Being a photographer has its ups and downs. There's work I do because I love it and work I do because it provides a steady income. I will always approach both opportunities with the care, love and attention required to achieve the best results, regardless of the job, which is what I have come to pride myself on.
Over the years, I’ve embraced the title of artist. I’ve enjoyed identifying my own style and flair, creating projects that provide an insight into my mind, sharing my passion and energy with anyone else who might take pleasure in my work. I’ve been lucky enough to have my debut exhibition at Conway Hall and my art has featured in many other places.
For a while, I had not had the chance to focus solely on my art and needed to find opportunities to do this. Over the summer I ran market stalls selling affordable art to passers-by. The opportunity to show people my work and talk to them about it was a great source of strength and positivity. I realised I needed to keep it up and do more.
So on a mild October evening this year, I had the pleasure of working with NuDawn, a spirited and soulful venue in Hackney, to launch my second solo exhibition. I carefully selected images and projects I’d been waiting for the right time to unveil, choosing vibrancy and curiosity as the main themes for the different sections of the exhibition. Going through my works, I fell in love with my art all over again, reminding me how privileged I am to have made my passion my work.
As we prepared for the exhibition, we were in a race against time… Those helping me looked at me with hurried expressions, the clock ticking. Anyone who’s worked with me knows that I am meticulous in making sure that people get the most from my art. As I delicately picked up each image and chose where it would be placed, I felt nervous about the exhibition, wondering who would join me on this journey through my eyes and what they would think of the stories my photography tells.
Having lived in Highbury for a few years now, urban legend had told me of this wonderful individual who has been a pillar of the community for longer than my existence. He would cycle through the streets of Islington, attending to the local community and taking to the corridors of power to represent the many, not the few. Of course, he’d become significantly busier over the last few years, following successful leadership elections and now occupying the front bench in parliament, having been a steady backbencher for many years. I’d so far missed the opportunity to meet Jeremy Corbyn when doing his rounds in Islington North and was yet to experience his renowned standout genuine character and passion for social justice. I was both intrigued and inspired by his moral strength and integrity, seemingly so rare in a politician.
As a local artist, I extended an invitation to my MP, Jeremy Corbyn, thinking he might appreciate an exhibition full of protests and symbols of London, as well as many other things I understood he enjoyed. He’s a very busy man, so I had little expectation that he would attend, but thought there was no harm in asking.
As the night began, NuDawn kept the good vibes flowing, with my carefully selected music playing in the background, and I watched people shuffle around the room with expressions of pleasure, interest and fascination at the eclectic mix of imagery. I felt a sudden positive rush of relief, appreciation and success run through my body. I’d almost forgotten how good sharing my works of art with friends, family and interested people makes me feel.
Soaking up the atmosphere, I walked outside and my partner introduced me to a familiar face, one we’ve all come to know, admire and respect. I was taken aback, seeing him there in the flesh, but his warmth and kindness immediately put me at ease. Jeremy Corbyn, probably the most influential person in politics right now, was at my exhibition! And on first sight of my art, he turned and said to those around him “The Boy Did Good.”
As I showed him round, we talked through each image in detail and he uttered words I would use to describe my own work. It was as if he had taken my eyes, heart and mind and was able to express exactly what I had been feeling when capturing these moments. He was thoughtful and engaging and spoke with real insight and respect. In this extraordinarily relaxed exchange, I was able to see and hear what I had been told about my constituent MP. I felt absolutely inspired, motivated and grateful for his time and the effort he made to hear and understand me; my work; my life.
I had heard of his interest in everyday people and his support of local residents and the arts, but I’d never imagined I would get to experience it myself. I am truly honoured to have met Jeremy myself and am thankful for the time he took to get to know me and pay respect to my art. I hope we get the chance to meet again and continue our conversation.