With Sandra Prince’s unassuming personality, it’s not hard to imagine why many would think that she is a regular 9-5er in a fancy suit working at some office that’s probably not too important to care anything about.
But not this Sandra Prince; for the past three decades, she has worked at the Presidential Complex in Georgetown. Her job? Photographing Presidents. Yes, Presidents, and three of them to be exact.
And now, she has something else cool to go with her name: the suffix MS, as in Medal of Service.
On the eve of Guyana’s 52nd Independence anniversary, Sandra Prince was announced as one of this year’s National Awardees, something that came as a surprise to her.
“I still don’t know who nominated me!” she told the News Room this week.
She is happy for the accolade, but she’s not allowing it to cause her to walk with her head in the air. And that’s a testament to the humble demeanour she is known by.
Her entry into the world of photography was but a fluke encounter and never could she imagine that she would be travelling across Guyana and the world and in the company of some of the most influential people on the planet.
Prince grew up in Georgetown and she saw herself as being a perfect fit for a secretarial job. Why, it was what she was trained for. Her grandmother, who brought her up, had sent her to “commercial school” to learn typing and so when she was old enough she sent out applications.
She applied to be a receptionist at Guyana Stores Limited in downtown Georgetown, but they had no openings. Instead, they offered her a job as a “dark room” technician in their photo lab. She had absolutely no idea what the job entailed, but she decided to give it a shot.
She soon found out her job entailed developing photos and whatever else needed to be done in that department and she liked it!
After a short time, she saw the state-run information agency Guyana Public Communications Agency (GPCA) advertising for a dark room technician and she applied and landed the job.
She began working under David Wilson, the then Presidential Photographer.
At first, she worked in the darkroom but soon found herself filling in whenever Wilson or other senior photographers were not available.
Her first assignment was covering then Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee, and as her work was satisfactory, she moved on to covering then Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.
In 1998, she was sent to the International Institute of Journalism in Berlin, Germany where she studied photography.
On her return to Guyana, she found herself covering then President Bharrat Jagdeo and when Wilson retired a few months into the Jagdeo presidency in 1999, she took up official duties as the Presidential Photographer.
The post saw her travelling across Guyana, basically, wherever the President went she followed.
She remembers her first assignments with Jagdeo being in Lethem in Region Nine and Kamarang in Region Seven.
“Going on the community outreaches are definitely my favourite; you get to enjoy the different landscapes of Guyana and really soak in the beauty of the country,” she said in an interview this week.
Of course, there were many overseas assignments she landed, travelling to the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, India, Venezuela and many islands in the Caribbean.
“My job is exciting; it is a fun job to be in.”
But if you think the job is one of glitz and glamour and comes with a lot of perks, Sandra says no.
“I live a relatively simple life; I am a contented child and try to keep my life very private.”
The most challenging part of her job is that she is always on call.
“When you start early in the morning, you don’t know when you’re coming home. Saturdays and Sundays are not your own.
“But I’ve done it for all these years; when you love something you give it your all.
“If the President calls, I have to give him first preference.”
When President Jagdeo demitted office and Donald Ramotar became President, Prince retained in her role, and when Brigadier David Granger assumed the Presidency in May 2015, she continued as the Presidential photographer.
As a Presidential photographer, does she have to be mindful of the personality of the President?
“Yes, you have to read him; you have to know the individual.
“From his posture, you would know his mood.”
Over the years, Prince said she has always been prudent and never assumed that she enjoyed any special privileges because of her job.
“At the end of the day, it is a job and no job is really yours.
“I am happy that I was able to serve and I think I was able to serve well in a professional manner.
“And I am happy that I am being recognised for that service.”
Oh, did we mention she is a grandmother and a gorgeous 53-year-old one at that?