A tale of two swamps – Happy to be snapped

For the rivers were already beginning to dry up, just a few weeks after the end of the rainy season.  Even in the few days we had been there I had watched small streams become just rocky trails, and the flow was dropping in some of these larger rivers.

I talked with Ian at length about how he was going to treat this river catch; do these catchments need to be part of the fisheries management area?  He said that politically yes, but then he pointed to the size of the catch and said “but what needs to be managed here”.  The levels of fish in the river clearly could supply these villages easily and still be sustainable.

I’m usually quite careful about taking pictures of strangers, not just in remote villages but anywhere.  I quite like privacy and try to respect it in others, which is why you often see pictures of landscapes or objects in these stories.  I have learnt that capturing people’s stature, their dress, their expressions can animate the still photo so much and tell an enhanced story, so as time has gone by I have increased the number of portraits I have taken.  When up close I always ask if it is OK, and in many parts of the world there is a reluctance, or people ask for money.

Here in Zambia, the women were positively begging to have their photos taken and jostling in front of the camera to pose in a flamboyant or a statuesque manner.  What has changed is that with film cameras, you had to take away the negative to be developed, and unless you were very conscientious and trusted the local postal system, the subject would never get to see the finished project.  Now with big clear digital viewfinders you can immediately show the results to people.  In Zambia, several of the fisherwomen were proud to be taken, and the ones below the bridge would scurry up the rocks or on to the parapets to take a look at the results.  The reactions varied, from shrieks of laughter to a contemplative nod and smile, and occasionally a demand to have a second one taken.  They expected no money and were happy to have seen themselves; it worked out well.

The scene and the bustle were intoxicating and I could have quite happily stayed on the bridge all day, and maybe even tried my hand with one of the baskets; but we had already been delayed by the change of vehicle and still had a long way to go to our afternoon meetings.  So we reluctantly got back in our transport and carried on along the big wide dusty road.

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