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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Walk in Durban..

My final morning in South Africa was perhaps the most memorable moment of all. While I thoroughly enjoyed being at the Australia/Germany game and breathing in the atmosphere of all that was going on, there is nothing like a 'photo walk' through foreign city streets. The joy of that experience is twofold at least. Firstly, there is the joy I find always in taking photographs. Secondly, there is the memorable connection you make with a stranger, a moment with a person you meet and whose company you enjoy. I am a gregarious person by nature, and the joy of photographing that person is accompanied by the chance to interact with someone of another mindset, another culture, another language or location. Walking with Madlen, Shem and Teymur through the streets of Durban on our final morning in South Africa proved to be just that kind of experience.There would be many who would not recommend it at all. In fact, there were. Our driver, Earnest, was not keen at all. When we mentioned our desire to be dropped off in down town Durban, you could tell by his reserved but manifest concern that he did not like the idea at all. But, we were not going to be walking alone and we were there in broad daylight. Not only that, but Teymur is a pretty big fella, so I know I felt safe enough! It didn't matter that he probably wouldn't hurt a fly. But I am not one to live my life in a box. I believe that people take bigger risks in every day life. I also believe that there is a balance to be found. I would not, for instance, do this on my own. Neither would I recommend it. Downtown Durban is a rough place. But, it sure was interesting.Stopping a group of young men headed for the beach was our first social experiment. Madlen, knowing that I run a photography workshops business that educates photographers around the world, asked me for a lesson in photography and so I got into the zone. A white wall upon which the South African sun was pouring all of its unforgiving contents was to be our backdrop. Madlen was keen to know what could be done with it. Kismet would dictate that just at that moment, a group of young men would pass by and grant us an opportunity to prove what a white wall could do. All we needed to do was ask. That was perhaps the hard part. After all,what would their response be?They were shy at first, and not at all rough or intimidating. Rather, they were happy to pose against the wall and in the end came up with some ideas of their own. They laughed as we showed them the images we were taking and I was reminded that they had probably never had a formal photo session in their lives. These handsome young men were very friendly and obliged us with anything we asked.
"Yoobie keffle witt dem kemrez, eh!"
Turning into a crossing street, a man in a hat came out into the street to meet us. "Yoobie keffle witt dem kemrez, eh?" he said in a very South African accent, obviously concerned that the tens of thousands of dollars of camera gear we were carrying would find its way into the hands of members of the local community. Immediately I asked him if he would pose for a portrait against the plain blue wall of his gambling establishment. He was happy to do so, but only after shaking all our hands and offering us his name. Philip. He once again stated his concern for us, knowing that we were from out of town. Then, pulling down his shirt across his right shoulder he was proud to reveal his 'war wound', a scar resulting from a stab wound he received in that very street. I, in turn was happy to photograph him doing so.The morning proved to be like that again and again. Interaction upon interaction, image upon image. For me, it is a perfect way to begin and/or end my time in any city. It gives me my own feel for the place, my own memories and my own perspective. It allows me the chance to assess for myself what a community or culture is like, based upon my own personal experience. I understand that the experience and the resulting assessment of it is not based upon extensive research or weeks of time spent, but it is nonetheless untainted in the same way. A few hours of pleasant interaction and engagement coupled with the joy of taking photographs is a perfect and far more pleasant means by which I get to remember my travels and the cultures and communities I encounter. I don't care if its accurate. I don't even care if its a mite quixotic. I probably actually prefer it that way.


teymur madjderey said...

wonderful post my friend!
it really was a pleasure spending time with you!

Shelton Muller said...

Thanks Teymur! It was great being with you on the streets of Durban, mate! I hope we get a chance to shoot together again sometime!

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller