A Photograph by Ayesha Kazim
The composition of the photograph is simple: a body pictured from the waist up—showing parts of both arms, a bowed and shaved head—framed against what appears to be wooden panels. But it is not as simple to make allusions based on the photograph. The fine texture of a man’s skin, the sheen produced by the harsh light, the perch of his slender fingers on his shoulders: a man’s body seen with some intimacy, some esteem, and perhaps desire. Seen by whom? To hold in esteem is not necessarily to be in love, but to love is to hope to be held in esteem. The photograph is delicate precisely because every glance at it recalls the body in tender form.
Ayesha Kazim: “My work thrives best when I am able to establish meaningful connections with the people I photograph.”
This photograph was taken in Atlanta, Georgia.
It was the result of an impromptu collaboration. While staying at an Airbnb, a friend and I decided to capture a few portraits, utilizing the available sunlight on our balcony for some outdoor, environmental shots.
The photograph required no special gear—only myself and my subject. Returning to the basics of shooting with one camera and a single model was an important reminder to not be afraid to work with the tools I have at hand, and that sometimes, less really is more.
In working primarily in the portraiture, editorial, and fine art realms, I feel that my work thrives best when I am able to establish meaningful connections with the people I photograph, and capture an essence of their story and true personality.
As a child, watching my father navigate the film industry and utilize his craft to uplift traditional stories from the African continent opened my eyes to the opportunities the Arts could provide in disseminating one’s vision. After receiving my first camera at 10 years old, I began utilizing photography to make sense of my surroundings. As someone who was not much of a writer and very much an introvert growing up, photography brought me out of my shell and provided an artistic mechanism that I could use to interpret, preserve, and share the history of my diverse heritage as a British-Nigerian, South African living abroad. Photography continues to serve this purpose today, while having evolved into a medium through which I create stylized portraits to stand for a greater purpose or vision beyond the sitter. Through image-making, my goal has always remained to portray people of color in positions of strength and power, while evoking a sense of vulnerability and innate confidence.
Two more photographs by Ayesha Kazim
These photographs are from Kazim’s series “This Home of Ours,” which focuses on the Bo Kaap community within Cape Town, South Africa. She speaks about the series further in this Aint-Bad interview. Regarding the concept of home, she says: “As someone who has spent most of my life moving around, settling in different countries for no more than a few months at a time, the concept of ‘home’ has become less tied to the idea of a physical space or structure, and more to the people I am surrounded by.”
Last Week — Tsion Haileselassie
My approaches slightly changes based on what I photograph or decide to create. Most times I prep by thinking and keeping the thought marinated before I pick the camera to photograph. I write and revisit it—basically meditate on it. At other times the moment feels right and I make a quick decision to photograph.
Read more: No Ordinary Sky
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This is the 22nd edition of the newsletter. Every week I feature one photograph and the photographer who took it. You’ll read a short caption from me, and a statement from the photographer. My goal is to set up conversations with the work of early to mid-career African photographers. You can support the newsletter by asking anyone—or 10 people!—interested in the impact and meanings of photography to subscribe. And, if you know of any photographer whose work is deserving of attention, please email me with their name(s).