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The Camera Sometimes Lies

Looks can be deceiving. And I am not talking about Photoshop chicanery here. Its just that the camera is an unreliable narrator. Take the image above. What it remains resolutely mute about is that which is off-camera which in this case is about 100 bemused locals looking on. This is in the northern city of Zaria in Nigeria, sometime in 1998 and I had not long since alighted from a Land Rover that was taking me across the continent - a journey that was to take about 18 months. Having seen the building and very unusual architecture, I pulled out my large format camera and soon disappeared under the focusing cloth. I definitely got the feeling that I was something of a rarity.

Does that make this image a lie? I’m not sure, but I know it doesn’t accord with the experience of being there.

I loved that large format camera and learnt a few tricks using it. One, which I employed here, was to have a bulb release which, once the camera was prepared, I placed under my foot thus enabling a degree of candidness which would otherwise be lacking. I was lucky; once I had composed and focused, my subject wandered into shot and struck this beautiful, laconic pose. To the onlookers, it will have looked as if I didn’t take a photo at all, which I think explains the sense of anti-climax I thought I detected as I packed up the camera and continued my journey.

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