When I arrived at the Palace of the Republic, the audience members had not yet all been seated, but Amanat was already waiting at the front of the auditorium. I got past the security by speaking only in English and waving my camera in their faces; they probably thought I was a foreign photographer invited especially for the event! Once I had found my spot I stayed with Amanat while the graduates sang the national anthem.
Then it was just a matter of waiting until his group was called out. While Amanat was helped onto the stage (no disability access here!), I was able to sprint to the other end of the stage ready to shoot him receiving his degree. I shot off about 5 frames since I knew I had the one chance and people were blinking because the hired photographer was using a strobe.
After the awards ceremony I offered to take some portraits in front of the stand, for which I used flash because they had to have the family snapshot feel.
These images were so important to my project that I took the day off work! Once I had decided that Amanat was to represent education and the importance of hard work and not giving up, as well as the idea of inclusion at the university, I knew this was a key occasion. The photographs themselves are nothing special, but what they depict is vital for this project. Here subject matter trumps form.