Portrait – Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union.
Photography – Jay Caboz
Location – The Radisson, Sandton, South Africa
It isn’t a day like any other when you get to meet the most powerful woman in Africa.
I need to say off the bat that a photoshoot with such a prestigious leader doesn’t happen by chance. The Forbes Africa Woman team try to the best of their ability to plan for shoots and come up with concept that can both emulate the subject matter as well as make them look great.
Politicians, I suppose like most people who are famous, I don’t know why this is, have little time to spare when it comes to photographs. I have lost count the number of times we have dealt with figures in the public eye and they assume we can work magic in five minutes or less. But we try our best to get what we can.
To reveal a little of what goes on behind the scenes: I had been on standby, for this shot, for several months. Literally we were told that this photoshoot could happen at any moment and that we were to drop everything we were doing and get it done. The only other time I have been on standby like this was when Nelson Mandela died. This was the level of importance we placed into this shoot.
Even still, it came as a surprise when at 6pm our editor Methil Renuka, calls us on from her holiday in Kerala, India, to tell us that the photoshoot would happen the next morning. Such is the dedication and drive of this team that we are always on our phones.
Over a scratchy public telephone line, from who knows where in the jungle, Renuka says: “It’s happening Jay, tomorrow. The shoot’s tomorrow.I can’t hear you but she’s coming tomorrow. Can you hear me????? Jay? …
” then line drop — received in a furniture store parking lot as we were closing up shop with the inside fashion shoot and squeezing lights back into the boot of Kris with a K, our art director’s, Renault Megan.
So the Forbes Africa Team had less than 24 hours. We were to be given 45 minutes. Then the emails and phone calls began.
If you are familiar with the media business, it can take weeks to organize the personnel needed to organize a shoot. It is a near on impossible to organize lights, a stylist, make up artist, venue, snacks, photographer and an assistant in 24 hours. But we did it.
Luckily with such a big name many people are willing to drop what they are doing to collaborate. The Radisson, in Sandton, graciously lent us their penthouse suite for the day to set up lights and plan the shoot.
We were able to get into the venue, set up lights and be ready in time for her excellency. Time is the key word word here.
It took two hours to set up the lights, move the furniture and plan, shot by shot, pose by pose, how we were going to do this to maximize our limited time Dlamini-Zuma.
But no photoshoot goes according to plan. Ever.
Remember when I said that we had 45 minutes: Well it took the make up artist 45 minutes. Thus when Dlamini-Zuma came into the room, she should have already have left.
Dlamini-Zuma is wonderful lady, very polite and friendly to talk with. But, it is amazing that someone who is able to stand up in front of millions of people and make a speech can be shy in front of the camera. Our prep work had prepared us for this fact – she’s not a professional model. That’s part of our job at Forbes Africa, getting the subject to come out of their shell and let their true self shine through.
We introduced ourselves, had a bit of a chit chat to release the tension in the room and got to work. I aim to get the subject to forget about all the people in the room and the bright lights. If you, as the photographer, act professionally, are composed, and act as if you know what you are doing that confidence will shine through and you can get your subject to relax.
The time flew. We had managed to squeeze a half hour with several poses and interior magazine shots. Dlamini-Zuma shook our hands, said thanks for the photoshoot and ambled out the door.
Time to shoot: 30 minutes
Time to prepare for 30 minute shoot: 2 hours set-up, less than 24 hours to organize a team of helpers, a 45 minute make over and a phone call from India to set it off.
Publication – Forbes Africa Magazine, July 2015 edition