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Digging deep to get the photo


Medinat Habu, Egypt

I know lots of people who aren’t particularly in love with photography go to Egypt anyway, but having taken possession of a large format camera, it was kind of inevitable I would find myself there. The temples and antiquity seem to demand the formal approach of such a camera, such is their gravitas. Their nobility.

That formality requires the use of a tripod; the problem being that for reasons I haven’t ever quite understood (or at least sympathised with), the Antiquities Department of Egypt required a fee of around £15 to use one at this location: Medinat Habu. When you are on the road, trying to make your money last as long as possible, that seemed a bit of indulgence so the first time I walked through this temple complex I left my tripod behind.

But then I saw this shot and knew I had to make it happen.

So, I returned with tripod the next day, paid the money, and was able to put my camera at exactly the right point in space and at the right time of day, when the three shafts of sunlight echoed the three columns. Which might have been enough, but there is a particular kind of greed that afflicts the photographer and I also envisaged a figure sitting at the base of the right-hand column. I wanted an aesthetic exclamation mark, but also a sense of scale and a connection with the ancestors who built this.

Which is where baksheesh comes in. Sorry to break this to you, but not all is exactly as it seems. I paid the man something to sit there. Easy money. While I remember the tripod fee, I don’t remember what I paid him, but it would have been considerably less. I would like this photo more if I didn’t have to do this.

Maybe you feel same way.

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