The face of a lover is an unknown, precisely because it is invested with so much of oneself. It is a mystery, containing, like all mysteries, the possibility of torment.

James Baldwin

Now that I’ve had mustered enough courage to begin the project, I feel a love affair unfolding with multiple personalities. At the same time bringing them together through the medium of these portraits, I get a sense of a new soul entity emerging out of the sameness that we call Ghana. For years I’ve been wanting to make portraits of the people who influence my life and who I think are riding the waves of their creative vortex and helping redefine the country. These faces are at the core of our social self expression. They are passionate about taking ownership of their own lives and deliberately becoming major influences in our social discourse.  The Anomaly pictured in these photographs are blatant faces of power. They wear with confidence their dreams and tribulations.

When I began the project I knew I wanted to keep the sittings as simple as possible. Not fall into a trap of glamorising them. I want the photographs to represent just who they are.  I want to tell a story about them that doesn’t romanticise their personalities.  The experience of connecting with them is the same as when I feel as if I’m rising in love. I feel a seduction taking place. More often than not I’m faced with what is beautiful.

I think making portraits is really a labour of love. Its all about finding the essence of that which is projected from within. Its not just a situation between artist and subject. Its a dialogue of connections or not. The seen and the unseen.

The studio. Each sitting takes place on my verandah between the hours of 2pm and 4.30pm, naturally lit. I’m working in the shade of the house, surrounded by trees. The light is coming in. I’m assisted by Seton Nicholas.

Nii Obodai.

Nii says to shift a little to my right. I do, angling the circular reflector I have in my hands to suit, paying close attention to what the light is doing. “There!” he exclaims! “Do you see it, Seton? Do you see what I’m seeing?” I say that I do, meaning it. It is only when he has pressed the shutter release that I realise I have been holding my breath for fear that the moment might pass.

This series of portraits is being shot in natural light on the balcony of Nii’s house, where his studio, Nuku, also runs. It’s a make shift studio set up. A large piece of grey-baft serves as our back drop, held over a section of the glass sliding doors that lead from the living room to the balcony, by twine on each of its top corners and fastened onto two nails we hammered into the walls. The fabric drapes all the way to the ground held down by earthenware pots that hold citronella scented tea-light candles. Music … Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Wanlov the kubolor, Pharell and Daft Punk, Mos Def and Talib, Kanye, Coltrane … filters through to the balcony from the sound system inside.

We spoke once, of ritual, Nii and I, and of what role it plays within the artistic/creative process. And perhaps that’s it… because from taking off your shoes at the door, browsing through the photographs, books and other art littered around the studio, while sipping on the green tea and fresh fruit that the house is never in short supply off, it begins to feel like Nuku is a bit of a chill pill, one that can leave you quite “open”.  By the time shooting begins, it feels like we are on the same wavelength. Nii, the sitter and I. It feels like the collaboration Nii has insistently referred to this series as. Even when I have known the sitter for some time I notice, sometimes, that it seems I am looking at them in a new light. Nothing the light bouncing off my reflector or even his many years of experience as a photographer can be solely responsible for. It seems more like something they brought in with them. Something I hadn’t stopped to see before. Something they have shared with Nii in my presence and granted me permission to add just that little bit more light to. Each photograph is a moment we have shared immortalised onto a strip of 35mm film.

Seton Nicholas.


This work was presented at Me and You and Everyone we do not know