Loving, intelligent and headstrong, ’s personality was as ardent as the bold explosion of color in his photographs.
Anthony was best known for his work examining carnivals; he chronicled the essence of party, by capturing the extravagant masks and costumes that dance along the streets.
Anthony Bonair passed away March 14, at Coney Island Hospital of heart failure. He had been in the hospital for days leading up to his death, following a year of health problems related to a car accident. He was 66.
Anthony was born in Trinidad and Tobago. His mother Beryl Bonair was a seamstress and his father, Irvin Bonair, an artisan that created handmade masks.
The young Anthony attended a private school in Trinidad and grew up raising homing pigeons that he trained to fly far distances and then return back home.
The active Anthony loved biking and fishing, but maybe most of all, dancing. His siblings fondly joke about how he used to sneak out late at night and hide his clothes under the house to spend the evening dancing, returning just as the sun was beginning to rise the next day.
At age 18, he received a Canon camera as a gift from a friend in the United States. The camera opened a new world to him, and when he eventually moved to New York City in 1969, the camera stayed close by his side.
Upon his arrival in New York, he took a job at a photography lab. He then enrolled at Hunter College, where he earned a degree in accounting, and later, a master's degree in non-profit management from the New School.
Always so meticulously coiffed, Anthony liked to dress well: A fresh pressed shirt and tie always complimented the kind smile beneath his closely trimmed mustache.
In addition to photography, he worked as an accountant for most of his life in New York until he was laid off. Losing his career in accounting was a huge blow for Anthony, but he took the opportunity to immerse himself in the art he was producing and become his own businessman.
The eminent photographer produced black & whites, portraits, triple exposures with images layered on top of each other as well as more recent abstract pieces. It was his unique view of the world of carnivals though, that rings clear in the mind of those who knew the artist.
He brought viewers to see the ornate, entangled elements of the costumes and masks that were worn during celebrations. The images, which span as far back as the 1970’s, show Bonair’s close attention to detail.
The many layered skirts, beaded head pieces, brightly painted faces and wide grinning smiles transport viewers right to the street edge, enabling them to experience all of the emotion of a festival; the culture, tradition and artistry.
His photos document the social environment and leave a new standard for street photography. He offers the viewer a visual gift that stimulates the spirit and evokes dreams. And Anthony was certainly a dreamer. His stubborn and motivated nature, independence and love for his family made him a successful photographic visionary.
Anthony's work has been exhibited in several galleries, most recently , where his work was displayed for months and received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Anthony also has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and books. He has left his legacy in the hands of his family, and as he knew the end was nearing, he worked fervently to get his work in order. His dream was to have his carnival photos assembled in a book, and his family is working very hard to make his last wishes a reality.
Anthony Bonair is survived by his sisters, Ingrid Reid and Sandra Bonair Bonaparte, brothers, Ancil Bonair and Segrid Bonair, an informal adopted daughter, Nicole Morgan, two grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
No one who knew Anthony Bonair was ready to let him go. But his spirit will rest eternally in the essence of his photographs, and that kind of everlasting brilliance is permanent.
There will be a viewing for Anthony Bonair on Friday, March 25, from 6:30 - 8:00 pm, at the Stephen LeGall Funeral Home on Empire Blvd. in Brooklyn. The repass will follow, from 8:00 - midnight at Tropical Reflection on Glenwood between 45-46th Street in Brooklyn. Anthony Bonair will be laid to rest at Forest Green Cemetery in Morganville, NJ.