I mean it, this is not another list of street photography tips. Neither is it one of those annoying ‘Obama Caught Pants Down’ kind of titles that deceive us into opening links. We hate to be duped but gossip draws us in!
This is about why people in Mombasa’s streets will steer away from your lens if they think you want to capture them.
Aiming a camera at a stranger’s face in any street has a distinctively thwarting sensation, especially to a beginner. It explains why Street Photography Tips is a common topic among upcoming photographers wishing to taste the waters. Should you decide to shoot through Mombasa’s alleys, learn all the other tips available but be enlightened that Mombasa is peculiar.
Believe me, I have on occasions wondered whether once upon a time cameras in Mombasa looked like guns. Do expect that a many at times after finding a person worthy of your capture, they are going to take cover. You will see them mumble their discomfort to themselves as they walk away.
Here are three reasons behind this perplexing behavior:-
They are not for Sale
A good number perceive that all photographers take photos to sell them. They will jealously guard their faces from cameras because the notion of selling a photograph with them in it somehow denotes selling of their souls. I have no idea as to the origin of this concept but I know I would not want to be sold either. I once asked a lady why she was ducking and she said: “I don’t want to be sold!”
What is in it for them?
If you take photographs with an expensive looking camera then you are definitely making money out of it. At least some think so. This group will not easily let you take shots of them simply because they feel like you benefit yet they do not. Try to find out whether this is the case, if so, offer something in return like emailing their photo to them. Some will accept lose change.
They are not for display
All photographers will ask you to know general norms of the area you are shooting. These vary from place to place and it is to avoid finding yourself on the wrong side of things. While I acknowledge that a woman in a buibui (abaya) makes a fantastic subjects, be careful. Once a lady in a buibui avoids you, move on. They are covered in long abayas to remain inconspicuous in the first place. Respect their privacy even though you are in a public place. Taking their photographs makes them feel displayed and this may end up being ugly for you.
On my last shoot in Mombasa County’s Old Town this July, I pushed my limits by deliberately overcoming the dodging behavior. I looked for interesting subjects and asked permission to take their portraits. Most street photographers hold that asking permission distorts natural occurrence of things but, It was a challenge I set for myself and really enjoyed the shoot. Further, I was documenting faces of Mombasa and I simply had to overcome what I explained above.
It was uncomfortable for my subjects but they eased into it and in the end, they looked liked they really liked it as well. I hope I left them with the feeling that those behind cameras are people after all!