I wasn’t familiar with the work of photographer Candace Feit before browsing the web recently, following up on the online presence of a South African organisation I hold in high regard. (The organisation/project/incubator is based in the village of Nqileni, which — this just a side note — has the most beautiful football pitch.) One of the images Google returned when looking for “Bulungula” (the project’s name) was Feit’s “collecting clams,” which brought me to her Tumblr, which in turn led me to her website. Feit, in between assignments for international publications, kindly made time to frame her 5 favorite photographs:
In April of 2008, I spent three weeks traveling through northern Niger with a group of Tuareg rebels who were fighting to control the uranium in the Air mountains, where previous generations of Tuaregs have lived as nomads for centuries. The whole trip was a very intense mix of these beautiful desert landscapes, tough and uncomfortable travel, and the inevitable tedium of days of sitting around waiting for rides or for some partially conceived plan to fall into place. At one point we spent three days sitting under a thorn bush in the middle of the desert waiting for a ride across the Mali/Niger border. There was an absurdity to the whole trip — drinking water out of goat skins while the rebel captain we were traveling with spent his time polishing his white hi-top sneakers and napping on his special folding cot. The photograph above was made about two-thirds of the way through the trip. Despite their reputation as mysterious masters of the desert, at most points the Tuaregs we were traveling with would not tell us where exactly we were going and it almost always seemed as though we were driving around in circles.
It was never clear what our final destination was and we would stop several times a day — sometimes to see people, refuel, or just to wait out whatever they wanted to wait-out, anything from the mid-day heat, to the Niger military. We had stopped in a small village for a few minutes and found these other rebels who were heading off in another direction. I saw they had this pet monkey tied to their pickup with a small rope. The scene was so creepy and bizarre. The resulting photo really encapsulates that part of the whole experience, as well as the random, sometimes absurd things unfold while covering conflicts in Africa. We spent only a few minutes chatting to these guys before we all went our separate ways.
The next image, below, I made while photographing rural schools on an assignment in Burkina Faso. I will often bring along my Hasselblad film camera while on assignment (where I am most usually shooting digital) and will take use any downtime to make portraits or take pictures of things that I find interesting and that aren’t really applicable to the assignment. Photographing kids in schools is almost always challenging because as one would expect, as soon as you walk into a classroom full of kids you are going to completely disrupt what they are doing, they will of course be curious about who the stranger is in their classroom and almost always be asked to stop what they are doing and stand up and greet you. So I planned to go in and wait for a while until everyone went back to paying attention to their work.
This group of students was really focused, they didn’t play around too much but they all did spend a while looking me over and to get them a bit more used to me, I made this photograph. In some ways this tells a subtle story of what sometimes happens when a photographer comes into a scene. You may think you don’t want the subject to be looking at you, but that’s not always up to you.
The next photograph is an image from a series about traditional Senegalese wrestling. It was actually the last project I worked on before moving from Dakar to Delhi in 2009. This image was taken at a wrestling school in the suburbs of Dakar.
Dakar is filled with wrestling schools like this one — where groups of young men train daily. For many of these young men, it is one hope out of poverty. This story was a way to look at the issues of the youth in Senegal, many of whom were risking their lives trying to reach Europe by sea in small pirogues — in search of work, money and opportunities. And what began as a sport practised throughout the villages of West Africa has now boomed into a big business for wrestlers and sponsors alike, so there were these schools also providing a similar kind of hope to this group of young men. The odds were very clearly not in their favor, but they had few other opportunities for work or advancement. The trainees were doing circuits — dozens of push-ups, followed by running around the sandy field, then other drills. It was beautiful to watch, each wrestler intent, passionate and driven.
The following image was taken in Tamale during an assignment photographing a story about football in Ghana. It was during a recruiting/scouting match for a football academy in Accra. It had rained on and off during the day, but despite the weather there was a huge turnout of people to watch the matches. I was taking a break from the game and saw these kids hanging out on their bikes and so I went to photograph them.
When working, I’m always looking for something that gives me some feeling about the place I’m photographing. I think there is something really universal and beautiful about kids trying to be cool. Part smiling and part skeptical, they could be kids from any place wondering why someone would be running across a football field asking to take their photo.
And this last picture was taken in the village of Nqileni in the South African Eastern Cape in August of 2012. There was a group of about six women who were taking kernels off of ears of dried corn to use it for making pap.
They were helping a woman whose mother in law had just died — and so they were actually all stripping the dead woman’s corn. I am always looking for these relationships — the way people can be intimate with one another in the most normal way. Here was a group of women just doing chores, but they were simultaneously working together in a very organic way — chatting, laughing, talking and working. I’m always trying to show this subtle intimacy.
* Previous “favorite photographs” posts can be found here.