Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Day of Royalty

I can tell as Lwando got into my car that he’s excited.
“Lara,” he announces, his broad smile filling his face and extending to his eyes, “this is Nonkosazana.”
The name flies from his lips naturally, easily. I blink back at him, trying to bring up the courage to attempt the pronunciation myself, and they can see my unease, but rather than taking offense, they giggle to themselves, a shared secret amusement at my English-locked tongue. It reminds me of the giggles that I used to hear in class whenever I spoke Afrikaans in my overly-English, bordering on British, accent.
“But you can call me NK,” she says with a grin, and I smile back, relieved.
“It means Princess,” Lwando informs me, and it strikes me how appropriate that is. She looks like royalty in her cream dress, her hair haphazardly plaited and falling elegantly down her back. Lwando’s princess.

I start driving to our house, and I chit-chat with Lwando in the front about work and life in general, while NK sits in the backseat, silent, taking everything in. We arrive five minutes later, and I walk them through the house, letting them greet Grant as I open the studio, and then leading them into the garden and the garage beyond it. 
I close the door behind them and darkness fills the room, engulfing us in its shadows. I turn on the lights, one at a time, and can feel the heat of them instantly. This will need to be a quick one – hot days are not conducive to long studio sessions. The two of them stand in front of the camera, uncertainly, and I take my place behind it, smiling at them reassuringly before my face is hidden entirely.

And so it starts.
“Look at me.”
“Look at him.”
“Back to back.”
“Change places.”
“Stand up.”
“Sit down.”
I feel like the puppetmaster, pulling on strings as the photos come together perfectly, as I had pictured them in my mind.

After half an hour, I shoot my last studio shot, and turn off the lights. The relief is tangible, flowing from them like sweat.
“How did you find it,” I ask NK nervously. She has been so quiet that I do not know what to think. I don’t know her well enough to tell if this is her personality or if she is uncomfortable. I wait in anticipation, but am not left waiting for long.
"Fun!" She sounds surprised, and I'm taken aback. "I was expectinng it to be so serious!"
I laugh at the thought of a serious photo session.
"What would be the point of that? No one would see your personality!"

With the formalities over, it is time to move our session to the Botanical Gardens for a little more fun. Here, I can tell that both Lwando and NK are in their element. There is no need for direction as NK jumps from bamboo branch to bamboo branch, forgetting about the camera for minutes at a time. This is not acting, not posing, this is who they are, and this is what I love. Soon they are stealing kisses at the fountain, for themselves more than anyone else, their laughter filling the air as I fade into the background.


 And as the afternoon finishes with a stroll by the river, I realise that I haven't stopped smiling since they first got into the car - Lwando and his princess, a young couple and their closeness.

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