It has taken just over two years for me to write this reflection on my friend Serenia.
Allow me to share.
I was invited to a party of Wally Holmes in Hollywood in 2016.
Wally wrote the song Rock the Boat, sung by the band The Huges Corporation.
That was a great tune back in the day.
My friend Najee and I went to this party and enjoyed ourselves out back with Jayne Kennedy and Freda Payne. Later that evening, we headed indoors for a little light entertainment. I took a seat next to an attractive lady while another lady stood, took to the microphone and sang Stevie Wonders Loves in Need of Love today.
This lady sang just fine, in spite of my poor hearing, I could make out what she was singing. The lady I was sat next turns out is her daughter, Serenia. I asked her if she was going to sing? She said no, “I am too shy to Sing”. That comment blew my mind; to have the ability and talent to sing and not do so seemed counter intuitive to me. Would you believe, that short conversation would be the start of a two year friendship, albeit through email and Facebook messenger?
Serenia and her mother would visit The Magic Castle - that was the las time I would see Serenia for the next two years. We saw each other again recently here in London and it proved to be an extraordinary encounter.
While I did not interview her for this project my time with her was precisely what this project has been about. Every woman I speak to, engage with and in her case, spend time with, was and is an opportunity for me to look deeply, feel, search, unlock, and probe, just to find the hidden elements that makes each woman special even if they do not want to reveal this magical element about themselves - I consider it my duty as a man to confront this. This process is as much about me as it is about the women in question.
At the end of a conversation my photograph must communicate all that I have discovered.
In Serenia, I was confronted with a Woman who believes herself to be SHY.
I was confronted with a woman who believes she doesn’t photograph well.
So right there, my hands were full.
It did not matter to me because I accepted her exactly as she is and exactly as she isn’t.
Who am I to judge?
Friendship and Rapport go hand in hand.
All I did during our time together was listen, pay attention and created opportunities for her to feel safe so that she could enjoy London, meet friends of mine and have a very enjoyable experience of London.
Which she did.
What did I learn?
At the source of her being is a delicate vulnerable femininity.
Now don’t confuse vulnerability with being weak, Serenia is far from being a fragile women. The vulnerability I speak of is the fear that all women have when it comes to affairs of the heart.
Can I trust you?
Will you hurt me?
Will you break my heart?
I saw a kind and generous women, I saw warmth and friendliness with a vivacious mixture of fun and gaiety. She loves a good Magic Trick.
I kept my promise to do a Photoshoot with her.
Here images turned exactly as I visualised.
How can a photographer transform how a woman sees her self?
Well, it takes an authentic conversation about life, fears beauty, which we had.
Serenia believes true beauty comes of the spirit.
This is the spirit of God that shines through a persons eyes and in their being. She is a great believer in God and considers herself to be a woman of God first and foremost.
Before my camera comes out to play, I must feel that my ladies will trust me, relax and follow my exact instructions.
My lighting and photographic skills will do the rest. All it takes is trust, I said before, my subject gives me the look I am after and they give it to me WILLINGLY.
Serenia gave me the look I wanted.
When I meet a woman and feel an instant connection, I consider it heaven sent. It doesn’t happen often, however, my heart is open for that possibility with every woman I meet. This is how I approached my meeting with Pamela.
We were connected together through our mutual friend Karen Small.
Be sure to check my conversation with Karen.
I had a good feeling about this conversation simply because Pamela’s activity on social media revealed to me a woman who is on the ball and up to a very big game in life.
Pamela is an author; she has just launched her first publication “Loving The Brothers”. When I first heard of this book, I felt an intuitive response to it.
My conversation with Pamela revealed a very passionate attempt to shine a spotlight on abuse and the impact it has on women, men, families and the black community.
A Celebration of Women Through Conversation has never been about beauty in the conventional sense. It was important to me to engage in conversation with women and actively look for and uncover the beauty in each woman I share time with.
With Pamela, I could see, feel and was inspired by her gentle, compassionate energy. At the same time, I also felt a powerful stand for correction - she doesn’t suffer fools or tolerate nonsense. She values connections with others; her authentic expression is particularly important because of the challenges woman, especially black women face in how they should present themselves.
Here is woman who fully embraces the beauty of being a Black Women.
Pamela’s beauty is worthy of celebration to me. It is the simple fact that she has a powerful consciousness about what being a Black Women means to her.
Hairstyle, clothing, a nod to her African Ancestors, mindset, attitude, a non compromising stand against confirming to stereotypically accepted attitudes about how a black woman must conduct herself in the arena of work and life.
Identity is critical to this conversation because how Pamela sees herself and chooses to express herself will have direct impact on how you then respond to her.
For me, I found her vibe truly enchanting. I had flashes of Wakanda and Black Panther going through my mind during our conversation.
I asked Pamela what does beauty mean to her?
“Beauty isn’t skin deep. You can look stunningly beautiful but how you treat yourself and other people tells me everything I need to know about you”.
That was her reply and I got her stand and her humanity in this moment.
Take a look at her photograph.
What do you see?
How do you feel about what you see?
I see confidence, approachability mixed with tender vulnerability which creates a feeling of........welcome to my world.
This is Pamela.....x