November 4, 2009

Girl with a Camera.

For this post I will borrow words from someone much more eloquent than I. Aidan Hartley, a frontline reporter who covered the atrocities of 1990s Africa, wrote a book called The Zanzibar Chest. A truly captivating book. He writes:

I often wondered why this girl with her necklace of cameras and rucksack had abandoned America so young to come to my home to take photographs. She came from a family of preachers and eye doctors and somehow this ancestry seemed to combine in a young woman who captured with her lens images that told stories of good and evil. I remembered that in Africa some tribes used to believe that a camera is a box with which to capture souls.

Remembering Lizzie's life as a photographer, I am reminded of how "dark" is an epithet that completely fails to describe Africa. Africa is bathed in light, and it's the mornings you recall more than the nights with their noises and vague fears. Lizzie chased the light, rising before dawn, waiting for sunrise, capturing color and shadow, black faces with their depth and warmth, trapping the crescendo of light on film before watching heat leach out all the hues and contrasts, the would become two-dimensional, and faces turn black, blinded by the sun. Long before noon Lizzie used to come back to find me wherever I was and rest until the sun sank; color returned and she went off to capture images of the fading day. At evening, the light had such depth that one could observe the incredible detail of things, as if the continent was made of liquid glass. It peaked, then she put away her camera and settled down to watch as the orange ball of the sun melted into the horizon; all sense of space and distance vanished in seconds. In East Africa darkness falls like a black velvet curtain, and almost before you can adjust you look up to see the moon and wheel of constellations.

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