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The story behind the photo

Thursday, June 25, 2015
When Penny met Michael. Michael Jackson kissing former Miss Universe Janelle 'Penny' Commissiong in 1978. Photo: Mark Lyndersay.
When I took this photograph in a small meeting room at the Trinidad Hilton, I’d been taking photographs for just a couple of years, mostly snapshots to accompany my first stories for the press. I’d managed to get into it through my cousin Alfred Aguiton, whose PR firm AMPLE was handling the press relations for the Jacksons visit to T&T.


Michael Jackson had already had one entire career by then, and was on the verge of launching another, steering clear of his brothers and Epic Records to chart his own path as a solo artist.

Janelle “Penny” Commissiong, freshly crowned Miss Universe, was staying at the hotel and was invited down to meet the performers.

So for around a half an hour, the most beautiful woman in the universe, the King of Pop and I were all in the same room and I was the only one with a camera.

The resulting photographs changed my life, and I became known as a photographer after that. I wrote a story about the Jacksons’ visit for Owen Baptiste’s People Magazine, learned some hard lessons about negotiating for the value of my photographs from the Epic Records PR team and for the first time, my photographs were published internationally.

I still have the negatives from that shoot, along with all the positives.


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