Any seasoned photojournalist will tell you, no two assignments are ever the same. In my thirty years of shooting, there’s never been another gig anything like my three weeks in England.
I was working for a Christian publication, doing a story on Muslims in London. This was pre-Internet and pre-iPhone. I flew from Los Angeles with a few contacts written down in my reporter’s notebook. Upon arrival, all of them fell through. No one, and I mean no one, wanted to spend a few days allowing a photographer record their lives for a Christian magazine.
Day after day, I met with people, followed up on leads, took lots of exterior shots but felt no closer to my goal. Finally, in desperation, I walked from the west side of London to east side, praying the entire way. There I found a small mosque in the Bengali section of the city. I tentatively walked in, asked to see the imam, and explained my situation. Miraculously, he told me I could spend 24 hours with his family.
Two days later (and a mere three days before my flight home) I arrived at their flat in a high apartment building. They were lovely, hospitable, kind, informative, and non-defensive. Their only restriction was to avoid photographing the teenager daughters without their head covering. I photographed them praying, preparing ablutions (the ceremonial washing), going to the park as well as the mosque. They treated me with respect and dignity.
Because everything was shot on film (five rolls in 24 hours), I really had no idea whether I had successfully nailed the shoot. Once I printed up the contact sheets, I met with a new friend who worked at Geographic to ask him for some input. Together, we chose ten images that accurately and beautifully captured this amazing family. The image of the eldest daughter praying is perhaps my favorite. (It’s printed full frame on Portriga fiber paper.)
Though I sent them copies of the magazine, I never heard from them again. I am still grateful for their hospitality and trust.
Since graduating from Boston University in 1983, I have worked as a photographer, journalist, home-schooling mom, and pastor. A rather eclectic combination which actually reflects the diversity of my soul. Perhaps the common theme of all four “professions” is the desire to tell stories: mine and others. I feel incredibly grateful for the trust that men and women have extended to me: the Bengali family who let me spend 24 hours with them, the teenage runaways in Hollywood, the CEOs, and the many folks in church settings. Regardless of the demographics, my goal is always to find beauty and redemption in the lives of the people I spend time with.