|HIDDEN by Ameena Rojee|
It all started in November 2013 when I was invited by Shawn Sobers, a senior lecturer in Photography and Media at the University of the West of England (UWE), to speak to his students about my project. Ameena was one of those students. She then started to follow me on Twitter and after receiving a few tweets from her, I decided to look at her work on her website and there was one self portrait in particular which shone out. It was like honey and it had deep, beautiful dark tones and I thought "Yep!" and wrote to her in April 2014 asking if she would be interested in photographing me. She replied saying that I had made a miserable and rainy day much better. I am so surprised when people say such nice things because I am so honoured that they will even consider photographing me for one moment. I mean, they have produced all this brilliant work and all I have done is sit/stand/lie/run/dance in front of a camera a number of times. Anyway, so the answer was yes and yet, even though we were both so keen, it took two years to get the shoot together. In the meantime, I went along to the Private View of the UWE Degree Show in London and there I met Shawn of course but I also met Ameena who was absolutely charming and we chatted briefly about working together and she said that she would send me a moodboard which she did - twice! There then followed a lot of ideas being sent backwards and forwards until I sent her some photos of a church crypt where I had been part of a group shoot. I adored the natural light which poured through the windows and Ameena felt the same and so shooting there became our aim. But then..........silence..........broken only by a short period of correspondence when Ameena kindly invited me to be interviewed online for the printspace which would be included in a regular guest spot for the World Photography Organisation. That all went well and then..........more silence....................I got tied up with other things and then one day I went to see the new Tarantino film "The Hateful Eight" which I did not like at all and I tweeted my views. Ameena 'liked' my tweet and I remembered that I had not followed up the idea about the church crypt by contacting the vicar. I said that I would do so but then..........even more silence.........until Ameena 'liked' another tweet and this time I picked up the telephone and did what I should have done months before - I called the vicar and set up a shoot and, within a few days, I was standing outside the church watching Ameena crossing the road towards me and we greeted each other enthusiastically. I had already obtained the key and so had a look at the crypt and reminded myself how brilliant it was for the shoot and Ameena was suitably impressed as I showed her around.
One of her early ideas involved using a translucent black cloth. She had brought a cloth with her but it wasn't translucent but it turned out to be just what we wanted. We started shooting in the chamber lit only by the light coming through the clear window. I undressed and she placed the cloth over my head and I faced the light and then turned away. There were some lights down there and although these provided a variation to the tone of the photographs, Ameena preferred the natural light.
We then tried various other poses, with and without the cloth, until eventually we moved into the small chapel at the other end of the crypt but that is another story because for only the fourth time in nine years, I decided to choose two photographs from the same shoot for my project because they were both so good. I love this one - particularly the light on the cloth highlighting the folds of material and the fact that my head is slightly bowed in awe.....of what? The wonder of friendship, the coming together of an old man and a young woman in companionship and collaboration in the pursuit of an artistic vision which has provided me and Ameena with such joy and fulfilment. I am going to miss these feelings so much but it has to end. The time is right. But I tell you what - I am so glad that Ameena waited so patiently for our afternoon in the light for this is a beautiful photograph taken by someone who is assured and confident, talented and perceptive. Not hidden away but revealed as an artist of great stature - and perseverance!