An apologetic editor from TIME calls me at 1 am to let me know the last min shoot tomorrow is on…she need not apologise, usually I’d fall straight back to sleep but I’m excited and drift off slowly looking forward to the rushed but intriguing shoot. All I know is that I am shooting the new Mayor somewhere in London for TIME magazine and that Ill have about 15 minutes.
In the morning I get the deets and dash to City Hall. The stampede of tourists buzz around the building in the blistering sun. I stare at the vast glass structure; scouting any location options free of folk that are slightly inspiring…. it’s a challenge. Inside I am shown the shoot location. It’s on the top floor overlooking the London skyline. I hesitate to even view it, but head on up, already constructing a polite request to shoot elsewhere. When time is limited and location options sparse I often hunt for hidden gem; a space that feels right or where the light hits magically. I scoured the entire building and surroundings and in the end settled for the black wall outside. It was a rare spot of shade and had slight tonal texture. Now all I needed to do was persuade the PR who had already given birth to several kittens and was near to a mental breakdown. After much reassurance and persuasion we agreed I could shoot at this spot and one other I had selected and would have 15 minutes. This was then cut to 6 when the interview over ran.
When I am surrounded by stress, angst and pressure I often try to deflect it with a sense of utter calm. It’s as if another person’s state of panic allows me to see the reality of the situation and how irrational it would be to start flapping. After a few frames on digital I reach for my Hasselblad with haste. After 3 minutes I lower my camera and begin to change a roll- the PR is at this point hyperventilating and turning an intriguing shade of maroon. Sadiq is quiet and sort of departed. At times self aware and awkward but calm. He too, is half ignoring the stress. He smiles as I joke about the obvious pressure of time and admires my analogue baby. As the time threats continue, he allows himself to be led by the organisation. He greets the public who congratulate him with formal warmth and I shoot a couple more frames before the PR’s waters break and he sternly jumps in. I glance at my phone. 6 minutes…oh well.
What I adore about photography is an interaction and connection. The shared experience of the act. People have asked me what Sadiq was like. To assess anyone in 6 minutes is impossible. Did he blow me away with charisma and charm? Did he bark at me rudely or patronise me? No. For 6 minutes I didn’t feel anything closer than a stranger. However as we danced together to make the picture there was a mutual understanding that staying calm and doing our best was all we could do- and that felt reassuring.