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Thursday, 24 September 2015


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Good story and images, thanks for sharing.

Ghana is a beautiful country and the Ghanaian people are wonderful. Forty years ago, I spent two years teaching at Kpandu, up-country in the Volta Region. I still treasure the photos I took then, although they look very amateur by today's standards. Thank you for stirring my memories.

Gordon Lewis's post is pertinent for myself as I'm currently in my wifes home city in China. Being tall & and a 'long nose' I stick out. Am an object of curiosity - frequently at the receiving end of stares, which while often impassive are not hostile. I just smile back & say hello in Manadarin, while if at a suitable distance & appropriate, flap a hand in a gentle wave & embarassment normally melts.

Photographing people here is easy if you are patient. Wait ten minutes & don't hide what you are doing, then you soon become a familiar if eccentric presence.

I photograph with black-and-white film only. Can't be so easily lost as a card, but flying in & out & entering railway staitions it is necessary to get a hand inspection of the film, rather than trusting it to multiple passes throug X-ray machines.

This trip I am using a single raty Leica M6 with 35 & 50mm lenses. I also have a Hasselblad Xpan with 45mm. For me the 50mm is often too long, being embarrassing to use as it risks being outside an individual's social space. Fine for portraits though. The 35mm is all thats really necessary.

The Xpans panoramic format is great for the extra information at the sides, though you need to add a focussing tab to get the most out of it.

It is best for me to photograph on my own. Yaqing doesn't get bored & I can access places she cannot or would be uninterested in - universities; kindergartens; mahjong parlours with their endless cups of tea.

Robert Capa's "Get close, then closer still." is excellent advice, both physically & emotionally.

Because Yaqing and I come roughly every 18 months or so, I always bring prints for people. My mendicant searches for people in turn creates fresh opportunities.

A wonderful photo essay, Gordon. The best photographs pose more questions than they answer, and some of yours pose memorable questions. Was that man painting bars on his house's windows? Is that fellow the sculptor of those bronze pieces? And, best of all, what's up with that painted fellow walking near the car?! (I think he has a brother in downtown Chicago, btw.)

Your remarks about being an obvious foreigner in a country with which you might feel genealogically linked resonates with me. Although I do not have strong Japanese facial features I recall being rather a bit embarrassed while visiting Japan. In one incident a group of museum curators, guided by my name, immediately began assuming that I could act as translator for my party of fellow Americans. My slightly yellow face turned quite red.

Thank you for your delightful notes, and for the reminder that being and seeing trumps the "right" lens and camera.

I enjoyed your book, and the print I bought from TOP.
I hope you made a diary of your trip and will print it on your website. (Even if you didn't write one at the time, you can re-construct it from your memory and your wife's.)

This is great, thanks Gordon!

I grew up in that part of the world. This brings back great memories.

I had a similar racial limbo experience when my Dad took me on my first trip to China in the mid '80's. Although we were both Chinese and from the same part of China as the locals, our clothes and general mannerisms made it obvious to everyone else that we were foreigners.
Taxi drivers would stop for us instead of the locals but would also abandon us if we tried to pay in local currency instead of the more valuable foreign exchange certificates.

Also, sorry to hear about your lost SD card. When I travel light (ie: sans laptop), I use my Android phone or tablet to backup over USB to a small, portable hard-drive. Works great and doesn't rely on any kind of wifi.

They're all great pics Gordon and I love the colour contrasts in the boys against the blue wall.
I always travel light and have for years been using a portable HD. I would recommend one of the many Hyperdrive products for backup when traveling.

Great to hear that you’ve been able to back up your pictures on the road with minimal equipment.

Are you shooting with a MicroSD card in an adapter in your camera, then putting the MicroSD card directly into your Android phone/tablet? And then connecting a non-powered USB hard drive to your phone via a USB OTG cable and using a file manager to copy the files over?

Wonderful pictures.

Thoughtful article, lovely photos. Thanks.

"Was that man painting bars on his house's windows? Is that fellow the sculptor of those bronze pieces? And, best of all, what's up with that painted fellow walking near the car?!"

Thank you most sincerely for the compliments, Ken. I really try for photos that ask more questions than they answer. But since you asked, the answers to your questions are:

No, he was painting bars on the window of a classroom -- not that that's necessarily any better.

Yes, he was hammering on a sheeting of bronze when I photographed him.

The painted man is a street performer who stands stock-still in the middle of the street while holding out his hand and hoping for tips. He hangs out on Oxford Street in Accra's Osu tourist and shopping area.

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