Picture It

First Photo Walk in Monkey Bay

Posted in Malawi by stefaniegiglio on 25 May 2010

The church in Monkey Bay, Malawi.

When I woke up this morning, it was cloudy—perfect light for photography.  Franc was going to town, so I went along with him to take pictures even though I don’t have any model releases printed yet.  He dropped me off at the church before he continued on to the harbor.  We agreed to meet later on.

The church is by far the tallest building in the town.  It’s made of reddish brick, but otherwise looks very similar to any Western church, complete with a bell tower.  I expected the inside to be simple brick, just like the outside, but I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in.  The walls around the altar had enormous elaborate paintings of people reaching almost to the ceiling.  The walls along the pews were colorfully decorated with words on Chewa.  The pews were very simple, but the walls were so beautiful that I hardly noticed.

Inside the church in Monkey Bay, Malawi.

Kids playing on the porch of the church in Monkey Bay, Malawi.

I was in the church all of 30 seconds when I was surrounded by a group of kids.  They watched quietly as I took two photos in the inside of the church.  Then one boy boldly stepped in front of my camera.  I took three photos of him before he was joined by another boy.  I took one photo of him as the rest of the group crept closer and closer.

I motioned to all the kids to go outside since I didn’t want them to start jumping all over the pews in the chaos that I knew would ensue once I turned my camera towards the group.  The sun had finally broken through the clouds, so I motioned the kids into the shade of the porch.  I snapped off one photo of the group before they started jumping all over the place, trying to be in front of everyone else.  I kept having to tell them to move back because they would get less than six inches away from my camera, which means I couldn’t see more than an eye or nose, let alone focus!  They danced, showed me their kung-fu moves, and pretended to be Buddha (while yelling “Buddha!  Buddha!”).

Boy Laughing in Monkey Bay, Malawi

Eventually I had to leave the kids to explore the rest of the town.  They were having a great time being photographed, but I had already popped off over 50 shots of them.  I wandered down the street until a group of teens running a booth called me over.  They were excited to see me, but nervous and embarrassed to be photographed, despite asking me to photograph them.  One boy was obviously much more embarrassed than the rest—he couldn’t stop laughing!  He laughed and laughed until he could barely breathe.  His friends laughed at him laughing, and I laughed at them laughing at him.  Our laughter drew a crowd of spectators in the road, so I showed them their photos (which initiated a new round of laughter) and moved on.

A mother and her daughter in Monkey Bay, Malawi

I went down a small alley full of shops where I bought a backpack yesterday.  I wanted to photograph the shopkeeper I bought from, but I couldn’t find him.  A lady came up to me asked me my name, my father’s name, and where I was from, then asked me to take her picture in her shop.  After taking her picture (and then the photos of four other shopkeepers), I asked if I could photograph her outside.  She agreed, but said I must photograph her with her first born.  She pulled her daughter into the frame, but the daughter did not look very pleased about it all.  I snapped off a few photos of the pair and tried to finish quickly for the daughter’s sake.

A man eating sugar cane on the porch of the mill in Monkey Bay, Malawi.

Back on the road, a man eating a stick of sugar cane called me over.  He was sitting on the front porch of the mill.  He asked me in Chewa to take his photo (one of the few things in Chewa I understand!), and I happily obliged.  Once again, a crowd, small this time, came to watch me.  I photographed a young girl, and when another came and asked to be photographed as well, an older woman jumped in front of her and asked that I pay her first.  I told her that I only pay people who will sign a model release, and since I didn’t have any model releases, I wouldn’t be paying anyone today.  I don’t know if she understood me, but she talked back in Chewa and laughed, so I don’t think there were any hard feelings either way.

Part of a family in the mill in Monkey Bay, Malawi.

I asked the girl if I could photograph her inside the mill and she agreed.  I ended up photographing at least one (might have been two) families inside the mill before Franc picked me up outside.

If was only a short photo walk, maybe just under an hour, but I got some fun photos.  I also drew a lot of attention to myself, which means people will start to get to know me.  That’s important if I want people to trust me enough to allow me to take some intimate candids in the future.  All in all, things went well!  I can’t wait to get some model releases and spend more time with these people.

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One Response

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  1. Jaymelee said, on 26 May 2010 at 5:37 pm

    You will never cease to amaze and inspire me!


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