Bahamian Project: Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society


The well-known, beloved and iconic red-and-white striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse is the last manned, kerosene-fueled light station in the world. Construction on this tower began in 1862, becoming operational two years later – and it is still fully functioning today as an active aid to navigation. Images of this Bahamian treasure have been reproduced on Bahamian currency, postcards, stamps, the Bahamas passport, tourism ads, and in countless images by tourists and locals alike for over 150 years.

Donald Knowles photographing the women of ERLS. Photo by Ana-Lisa Wells.

Donald Knowles photographed the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society – a group of five women responsible for the never-ending and often challenging maintenance and repairs on the lighthouse. Working in collaboration with the Bahamas government, the Bahamas Port Department, and related agencies, they are unanimous in their passion for keeping it manually-operated and kerosene-burning. All other lighthouses across the globe have been decommissioned or automated. These women are the sole reason that The Bahamas is home to this historically authentic monument, recognized and loved around the world.

The Lighthouse at Elbow Reef in Hope Town – photographed by Donald Knowles for the Bahamian Project.

Knowles, known affectionately as “El Presidente”, is a veteran of the photographic community, with decades of experience. His photography has taken him around the world on assignments. Starting his career as a newspaper photographer, Donald has created spectacular photographs under a wide variety of conditions. He now specializes in portrait and glamour photography.

Ana-Lisa Wells took behind-the-scenes photos, video and peripheral images to tell the story behind the photographic session.

Wells is a fine artist, photographer, graphic designer and owner of CocoLupe Creative Services, a full service marketing & advertising company located in Nassau. She is president of the Bahamian Project, and co-founder of the highly successful art initiative, along with her husband, Duke.

Both Donald and Ana-Lisa have previously photographed for the Bahamian Project collection.

Heather Forde-Prosa, one of the five women of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society, expertly coordinated logistics on the ground in Abaco, making a smooth travel and shooting process for our photographic team.

View the complete results of the highly successful Abaco photographic session on the Bahamian Project website at:

About The Bahamian Project

Founded in 2012, the Bahamian Project is an ongoing, fine-art photography project. It was created to document the character and preserve the legacy of Bahamians who best represent the heartbeat of Bahamian life.

Conceived by photographers Duke & Lisa Wells, the initial goal of the Project was to create a permanent collection of photographs to provide recognition, foster cultural awareness and create a historical record of people whose lives represented the heart and soul of The Bahamas.

The first phase consisted of a body of work featuring studio portraits taken by Mr. Wells. The 52 portraits resulting from this series were displayed at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) in a very successful, well attended exhibition.

James Catalyn photographed by Duke Wells for Phase One of the Bahamian Project.

For the second phase of the Project, Mr. Wells invited other Bahamas-based photographers to join in creating legacy portraits. Twenty-one photographers joined the Project and photographed another 80 people. This second series of images was displayed at the Central Bank Gallery in a well-attended exhibition that exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.

Cleophas Adderley photographed by Donald Knowles for Phase Two of the Bahamian Project.

That initial goal of the Project was realized recently when all 130 portraits were donated to the newly created Bahamas National Portrait Gallery, an extension of the Bahamian Project. The online portrait gallery displays images photographed during the first two phases of the Project. Portraits documenting the “Bright Lights and Raw Gems” that define the character of the Bahamas.

As The Bahamian Project now progresses to phase 3, focus has shifted from formal portraiture, towards more environmental-based images. The intention is to show the beauty of life in The Bahamas, capturing images of the people and culture of the islands, the very fabric and backdrop of Bahamian society.

These slice-of-life, environmental portraits of people are more candid and coupled with spectacular images of the island landscape, the Bahamian Project now aims to highlight the role our environment plays in the lives of the people of The Bahamas.

Photographers – often accompanied by a videographer and a writer – are being sent to family islands to visually capture the stories of island life in a beautiful, positive way.

The Bahamian Project will also be independently producing coffee table photo books centered around Bahamian themes.

For more information visit