Friday, July 17


Girl Scout, Mityana, Uganda 8/14
A white man
Pointed a
Long lens at

Which made the
Girl scout.... chary.

A friend asked me how to create original moody backgrounds for portraits. This was the product of a tutorial  exercise I did for her using a candid image of a lovely, but suspicious girl scout I met in Mityana, Uganda and captured through my Canon 7D through its EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens, hand held. The post was done as  usual in PS 4 with custom background and textures. I mention my skin color since we were the only folks sporting that hue for perhaps fifty miles around us. It is very possible that this girl may have seen no more than a handful of us in our white flesh, outside of Hollywood videos that were everywhere.


Paul said...

I love the portrait and she does look rather suspicious of the photographer. Yet, I see that often when I point a camera at someone. Instantly, the question seems to become: Why is he pointing that thing at me?

On a side note, as a black man who likes to travel, I often end up being the only one in town, or one of the very few. I think that I'd like to take a trip, perhaps, where I am part of the majority. I wonder what that would be like. I don't think that I've ever been in that situation.

What were you doing in Uganda?

Ted said...

This is entirely too long… sorry for two parts Paul but, here goes:

Part 1:

Street portraits intrigue me more than any other aspect of image making. When I was young my mother and father enjoyed sitting on a seaside boardwalk and creating little stories about interesting people as they passed. Tales triggered by gait, posture, body types & language, relationships, and more than anything, faces. It was our evening after-dinner fun on vacations. For hours mom would look for deep stories, dad would look for gentle humor in people and relationships. They’d gently debate the differences in their insights, find ways to reconcile them, and encouraged me to join into the sudden fictions which were never deprecating, yet frequently quite revealing… Revealing of my parents. And so now I love street portraits… Well, a famous photographer, wish I could remember his name, once said… There are two people in every portrait, the subject and the artist.

Yeah, I can imagine the feeling of separateness which people sense, at least at first, when they come upon any group that seems different. But, only once in Africa have I come upon a scene where I felt abruptly different. One night in Kampala we dined at the Sheraton’s exquisite restaurant. It was filled, as you can imagine, with attractive people, dark suited men, women – well not gowned – but coiffed and dressed elegantly. It was crystal, silver, and candles on a large patio served by a uniformed and white-gloved staff. The place you’ll find in any up-market big-city restaurant.

Of the perhaps 150 people sharing drinks and food over gentle jazz (I seem to recall a cabaret piano playing from The Great American Songbook) my small group was the only one, almost entirely white. My native friends knew many in the room and as they came by to speak, I met engineers, bankers, brokers, doctors, a couple of scientists, a minister of health, college professors, a judge, an architect and two authors (one of whom is a playwright) among others. All spoke either British or American accented English.

See Part 2…

Ted said...

Part 2

And I wondered… You know when Kings, Prime Ministers, and Presidents make their grand tours of African nations, followed by a rivulet of media… Where… when the videos and photos were broadcast and published… Where were these Sheraton people? Why instead did I see Presidents playing drums with people in animal skins? Why did I see princes with dancers on tarmacs? Tarmacs to airports which were frequently surrounded by the high energy-line detritus of a functioning infrastructure? And where were the professionals that designed, built, and maintained those things? Maintained and flew the aircraft? The financial people who managed the intricate economics? Where were the educated and accomplished men and women who… who… well occupied Kampala’s Sheraton?

Yea, Uganda’s legacy of British colonialism left it with classes. But among those I met were many who were first or second generation into their successful niches. It is a country where economic mobility allows social mobility, albeit at a disheartening pace. Many in the room were young technologically literate professionals who’d grabbed the keys to this Restaurant through mastery of things mathematical, digital and electronic. Sound familiar?

You should see Africa, not so much to find yourself among darker skinned people like you’ve inherited, but to find yourself among a successful swirl of successful people who entirely share your inheritance. Uganda has one of the highest literacy rates and highest rates of higher education of any third world country. But it is not alone in valuing education and its fruits. There are many African cultures with similar aspirations built in. You need not only take a trip to Africa, but to its Sheratons to reeeeeely get (and probably enjoy) – a culture shock.

What was I doing there? I was assisting in due-diligence for a micro-financing company. In my day-job, I’m an economist. So most of that trip involved going deep into the countryside to meet farmers and small businessmen and women to visually audit the accomplishments which the company claims to its investors. It was pro-bono work.Well, at least I wasn't paid in money… But I came back richer. Oh, and yeah, we did swing through two wild animal preserves, hey… when in Africa, see an elephant, right?

Cedric Canard said...

I'm glad I'm late visiting this blog entry or I might have missed the excellent comments you posted.

Beautiful portrait by the way.

Ted said...

Africa is as much a feeling as a place. More so than anywhere I've gone, even more so than the time I spent studying and traveling in South America. It's as real as pictures I took, and as ephemeral as a melody... one backed by chords full-up with sharps and flats. You know, discordant yet not atonal. Or maybe you don't know... Maybe I don't either. It's a word thing :-) Glad the essay resonated with you, thanks.