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United in Grief, Remembering Chris Kaba by Elainea Emmott

1 March 2023

On a Saturday in October 2022 I happened upon a protest at New Scotland Yard, Westminster, which I had been unable to attend the week before. The family of the murdered young black man, Chris Kaba, whom the police had chased and killed were awaiting the final stages of justice. These protests are very raw to me - grief was evident in the many who showed up for him and his family.

I am a self-taught photographer, and I learned by teaching myself to use an analogue camera after a motorbike accident. I progressed to digital but treat my images with the same care, framing and questioning as I take a few considered frames. This was the case on this day, as I stood at the back of the podium listening to the speeches and heckles from the crowd. As I was watching I noticed a relative come off stage. His friends were rushing to the back of the stage and he suddenly saw them and their arms opened as he stumbled into them with such emotion. I always signal that I am going to take a photograph, with an arm gesture or words - I touched his hand, he opened his eyes, looked at me and then I took the picture, framed as you can see now. I often get very close at first, with permissions and this was no exception.

Having been doing this since 2015 I had begun to feel very jaded and poor doing so. As a rarity – a woman - and even rarer a black woman aged 54, it has never been easy to get booked for corporate jobs or magazine/newspaper jobs - rather the opposite - I couldn’t hire studios, or get anywhere, so I felt I had to give up on that dream, head back to corporate offices and support my son as divorced single mum of a wonderful man with autism. A fellow photographer suggested I enter the Portrait of Britain competition last year, but I declined as I needed the money to put food on the table rather than waste it with competitions. But on the very last day with one hour remaining, I decided to enter, despite the £40 entry fee. This image was picked as a winning finalist by BJP, published by Hoxton Mini Press and displayed on billboards around the UK.

The award has given me confidence. I have always been creative in whatever I do, but it never seems to pay - now I feel a renewed vigour in learning again and creating better work weekly. Whilst I still work full time in a stressful demanding job in the city, I would like very much to work collaboratively devoting more time to my art. I am particularly interested in women and people that look like me, who are different - I feel that this is my place, producing work of humanity which makes people feel something. I will do this work for life, perfecting my art well into my 90’s God Willing – my fire is stronger now than it has ever been and I intend to quietly produce pictures until the end of my days.

Elainea Emmott is a London-based portrait and protest photographer.

Emmott is a winner of Women Street Photographers 2023 - New York City Exhibition 14-16 April 2023

And of Portrait of Britain 2022 - Bravery and resilience: Portrait of Britain Volume 5


See more work by Elainea Emmott

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