ROAD TO FREEDOM
This photograph of Paulus and his faithful companion Miesiekind was photographed back in 2006. At the time, I was working on an exhibition called “A Child’s Gaze” and was spending some time photographing children in a rural community out in the North West Province. At that point I had been specialising in fine art photography for four years and felt that my approach was still too static and predictable. Just prior to this assignment I had explored lomography to see if I could discover new boundaries to help advanced my art. For those who don’t know, with lomography one uses a very simple analogue film camera, which offers very limited control. This forces one to take more risk and increases ones reliance on good fortune to get an interesting yet impulsive result. I must confess that up to that point I had not been able to take anything spectacular with my lomo cameras and had shelved the idea for another day. Why is this important, well I really feel that even though I did not get the technique right, my mindset had changed. Allow me to explain - on the day I was busy photographing the children, Paulus and his dog showed up to see what all the fuss was about. I looked up and saw them, knowing immediately that this was a fantastic opportunity.
Normally I would have tried to take control over the shot by using specialised portrait equipment and lighting which I always had available in the car. I would have then engaged the subjects by trying to pose them in some way. Instead (and probably influenced by the lomo approach), I dealt with the situation very differently. Firstly, knowing that I would be shooting at about 2meters I set my lens’ focus to that distance, I preset my camera settings to the light and then only moved over to shoot. I went up and shook his hand, introducing myself. I explained that I was a photographer and would like to take his photograph. He humbly laughed and said that he was far too old for pictures, while all this time his dog watched on. I assured him that he would look fantastic and with his permission I took a few pictures. He stood for a minute or two, laughing. He told me all about Meisiekind while was photographing him and then suddenly decided that all the attention was too much or him. He thanked me and turned away still laughing and his dog, as if in perfect sync to her owner’s movements, turned with him.
I was not looking though the viewfinder when I got this shot, rather using an intuitive approach I continued shooting as he walked off. Normally after any shoot I can pretty much recall each and every shot, this time I had no idea of what I had taken. Later after processing the results I saw this picture on the contact sheet. I cannot contain my excitement! A few weeks later I went back and took Paulus a copy of the picture in a frame. Since this photograph I have learned a great lesson in photography. It’s really not only about what we see, but rather more about what we feel. Cartier Bresson, a great photographer and one of my great mentors once said that we need to photograph moments like these as a thief in the night. Spontaneous freedom capturing special moments that will never be repeated and never be forgotten.