“If you are foreigner man living in Durban this program is gonna help you to improve your health and to prevent some kinds of diseases which can lead you to early death…”
The late winter sun and the hustling of taxis filter through the window to my back, I know Dr Emmanuel Tshimanga as a Congolese parking attendant at Davenport Shopping Centre here in Durban, South Africa. The Emmanuel in front of me here glows with some sort of inner light, he has such piercing eyes, doing now what has been bubbling up within him, trained as a doctor in the DRC and now just waiting for his South African Health Council number, he is here advising fellow foreign men on how to cope with their health.
The tall standing figure of Dr Tshimanga flows without effort between French, kiSwahili and English using voice, eyes and hands to get the 3 men on my right up to speed on the subject of stress.
I will come back for pictures when I have consent from the Director and of all in this room. For now I am just seeing my friend in a new light.
I now have some European editors in waiting for my proposed inner Durban City stories…
But without connection and trust these sort of stories will never touch down on sensor or film as still to be decided, so today is about connecting with a friend and building a trust for tomorrow…
As JP Sudre states in Photography A middle-brow Art. “The subject that I photograph is ephemeral… photography alone captures a precise moment… which disappears and which cannot be brought back to life, hence my distress and also the essential originality of my profession. What could be more transient then a facial expression? Within these words of Sudre lies the importance of the cameras we as photographers use. Alongside the importance of the ephemeral moments that photography alone can capture, revisting the technology inherent in the camera systems that we use, as photographers trying to capture these moments, is of great importance too. I as a photographer use a ‘M6 rangefinder camera for important personal projects when possible.
Portraiture has been at the heart of photography from the start. A good portrait is much more then a likeness of someone, a good portrait tells something about the subject, like the importance of family for Roanne Trigg in the above photograph. To do this the photographer and subject need a base of trust and to connect first, only then the spirit might come through the lens and touch down the sensor and then only for a micro second… John Robinson
In 2004 I was in The Sudan taking pictures for an international pacifist aid agency.
After taking pictures in IDP camps in Darfur of people who were raped, burned and generally f***ed up by the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia. I was stopped by security officers at the Nyala Airport on our way back to Khartoum with my camera, detailed notes and the client’s 40 rolls of films… I was allowed onto the flight with the assurance that I would be taken aside by more government men on landing in Khartoum.
While we flew out of Darfur a deep sense of peace descended down over me while sitting in that seat on the Marsland Aviation Tupolev airplane , I prayed to God for a way out, heard a voice saying that I was his loved son had to just accept his peace and walk on… He would position the hole in the net that I was caught in, I just had to walk on and trust him to do the rest.
I looked around the cabin for government agents, I was trying to do things my way and the deep sense of peace lifted up off me with the words “do you want my peace or not?” I re accepted the peace and it fell right down tangibly over me again.
I walked down off the Tupolev on the airport apron with my camera, notebook and film right pass a reception of about 6 men who did nothing to stop me, again in the airport building 2 police officers ran into the terminal building where we landed looking for someone again they ran right straight past me.
A few days later an Italian Roman Catholic nun approached me in the Athbarah Comboni Mission Centre; she said that she just had to hug me because she felt that I needed it; and I did need it after Darfur.
Back at our hotel in Khartoum a journalist from a Nairobi based news service offered to secret my film out of the country with all their camera kit for me…
I believe that God is true to his word; and loves us so deeply and can be trusted. He did position holes right where I needed them and I, my kit and pictures got out of the net that I felt to be caught in in The Sudan and then added a much needed hug because he can.
Mark Cook has sold his own old furnature out of a garage in Glenwood, Durban, South Africa for about 25 years.
Jessica and Mark Byerley in Jessica Byerley’s home at 43 Cromwell Road, Glenwood, durban.
Jessica on a red sofa and Mark Cook with his private garage sales, 2 environmental portraits by John Robinson.
The environmental portrait is a telling photograph of a person or group of people, it gives the viewer insight into an aspect of these people’s lives. In a FaceBook world of hyper happy selfies the environmental can introduce into the conversation a sense of calm and connection between the Subject and the viewer.
The environmental portrait has always been my first love in photography; and I offer environmental portraits in the Durban area done on A3 cotton rag art paper of yourself and or group for ZAR 1000.00 per print.
The relationship between people and their God is a soulful place, belief is such a strong force; and there is very little that can break that system. I know this from my own relationship with God or Abba Father. I commune and walk in this space too.
To take out a camera in a place of worship is not something I can do lightly, I have to be trusted and walk through these flowers with out a hint of damage, each picture will be seen by those in that place and as a fellow worshipper I am not an outsider that can get away and never come back after the stems are broken and petals crushed.
The moments taken are considered first before committed to a place in the public space. I also know of no better tool then a 35mm film based rangefinder camera for this work, there is no hurry in this way of work; and thus plenty of time for the considering of the fall out from my actions on the day…
Papa, you and I know both know that he doesn’t need to go… Yes M, that is the case and quite frankly I wish he too would soon come to a place where he could just have the freedom to know that I love him no matter. It’s an order M, just keep an eye on him while he is at that Sunday morning meeting, they call it church and anything could happen to my beloved while there…
Yes M, that’s what these people call it now; yes, I know it’s nothing of the sort of what I wanted, but it is what it has become…
But the other ‘messengers’ are all going biking… And some are looking after some beloved in both trenches in that minor war, that’s what I am trained for, it’s what we all are trained for Papa!
Danger is all over M, including this religion thing called church, there is a very real danger in this thing too…
The men are drinking quarts of Black Label upstairs while the woman folk are rubbing down my host’s wife with peanut butter and tomato sauce in the courtyard at the back of the building in a well humoured anticipation of an addition to the host’s family.
The man talk is of a celebrity visit to South Beach; and there are strong views on this issue: will South Beach be graced to this magnitude or will the area once again be left out in the cold?
The blue walls of this building contain dramas that could feed a T.V. series for a season or two. Outside in “piss alley” the road is controlled by the Congolese, inside the building my host’s brother rules the realities of life. The building has about 14 flats rented to people who cannot afford beach front apartments on the golden mile… Little big eyes and her peanut covered mommy come back from the courtyard and her daddy is shocked by what the women have done to his babe.
The fast beats of tech music fill the background of beer and men talk all afternoon, the brothers are close and the under current of the talk is coping with life and concern that hurt is kept away from the family. Hurt and life is interrupted by asking for this or that tune to be played. Our ‘beer talk’ is mixed with two plates of cake, pretzel sticks, sweets and cookies and a bowl of sugared pop corn from the baby shower in the courtyard.
I place a blanket over the little girl who is soon to be ‘big sister,’ not even strange visitors and cartoons on the T.V. can keep her upright. My bicycle ride home is delayed by a swapping of movies and series for .jpg files of family pics I have done for the host in the past.
My ride home on Lady of Loreto, I named my bicycle after a patron saint of flying, is stopped for the fuel of a mutton curry pie on Maydon Road past the back of the Durban Port to my room in Woodlands in south Durban.
“There is nothing new in this world” – Ecclesiastes, the preacher, son of David, King in Jerusalem.
When I first got a camera in my hands it was personal; at this point in my life I work well with leather and have started again to make a financial way for myself. Photography has always been a personal thing, now as ever it has always been…
Max and Jason gave me a day job as a leather smith, it’s been a game changer for me I am good at this leather thing and I can get much better too. I feel that where there is leather there is a way forward for me also. I say the following to Max and Jason, “we have a long way together still”.
I have written about perception in the past and it’s personal, now with leather in my picture I am freed to shoot personal, for myself and the best is still to come on all fronts…