|Nana & Imahküs Njinga Okofu Ababio by Eric Don-Arthur|
I had no idea what I was witnessing when this photograph was being made and taken. I had promised Nana & Imahküs a double portrait. I tried to arrange and schedule everything with them in advance because they had to drive 300 kilometers and I wanted to have enough time to to prep wardrobe, skin and lighting, and give them some time to relax into the studio environment. I waited for them for hours, all day nearly it seemed. Finally, when I was just about completely exhausted by frustration and expectation and ready to lock up and leave, who drives into the yard in his truck? Nana and Imahküs. It was after 7pm, but when I saw Nana battling his arthritis as he slowly came up the stairs one step at a time, I couldn't help but marvel at this tough A-train driver from New York, who retired to Ghana with his wife on life savings when he reached his pension age.
Looking hopeful, Nana and Imahküs asked me if it was to late to start, and I shrugged my weariness off and suggested to the two elders that we can at least shoot a test in preparation for a full set the next time they are in town. That was it, they were happy. They had brought matching clothes just as we had discussed. It was simply beautiful to experience their harmony and balance as they sat side by side in front of me and obliged me by turning this way and that as I requested. With every passing time that I look at this photograph, I think this was more and more of an incredible, natural and time-bending expression, because a little while later, Nana made his transition. Before he passed on, I called them on the phone and asked if they were going to come back. Nana and Imahkus just laughed and asked me for a couple of prints which I did for them with pleasure.
Not to digress; I learnt photography in a quasi auto didactic way, i.e., via the "school of hard knocks" (and the) help of my parent's accommodating attitude, assistance, critique and advice as well as that of my inspirations, and muses and the early encouragement and mentorship of Ricci St.Ossei, Rushka Bergman and Hans J Hans J. van Oort, who has shared his tremendous experience and photographic equipment resources with me to this day. I started learning on negative and positive 35mm in a fully manual Olympus OM-1N, which was given to me by Felicia Bartfield after she inherited it from her father. I shot. The only light I had was Ghanaian sunlight and thanks to Samir Taleb who really helped me with processing and printing in Ghana in the days before digital computers and Photoshop; I learnt how to manage it somehow. I didn't have a studio until Dhoruba Bin-Wahad was kind enough to buy an Arri fresnel 4-piece light kit for me to use, and Dick Mensah was generous enough to give me a room in his office. For a quick minute, I overcame my reservations of being in a box that is a studio is from a certain perspective, and I can say with 100% sincerity and certainty - that just on the value of Imahküss Njinga Okofu Ababio's comment below; if there is only one moment that made all the time that I spent in that studio worthwhile, then this is it right here.
- Eric Don-Arthur 7.10.14