Tributes to a titan

Several groups pay respects to Byer

Tributes continued to pour in today for late cinematographer Peter Roy Byer, with one veteran broadcaster urging that his archives be preserved for future generations.

Roy Byer
Roy Byer

As several groups and organizations describe Byer as a standard bearer, a titan in the art of photography, and a reservoir of information, Julian Rogers said the former Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) employee never sought recognition for himself, but was excited by the possibilities of seeing others succeed –– and more should be done than just recognizing his many works.

“Roy’s outspoken character caused him much frustration as he pleaded again and again for the recognition of the value of much of Barbadiana,” Rogers said in a tribute submitted to Barbados TODAY.

“If we are to be faithful to his memory we must dig up his archives sitting in GIS and ensure that they are preserved for the present and future generations to see that we have had a glorious past. Roy captured it all in stills and film and video. It reminds me of the refusal to repatriate the works of our poet laureate because we did not recognize the value to this and future generations.

“Let’s not make the same mistake again,” Rogers urged.

The BGIS, where Byer worked for almost 40 years, described him as “a standard bearer for many young professionals who have since joined the field of cinematography”.

Byer started his career at the BGIS in 1973, working as both a stills and motion picture photographer before retiring on Christmas Eve in 2011.

“Over the 38 years he worked at the BGIS, he became synonymous with cinematography at the department. For him, videography was more than just a job; it was a passion which he pursued, insisting on excellence,” a statement from the BGIS said. “The loss of this incredible talent will resonate for some time.”

The National HIV/AIDS Commission (NHAC) said: “Everything about Roy was a tribute to life and living –– from his undeniable, perennial talent to his unique sense of humour.

“Perhaps this is why it is so difficult to come to terms with his passing. He was a titan in the art of photography and almost singlehandedly visually documented some of the most notable happenings in post-Independence Barbados,” the NHAC said of the man they called a friend of the commission and a partner in the National AIDS Programme.

“A reservoir of information on almost every aspect of Barbadian life, he was never hesitant to share it. The pride and commitment with which he approached film and video assignments at the Government Information Service . . . were simply unmatched. To work with him was also a privilege, which pulled out your best effort.

“The only measure Peter Roy knew for his work was perfection and he had little tolerance for anyone who did not strive for such, whether it was work or dominoes. This held just as true when he entered the entertainment arena. He was always looking for new and creative ways to enrich the cultural landscape of Barbados and was daunted by little, as each year he mounted The Kingdom Of The Super Gladiators Tent and other productions,” the commission added.

Entertainment group Scrawl Up, in its tribute, said it owed its current existence to Byer.

Crop Over 2010 was a defining moment in our timeline and it was made possible through the generosity of Mr Byer. Scrawl Up had outgrown [its] venue at The Workshop on Westbury New Road and was desperately seeking a new venue halfway into the season. We had three days to find a venue we could afford, or it would have been over for Scrawl Up.

“The group tossed up possible venues and one option was The Village Gate, as we referred to it then. We arranged a meeting with Mr Byer and at the end of it, he consented to let us use his venue,” the group recalled.

“Those who know Roy well can attest that he cherished that property and, along with the help of very few, maintained it well . . . . The meticulous caretaker he was of the home of his Kingdom Of The Super Gladiators Calypso Tent in Waterford, he never slept a wink on any Saturday night. Roy was present at every fete we held for the remainder of the season, as he put it, ‘just to make sure that everything goes well’.”

Scrawl Up said it intended to pay tribute to Byer on Saturday when it staged its Scrawloween event at the Barbados Museum.

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