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Rankin 2020 beauty

In summer 2020, I decided to enter a photography competition after being encouraged by a friend, Kwesi, who was excited to be long listed in Rankin's archive. The call for photographers went to the entire nation and out of a total of over 200,000 entries I did not think I had much of a chance.

To my surprise, my submission was selected and I was given the opportunity to showcase my work to a potential national audience as well as feature in a book to raise funds for mental health. I am truly grateful to God for what doors He has opened for me.

Having a production team interview me was truly a highlight in my photography this year. The team arrived at 9am and left at 4pm for just 2.5 minutes of footage. There was no rehearsal for the questions and I did not realise how much attention to detail was needed when shooting video interviews. Lighting needed to be perfect, all external sounds needed to be removed. For me this meant my squeaky chairs were a problem. My answers needed to be informative and concise at the same time. I entered the photo in the category of beauty, in the interview I explained that beauty comes from within and it is not about the superficial. I was glad this came across in the final edit.

The concept of this photo was simple. To show and convey beauty in its pure form. No fancy lights, no layers of make up, no straightened hair. Instead, the subject, Patience is centre stage, comfortable and in control. I am glad that the panellist picked up on the purity of the image and how it was. I felt really chuffed that Rankin stated "I wished I had taken that" and also that the panel would have had this as their main choice if it was not marked out for the back story.

For me what makes this photo work is that she appears to be bare. This gives an impression of being potentially vulnerable. This is magnified by Patience being centre frame, forcing you to see her, there is no hiding. The way she is leaning into frame shows that though she is in this position she is confident. She is not shying away from being in this position. In addition, is the closing of the eyes. Naturally we engage with eye contact, the eyes closed here shows she is so confident that she does not need to engage with who is looking at her. She is at peace, almost in a dream like state completely unaware with her audience.

I choose prior the shooting to go for a black and white mono-toned image. Taking away colour removes skin tones and the brightness of the background. It forced you to look at her even deeper, to think more and to connect with her soul. I prefer to make sure that my editing process does not take away from the actual appearance of the individual, I only aim to refine rather than alter. I want clients to be confident in their unique beauty.

Producing this image was fun, but challenging, for the image to work a lot of attention to small detail was needed. There was little room for error. One of the most difficult aspects was how to cure the subjects body in the manner above while at the same time making her look relaxed. Naturally the position is stressful and after a few hours we finally both felt we nailed it.

An aspect of producing the image for me I did not anticipate was the perspective of Patience. Modelling is a way of telling the world "you can be dark skinned and beautiful". As a Ugandan she did not realise her skin tone was an issue until she came to England where comments were made about how people of her tone should not wear certain colours.

Final words

It is an honour to represent my family and community in the field of photography. The process is something I want to be a stepping stone for bigger things. Beauty for me will never be focused on make up, clothing and over processing images. I want to continue to show my clients that they are already beautiful and bring it out in every shoot.

You've heard my narrative. I'd like to hear what you perceive behind this photo, please leave a comment below and let's talk about beauty what does it mean to you?


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