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Apparently I Took This Photo

Zanzibar Alley

Zanzibar. 15 January 1998. 1 second @ f22


One of my more significant failings is a tendency to not see things through. Great at starting stuff, not so good at finishing. This is as much evident with my photography as with any other aspect of my life and manifests itself in great effort expended on getting the photo, then, well nothing really.

So it is with this image. It is one of many I took on my large format camera when travelling through Africa at the end of last century. I took it more than 22 years ago and yet have only just seen it for the first time as a positive a few days ago. And then only because I have photographed and inverted the negative on my smartphone.

To be fair, at least I took it. That after all, is the important thing. And I can see why; I was obviously attracted to the geometrical poetry of this scene. What I could not have planned is the young girl stepping into shot and posing in that way. Where did she learn that?

She of course makes the image because she gives it a focal point. More than that however, she makes me at least, wonder about who she is. If she is four here, she must be around 26 now. What has become of her? The photo can't answer these questions but it sure as hell asks them.

But here is the other thing; had I not taken this photo, I do not think I would have any recollection of being here. I didn’t even know it was Zanzibar until I looked up notes I kept at the time. Which goes to show photography’s ability to point to the frailty of our memories. And if my memories of being in Zanzibar (and indeed the rest of Africa at that time) are to crumble to dust, what value can I now ascribe to having been there?

Well, at least I have a photo.



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