Isolating a Subject – Children in Africa

If anyone knows how, please let me know!!! 🙂

Northern Cameroon.

     …and I am serious. From my experience, when they (the kids) see a camera, they come running …full speed …as close as they can get …as fast as they can. Mouths a smiling, arms a flailing and legs a movin’. I thought of this posting through a few comments I received on my “Why are You Complaining?” post. They were all very good comments with valid questions or ways of interpreting the photo, so I figured before I go any further I would explain any future photos of children.

      On the subject of the “poor and unfortunate” children in Africa, as and often portrayed on those TV commercials and NGO ads as absolutely miserable kids living in total squalor. …that is actually laughable. Those poor, unfortunate, miserable kids are some of the happiest children I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, interacting and playing with. If I do post a photo that makes the children or subject look miserable, I will either tell you a story about why, or I don’t mean the photo to be miserable. Alot of times I choose an angle for a photo based on the background, especially when it comes to portraits and especially when it comes to the children in Africa. The children there (and I am using “Africa” very loosely as I haven’t seen much of it) are probably the toughest lesson in isolationism I have ever had. After trying too a few times I just about gave up and “went with the flow”. If they want to get close than so be it. Use it and make the best of the situation. I do have to say that this is a very good moment in time to decide to interact and learn about the children and forget about the “perfect” photo …probably the best moment that you could decide this. Trying to curve their enthusiasm is probably just about impossible and why would you want to anyway. They are having fun. Join the crowd!!! Figured I would post a bunch of my attempts at “Isolationism” throughout my Africa experiences …some of the best memories I have of the trip. So I guess you could say it was a photographic experience gone bad that has turned into a life experience gone good.

     HA. Poor, unfortunate children… How many three or four year olds do you know in rich western families that care they have money. Truthfully, I don’t know many, if any, that even know what money is. Just a piece of paper to chew on of a shiny thing to play with. The photo above taken in Waza, Northern Cameroon. Everyone wanted their picture taken …but no one had the patience to wait. Go with the Flow!!! Photos below all taken in Waza, Cameroon also. These kids were great. So happy, so energetic, so …whew. Kids are kids, no matter where. Money has nothing to do with it.

     Don’t feel like playing that game. Want a different angle. Well, climb a tree …or lay on the ground …cause you ain’t gonna move these kids without doing something drastic… Waza again below. …it was hot out, and I was tired, so I layed on the ground. The children here are quite concerned, but not too concerned as I was still taking photos. They were probably actually more questioning my insanity than my health.

     Ok, this seems to be turning into a whole lot of Cameroon shots so I’ll list it as Cameroon and keep the rest of the photos out, but believe me, whether it’s Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, India, Nepal, United States, or wherever …children are children. The most important thing in a child’s life. Have fun. Sorry, not money, and not worrying about money or anything else for that matter.

     It was tough at first, not getting that “quintessential African child” portrait, but as the days went by, it became easier and easier as the children became much more than just a photo. Start to interact with them, talk to them, play with them, and you forget all about those NGO ads.

     Forget. Heck, you actually start to question those ads. Scratch your head. Ask yourself where the heck did they get those photos and videos from? I actually came home from a trip one time and the next week saw a commercial on TV that was supposedly taken at the place I was just at. Didn’t really look like what I saw, but hey, I wasn’t pushing for money either…

     OK. Another short posting that has turned into a thousand worder. Bottom line is, children are children, no matter where you’re at. I never mean to show them as poor and unfortunate, and I don’t really have anything against NGO’s. There are good ones and there are bad ones. I really don’t think anyone working for them are really trying to do anything but good, and to help. I think it has just come to the point where the bottom line for a lot of people is money. Just remember, especially when, or if, you go a poorer country of the world, that children ARE just children. Often a smile is worth more than anything money can provide. Make them smile. Make them laugh. Make them be children. Sometimes it is all you can do. Sometimes it’s the best anyone can do and it IS the best thing to do. Come home with some great memories and some great photographs, but let your camera come in between you and your subject. Have fun. Have fun with your subject. Make sure your subject is having fun with you, and I can guarantee that almost always your photos will be better and hold a better memories of your trip and of the people you meet.

     Ehhh. Wait a minute. Here are a few more from Cameroon. There is a “resort” type hotel on the southern shore of Lake Lagdo in North-Central Cameroon run by a German couple. It is sort of “falling into disrepair”, but is still an absolutely beautiful place to stay at an absolutely beautiful location. The name of the “resort” is Lagon Bleu. All “bungalow” style rooms with plenty of main meeting areas and even a bar with a huge fireplace. Right on, and overlooking the shores and a beautiful beach on Lake Lagdo. Right out the front gate is an especially gorgeous and animated village amid the rock formations. I arrived on the perfect day and was just in time to watch the local football games the next day…

     The photo in the upper left is actually one of my favorites and most memorable from all of my Africa experiences. Technically, absolute junk, but it’s not always about the technicals. …I walk into the game as the boys are playing. I pull out my camera. One boy sees it. Mass Chaos. Everyone just comes charging over all at once. They all want their pictures taken. They are all screaming “ETO, ETO, ETO” (For those who don’t know, well, here: Eto’o – every Cameroon boys hero). Ok. I tell em’ to go play. Don’t let me stop them. Go. GOOOOOOooo…. So they start playing again, than, a minute later, run over again to check the pictures I have taken on my LCD. They run back and play. Someone scores. They charge me again. Everyone wanting to see the goal. They run back to play. …a minute later they charge me again. Over and over… All fun, but I figured I better leave before I totally ruin the game. Still, one of my fondest memories of Africa. They were having fun, and the fact that they had a spectator made it more fun, and the fact that the spectator had a digital camera made it even more fun… All smiles. Priceless. So, isolating children in Africa. Anyone?


7 comments on “Isolating a Subject – Children in Africa

  1. This is so awesome! And you are absolutely right; very difficult to isolate them! I went to Ethiopia and Rwanda last year and the children are SO.MUCH.FUN! 🙂 They are filled with so much love and joy and energy and curiosity and in spite of their circumstances (which they have no idea are bad), they are the happiest kids I’ve ever met. I can’t wait to go back. 🙂

    I’m curious…what has taken you all over the world? Just personal pursuit? Work? Missions? My ‘Bucket List’ contains visiting 100 different countries. I gotta lotta work to do. 🙂

    • Thanks again snowleopard …and ya know, from my experiences, it almost seems that the less money one has, the happier they become. – as a culture that is, not as individuals. Almost like Money is a barrier to happiness. Some of the absolute happiest people and children I have met have been the poorest…

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