Today I’m writing about my experience photographing local Namibian people while visiting my mother in Grootfontein, Namibia. My mother is a manager at a fresh produce shop and she told the shop workers (Caroline, Petrina, Frans and Simon) that I’m coming and that I’ll take their picture and get it printed. To avoid lots of people turn up wanting prints and things getting out of hand, we told them that they will have to pay for the prints of the image only (about 40p). They were obviously all very excited, because most of them never even had their picture taken. So the 2nd day I went to work with my mum, I took my camera with me. They where very disappointed that I did not turn up with it on day one! As soon as they greeted me they asked if I brought my camera. Yes, yes, but they have to wait till lunch time to have any photos taken. So after showing them I did in fact have my camera with me, they were happy to wait :) So lunch time came and after talking to them I realized I had to completely rethink my approach. Telling them about the light coming from the back looking pretty etc etc will cause confusion. Also, I had to take the photos at mid-day… in Namibia… Luckily there was a little shaded garden area at the factory’s office. This was very handy. So off I went on my 1st shoot :)
This is Petrina. She was very nervous in front of the camera. The difficult part was to get her to look at the camera without patronising her or making her feel silly. I tried a few things to get some different poses, but it was not working. So I just had to relax and go with what I had in front of me. With her is her baby boy. He was a little scared because he didn’t understand me. Petrina told me he’s not use to white people. He was SO cute and I just wanted to cuddle him, but there wasn’t enough time to ‘make friends’ with him and get him to trust me. But the best part is that she LOVED the photos and that it was the first photos of her boy. Photos she’ll be able to keep forever.
This is Simon, 23. He made me laugh so much and his innocence is just so refreshing. Whenever I told him to smile he would partly stick out his tongue and bite on it ~ this was him trying to smile. We would all have a good laugh and then he would have the perfect smile. Then I would tell him: ‘Yes, smile like that again.’ As soon as the camera comes up, hallo funny face! I asked him if he had a mirror at home to practice his smile in. He said no. So I told him to look at his reflection in the shop window and practice his smile. The posing started and we had to drag him away from the window :) The posing helped and I got some nice pictures of him. He wanted to look at himself over and over on the back of the camera because he just couldn’t believe it was him. He also asked my how I managed to get the colour of his skin so light (awww!). So I told him that I press a special button on the camera and then the camera does it. Clever camera ;) When I gave him his prints he kept stroking it saying: ’Dis baie mooi.’ Which means it’s very pretty. Awww!
Look at the hands. This is how they pose to look cool. All his friends were really jealous of this photo! I kind of just let him do what ever poses he wanted to do :)
This is Frans, a real poser and to cool for school ;) I told him to wear his best clothes. He turned up with this ‘Paradise Wildlife’ t-shirt I gave him the day before…
This is Selma, Petrina’s friend. She works in the factory and one afternoon she had 5 min left of her lunch and asked me if I could take a quick photo of her so she can see what it looks like. So I took a quick, very simply portrait of her. I think I can see a bit of diva in there :)
She loved her photo so much that she came back at the end of the month to get more taken. With her new found confidence and hairstyle, we were able to capture these. No surprise, her boyfriend ordered a set as well.
And here is the lovely Caroline and her girls:
And here’s a few photos of other factory workers. This is Sara and her daughter.
And this is Elizabeth.
And yes, they like their straps showing… it’s fashion to them!
So what has stayed with me from this experience? I will never forget the feeling of giving someone the gift of a photograph, something we easily take for granted. I will never forget Simon’s reaction when he saw his face on my camera for the first time. The total experience was just miles apart from what I’ve experienced before behind the camera. It made me think so differently about life and it made me treasure the little things in life. We have SO much to be grateful for.
Now you are probably thinking that there must be someone in town that can take their photo? Yes, there is a ‘studio’. The place I got the photos printed at has a little room they take photos in. I watched them once while I was waiting for my prints. The room is small and it’s super hot in there. People are sweating and the babies are crying. The photographer is just standing there with a sour face waiting for the people to get in line. No direction, no encouragement, noting. Like I said, its hot in there. So people’s faces are sweaty. Dark skin + sweaty faces + full on flash = not very nice photos. And the worse part? Their photo ‘enlargements’ are photos printed on A4 COPY paper for £6!!! Really? It makes me sad just thinking about it again…