STILL LIFE 205 – LOOKING AT CHAIRS 15

 

 


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I usually post these Looking At Chairs images with only their original text but, in this case, because I’m looking at chairs, I’d like to add a little more.  The post’s original text is down below.

In a way, I suppose, this is a family arranged around a chair.  I don’t know if this is their best chair or if there are more like it in the house behind, but I had just photographed them with an elderly man, this man’s father I think, and this very solid chair had been brought out for him to sit on, whereas this man and his wife are sitting on humbler stools.  In Kenya, the family’s eldest male is accorded special respect, and having him seated on this particular chair no doubt reflected that.

I’m not a great one for symbolism, most of the time I fail to understand what symbols mean, but maybe there is something – intentional or unintentional – here, with the place of eldest male being then used for the youngest.

And, as always with these very valued images, I wonder where these individuals are now, 39 years later.  They have no doubt forgotten me and, were it not for this photo, I would no doubt have forgotten them – which says something very solid about the value of portraits in any medium.

THE ORIGINAL TEXT, AND THE USUAL LINKS, ARE BELOW

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

The backdrop is the painted wall of a wattle and daub hut, the smooth surface layer of which is starting to flake off on the far right.  Minor points, maybe that I’ve only really appreciated now, after all these years, are the Vicks poster and the kitten.

The first post in this series on chairs, which contains context and an image, can be found hereSubsequent posts are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  9  10  11 12 13 14 .  Each will open in a new window.

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

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.

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ARCHIVE 310 – ON A FARM IN WESTERN KENYA … AND WITH HOPES FOR A PEACEFUL GENERAL ELECTION

 

 


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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.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that version to enlarge it.

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

UPDATE:  Today there is a general election in Kenya and, regardless of who wins, I can only hope that the whole thing goes off peacefully.  In many instances, the colonising powers of not so long ago drew lines around areas of the Earth’s surface and called them countries, regardless of the often extremely diverse ethnic mixes within those areas.  And so it is in Kenya.  Although I don’t see the fact on any of the news broadcasts, the current Kenyan president and his main challenger are from two very diverse ethnic backgrounds, and the recipe for violence, killing and yet more killing is sitting ready in the mixing bowl.  The current president has called for a peaceful vote and promised to abide by the result of the vote, and I can only hope that everyone listens to him.  Why do I hope this?  Well, I am mortally tired of the endless rounds of violence and killing that regularly break out around the world – I suppose that’s idealism.  On a more practical level, I spent many years in Kenya and found the Kenyans friendly and hospitable.  I can only wish them well – and hope that today’s election is proceeding peacefully, and that it will help improve the lives of everyone in that country.

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ARCHIVE 289 – LUO FAMILY

 

 


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

The backdrop is the painted wall of a wattle and daub hut, the smooth surface layer of which is starting to flake off on the far right.  Minor points, maybe that I’ve only really appreciated now, after all these years, are the Vicks poster and the kitten.

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

OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.

UPDATE: The people in Kenya were in the main very friendly and hospitable.  I very much enjoyed my years in that country.  Again – once again – I wish that I had photographed more of the people that I met there.

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ARCHIVE 175 – 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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KENYA 65 – MENDING A ROOF

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Adding thatch to the roof of a house on a Luo farm near Akala, in western Kenya; April 1979.

The agricultural west of Kenya, to the west of the city of Kisumu, with rich soils and plenty of rain from the frequent storms which move eastwards from nearby Lake Victoria.  Lush trees and shrubs border the farm’s compound, within which are these roundhouses, which have wattle and daub walls and thatched roofs.

This house’s doorway is outlined in pale orange and the wooden door is ajar.  An old man, an experienced thatcher, has climbed up onto the roof via a homemade ladder, and is adding more thatch.

Chickens scratch around, and the farmer stands beside a pile of thatching material destined for the repairs.

OM-1 with 75-150mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour side, rated at 64 ISO.
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KENYA 63 – LUO FAMILY

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

The backdrop is the painted wall of a wattle and daub hut, the smooth surface layer of which is starting to flake off on the far right.  Minor points, maybe that I’ve only really appreciated now, after all these years, are the Vicks poster and the kitten.

OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko; 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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