Womanwise 15

Usually I talk about the lighting setups on a Womanwise shoot, but that isn’t all I try to explore on these assignments. The project gives me an interesting set of elements to work with, because unlike most of my photography sessions, these take place for the most part on the home ground of the subjects.

I try to move the encounters into spaces or familiar locations that offer an opportunity to reveal something about them, but all too often, I end up in a space which I have a few minutes to scout the possibilities and decide on the best angle and positions that reinforce the idea of the story, the character of the subject while maximising the potential to hold the casual reader’s attention.

Lystra Cudjoe is someone I haven’t seen for decades. When I began as a photographer, I pursued pretty much everything and some of those things were, as you might expect, pretty.
I ended up doing some photography for the model impresario Ken McPherson, then known as Jasareh H, who was running a model training studio and agency called Finale Fashions. Many of these model hopefuls were not what one might describe as classically beautiful. Some of them were definitely in the wrong business.

Lystra was the right hand of Mr McPherson and an up-and-coming model easily in the class of the reigning empresses of the day, Alyson Brown and Sharon Imbert. Alyson and Sharon would, a decade and a half later, launch their own short lived model training agency that coached, among others, Raymond Ramcharitar. I have pictures. Don’t tempt me.

The living room at Lystra’s Woodbrook guest house is a sunken nook designed to encourage intimacy and conversation, but offering few interesting angles at the level of a seated subject.
So I abandoned the idea of using the seating for sitting and considered the unusual shape of the furniture in the centre of the room. The brown of the furniture and red of the carpet offered strong, powerful colours in potentially interesting shapes that reinforced the idea of robustness and health that were part of the conclusion of the story. Of course, I knew none of this then, but I picked up the outcomes when Lystra described herself and her daughter as “cancer survivors” and went with my instincts.

I asked Lystra to sit on the floor and lean into the kidney shaped couch and invited Shevonne, her daughter to find a spot on top of it that brought her close to her mother. I’m not an aggressive poser. When I have two people who are naturally close, I like to see how they relate and “fit” into each other. Shevonne didn’t disappoint, falling into a pose that felt young and sexy while establishing the parity and camaraderie she shared with her mother.

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