book. “Are you going to wait for it,” he asked, ‘Yes I said’. trying not to shout, ‘are you kidding me, you bet I am waiting’. “Do you know him,’ a man looking on asked, ‘No’, I replied. He too was trying to see Woods.

I moved to the descending end of the escalator and waited. I waited, waited and I waited!

Children, parents, grandparents and entire families came down. Lawn chairs, lunch bags and blankets in hand. The press interviewed, photographers shoot and book scalpers sought to buy the signed books. By this time, I was painfully awear that I could not withstand nature’s call much longer. But not wanting to leave I prayed the wait would end. I kept trying to remember the exact description of the kind man – blue flannel shirt and tall. Panic stepped in, is that all! Should I be remembering something else I asked myself.

I hope he does not take off the flannel shirt, I hope he remembered me and I hope I am not going to be ‘stiffed’. One man shouted toward the escalator: “How does he look?” Holding his signed book, “buff,” the man respond. Descending, they gently hugged their books, some smiled, proclaiming Woods’ generosity. In my mind I though, Woods must be tired. By now he had signed hundreds of books. One hour had passed.

But where is my book? Where is my book?

Then I saw him, to say I was happy to see him would be an understatement. I was ecstatic, thrilled and kept smiling at him as he descended the escalator. Looking at me, a slender man in blue fannel shirt, he remembered. Thank you, thank you, I said. As I held the book, I realized that I do not know his name – I forgot to ask him his name, but I will always remember him – my Tiger Woods replacement.

“The 1997 Masters-My Story,” by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein, will always mark International Happiness Day for me.




Book of photography captures Guyanese narrative



(Fenton B. Sands photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Call it the proverbial ‘bird’s eye view’ or ‘being in the center of it all’.

Fenton B. Sands, an economic development specialist, has let his lens tell the complex stories of the multi-cultural Guyana. Sands, a former USAID Mission Director to Guyana, spent a little more than two years in the country and his personal photos are the basis of Reflections of Guyana – The Quintessential Book. The book (52 pages over 100 pictures) available for sale December 15, is a juxtaposition of religion, architecture, natural and cultural themes. The following is an edited Q &A of Sands’ journey towards publication.

How did you come to the decision to publish a book on Guyana?

I came to the decision in stages.  But let me pick it up from the fact, that I took a lot of pictures in Guyana, thousands of pictures.

When I got to Guyana, I was immediately struck by the vibrant, clear images I saw, that were different from the other places I have lived and traveled as a foreign-service officer.  For one thing, the environment made the pictures clear, crisp, and sharp.  This was a different country, culturally, socially and somewhat geographically too – which also drew my attention.  Eventually I had quite a catalogue of pictures, which I showed people in Guyana; family; and friends that had also traveled a lot in the foreign-service.  Many of them liked my pictures.

Several Guyanese friends kept telling me I should put my pictures together in a book – and one friend in particular kept pressing me to do that.  So when I had the time, I self-publish a small book titled, “Among my Best Pictures of Guyana”.  I learned a lot about how to do page layouts, pick good pictures, and prepare images for top quality printing. Again, people kept saying they liked what they saw and encouraged me to publish a bigger table-top picture book.

Therefore, with this encouragement and after doing a lot of research on publishing, I got the courage and felt confident enough to publish a nice book on Guyana.

What were some of your other influences for this book?

The answer to this is tied to the background on how I got into photography.  It all goes back to my father, who had an illustrative career as an agricultural expert. He lived and travelled all over the world, but mainly in Africa.  I remember the excitement of my extended family in the States, when we returned from countries like Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan, etc. and my father showed them pictures from these places.  This inspired me to do the same thing, when I followed pretty much the same career path as my father, working and traveling overseas, mainly in Africa.

However, about eight years prior to coming to Guyana, I had literally put down my camera, because there wasn’t much that interested me (photographically). Except on some occasions, when I got to witness and take pictures of great cultural events in Ghana, where I had been living and working for five of those eight years.  At the same time, I was forced to make the transition from using a film-based 35 mm camera to using a digital 35 mm camera (which is another story). And I also began learning about and using computer software to manage and modify digital images – something I had done before in a darkroom.

So as I mentioned above, I have lots of good pictures of Guyana and I felt like sharing my impressions of this beautiful, interesting country.  I also felt like providing a positive image of Guyana with good quality images. Despite some of the not-so-nice things people see and hear about the country – including Guyanese themselves.  I often got a kick out of people wondering where I took a certain picture, sometimes from people living in Guyana or elsewhere.

 Were there pictures you wanted to include but did not get a chance to?

Yes indeed!  Culling and selecting pictures was one of the toughest jobs.  So I have hundreds of other pictures I left out.  Part of the reason for leaving some pictures out, had to do with the number of pages in the book.  I didn’t want to invest too much time and effort (plus money) in having a book printed that in the end, people weren’t that interested in.

Explain your selection process, was it agonizing, knowing you could not include all the photos you took?

I wanted the pictures to flow. So that affected my selection process, as well as, wanting to pick good quality images.  I thought it important to have informative captions for the pictures, which is one thing people said that they would appreciate, after seeing the prototype of the earlier self-published book. I wanted to have more architectural pictures with interesting descriptions, but couldn’t get a lot of information. It was disappointing and I left many of those pictures out.  In general, I thought it important to have input from Guyanese for the captions, but to my surprise, very few people were forthcoming with help on this – except for one great friend.  He is an authority on Guyana’s landscape and geography.

What themes if any, you wanted to base this book on?

I based the book on several themes – and that’s what you would see.  Since Guyana is a country of six races, I naturally focused on people to show the variety of the country’s ethnic makeup.  Guyanese cultural events and a mixture of religious practices are related themes in the book as well; followed by images of the country’s fantastic natural and geographical features and its architecture, such as houses on stilts.

 What were some of your concerns if any, publishing a book about Guyana, having lived in the country only two years?

Well, I certainly didn’t want to come across as pretending I know everything about the country, or that I have pictures that cover every aspect of Guyana; especially having been there for only two years.  I am a serious non-professional photographer.  So, often, I could only take pictures within the context of doing my job as an economic development specialist (the reason why I was in Guyana) and I didn’t always have the opportunity to move freely about to take pictures.   Yet on occasions, I did get around and specifically try to capture scenes like the awesome colorful sunsets or the vibrant cultural kite flying scenes on Easter Sunday that is quite a sight.

How is this different from your other works?

I’m new at this so I don’t have a lot of other books.  As I mentioned above, I have self-published a few smaller books entitled “Among My Best Pictures of Guyana”, and “Among My Best Pictures” (that includes pictures of Guyana and Ghana).  Those works are very similar to this book.

However, I also recently self-published a book with pictures and commentary about my father entitled: “A Tuskegee Airman and More”. He led an extraordinary life.  Growing up a poor city-boy in Harlem, New York, he became one of the elite pioneering black men known as the Tuskegee Airmen.  After this experience he became a top-flight expert in tropical agriculture and traveled around the developing world. Starting first in Liberia, where he went in the 1940s with my mother and where I was born.

Say how buyers will get to know Guyana from this book?

Following the many photographic themes in the book, people will get a glimpse of the different features of Guyana.  I hope that people of Guyanese decent, primarily those who have either never been to the country, or haven’t been there in many years, will be impressed with how nice the country is.  I know, from the reaction I’ve gotten from people who don’t know about Guyana, some pictures will surprise and maybe even awe them (the Guyanese Diaspora). And perhaps make them want to visit this country, with such a natural environment and Caribbean culture, full of interesting, friendly, and attractive people.