Most photographers will tell you that the best photographs are the ones that show the so called window to the soul. I would be one of them.
My best photographs are those where the people I captured show a little bit of their humanity, a glimpse into their soul, something that in the moment touches me in a special way.
Like this young man’s sadness, surrounded by people but alone with his own thoughts.
Or this carpet seller at the bazar whose hopelessness made me go back and buy a carpet I didn’t need. I will never forget his joy and excitement once I showed interest. Happy for a windfall in difficult times.
And this gardener, holding a delicate fragrant flower in his hand in a moment of reflexion.
Or this musician and dancer who closes his eyes to feel the rhythm and forgets about the world around. He was the face of my first exhibition.
These are the kind of pictures I thrive for.
People have had various reactions to photographs in the different countries I have lived.
In Kenya there were some tribes that didn’t like to be photographed but others appreciated having a memory of a special event. Like the man that worked for me, Kaindi.
One time I went to his village, it was the first time foreigners visited it. The whole village came to greet us, it was an experience I will never forget. I felt privileged to have been invited. His father showed me around their land, explaining what they planted around the year.
Kaindi had told me he would like to have what was called a tree of life. A tree that was considered good fortune. I had brought one as an offering and together we planted it. They built a protection around it so the goats couldn’t get to it. Then we went to their house and washed our hands with water from the well. We were offered Coca Cola and bread and butter because they thought we would feel safer that way. I was very touched by their care and by the welcome we received.
I took pictures of the villagers who consented and Kaindi posed with his father, his wife and kids, proud to show me his family. Later I printed copies, the paper they used was not good but he was so happy he had these. His family had never taken pictures before. Later that year his father died. He thanked me again for having given him those pictures. He said that way he would never forget his father, as if the pictures would be proof of his existence in this earth.
I wish I could show you these pictures. With the constant movings over the years, some things got lost or vanished. I still haven’t lost hope I will find them one day.
In Mexico, some indigenous people felt a photograph could steal their soul. So it wasn’t always easy to be able to capture those special moments. I had to be discrete and always respect when people told me no. Some pictures may not be that sharp but they are memories that I will always treasure.
Like this family working together to make palm crosses outside a church during Easter.
Or the devotion and emotion shown during a procession.
So can photographs really steal our soul?
They don’t of course. But sometimes we can have a peek. Even when we know a person deeply, she is the only one that can know her soul.
Photographs show instead glances into our humanity. In this time of lockdowns, I’m hearing from many people how disconnected they feel, how isolated. How hard it is not to touch, kiss and embrace. I hope these trying times don’t take these special moments away. I pray masks are not here to stay permanently, hiding those special moments when we show our emotions and share our feelings with others.