ARCHIVE KENYA 87 – FARMER, WESTERN KENYA (MONO)

 

 


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Luo farmer near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.  Because of their dark skin, photographing Africans in anything like bright conditions is fraught with problems.  One option of course is just to go with the conditions and show only the highlights of their faces, leaving the finer details and hints of character smothered in deep shadow.

Another option is to photograph them in deep shade, to minimalise shadows and reveal facial detail – but this requires higher ISO ratings, larger apertures, and so on.  The third option is the one used here, where flash dispels the shadows, and this works well, particularly with today’s automatic flashguns.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: OM-2 with 75-150 Zuiko lens, and flash; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE 434 – HOUSE ON A FARM

 

 


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House on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

These are Luo people who live in the immensely fertile far west of Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria – a vast body of water that supplies them with vast quantities of fish, and with frequent thunder storms which keep their land totally green.

The structure consists of mud walls, above which a conical thatched roof is mounted on a great mass of wooden poles. There is quite a gap between the roof and the walls but, in this hot, equatorial area, cold weather is not an issue. This hut has at least two rooms: the doorway to a second room is to the left of the people. The mud walls have decorations drawn straight onto them, and there is an oil lamp hanging up. Notice how everything, including the chest of drawers and some of the pictures hanging on the walls, has cloth covers.

Food and water are not an issue for these people, they live in a wonderfully fecund landscape. But there are diseases – it was here that malaria first got its claws into me, despite my using nets and prophylactics.

Click onto the image to see a slightly enlarged version.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.
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KENYA 62 – HOUSE ON A FARM

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House on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

These are Luo people who live in the immensely fertile far west of Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria – a vast body of water that supplies them with vast quantities of fish, and with frequent thunder storms which keep their land totally green.

The structure consists of mud walls, above which a conical thatched roof is mounted on a great mass of wooden poles.  There is quite a gap between the roof and the walls but, in this hot, equatorial area, cold weather is not an issue.  This hut has at least two rooms: the doorway to a second room is to the left of the people.  The mud walls have decorations drawn straight onto them, and there is an oil lamp hanging up.  Notice how everything, including the chest of drawers and some of the pictures hanging on the walls, has cloth covers.

Food and water are not an issue for these people, they live in a wonderfully fecund landscape.  But there are diseases – it was here that malaria first got its claws into me, despite my using nets and prophylactics.

Click onto the image to see a slightly enlarged version.

OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.
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KENYA 35 – ON A FARM IN WESTERN KENYA (MONO)

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.Luo people on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

I love these portraits.  The man is at ease with me and my camera, he knows me well, and in his expression we see nothing contrived, just a calm and direct gaze.  The little boy is nervous, but is being reassured by the man’s closeness – while the little girl’s radiant smile is a delight.

This smile reminds me powerfully of African children in general!  I was often in out of the way areas in Kenya, often far off the well beaten tourist tracks, searching for unusual birdlife.  And I can remember entering villages where white people were only infrequently seen – and being beset by a tide of brightly smiling little children like these, chanting “mazungu, mazungu!” – swahili for “white man, white man!”. 

And sometimes they were so curious to see me, maybe not having had close contact with a european before, that they came and wondered at the pale hair on my pale arms – and touched my arms and head as if they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing – it was a real, uninhibited examination!

I like children anyway, I vastly enjoy interacting with them – and especially so when they can talk – and these were simply wonderful and fascinating experiences.  And I also want to mention here how friendly Kenyan people were in general, throughout my years there – friendly, hospitable and humorous.

On the negative side of things though, it was on this trip that I first contracted malaria – and that is something truly unpleasant.

OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro.
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PEOPLE 75 – LOVERS

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Lovers – a young couple near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

This is a crop of a larger image from which I’m thinking about making yet another image later on.  Not sure if this is as sharp as it might be –  but that’s how it is.

I’ve often cropped out the model’s face in figure studies, so that the viewer concentrates on the interplay between light and body.  Here its the same thing – we can’t see their faces but we can see those wonderfully calm hands, and the overall body language of these two says it all.  The woman is totally at ease with the man, she’s sitting back against him almost as if she’s in an armchair, with his red-shirted arms coming down either side of her, cosseting her and gently drawing her more into himself.

I love the closeness here: two young people at ease with each other – one of the things that life’s certainly all about – and I love those hands too!  I had thought of cropping in much more closely on the hands, going more towards letterbox format, but I think that the woman’s simple dress, the marked contrast between its pale blue and the red of his shirt – the contrast between gentleness and strength maybe –  together with the contrast between the simple white necklace and her dark skin, all bring something to the shot.

OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO.
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PEOPLE 33 – LUO MAN FROM WESTERN KENYA

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 Luo man from western Kenya;  April 1979.

Olympus OM-1 with 75mm-150mm Zuiko, and flash; Agfa CT18 colour slides rated at 64 ISO.

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PEOPLE (17) – LUO FARMER IN WESTERN KENYA – MONOCHROME

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Luo farmer on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.  Because of their dark skin, photographing Africans in anything like bright conditions is fraught with problems.  One option of course is just to go with the conditions and show only the highlights of their faces, leaving the finer details and hints of character smothered in deep shadow.

Another option is to photograph them in deep shade, to minimalise shadows and reveal facial detail – but this requires higher ISO ratings, larger apertures, and so on.  The third option is the one used here, where flash dispels the shadows, and this works well, particularly with today’s automatic flashguns.

Olympus OM-1 with 75mm-150mm Zuiko, and flash; Agfa CT18 colour slides rated at 64 ISO.

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