African Paparazzi Photo Danger Accra, Ghana West Africa Sunday, August 19, 2007
I normally take photos when the socially acceptable opportunity arises. I would guess I actually ask about two percent of the time, I take direct photos of people, and that is not a question, it is more or less I show them the camera and see they wag their finger at me.
Normally there are two ways of getting permission, people like to have their pictures taken and request I take a photo, the second it to buy first and take photo after. Buy something and then take the photo, this works as long as the price of the item is not high.
A man in Lome, Togo tracked me down after I took photos of some antique furniture being refinished outside the Auberge Galion Hotel and told me he would break my camera. I had asked permission of one of the workers I saw every day.
Taking photos in West Africa is more dangerous than in the rest of the world. I was literally grabbed and pulled to the side of the road in Aneho, Togo because I took a picture of a truck that had fell over on it side.
Generally taking photos is safe in the world, the long-term story told about stealing their soul and all this is old story. The world knows what a camera is now, and they want money. I do not give money for photos, except on rare occasions.
Taking photos of people drinking alcohol or police is dangerous.
I have been trying to take photos of some food in Ghana, and was walking around in the neighborhood. I had a person request some specific photos and this seemed easy enough, so as I was walking back from the internet café I was attempting to take photos.
I never realized how often I do not take photos because of the danger of taking the photo. The professional types of people will in Ghana speak good English, the normal person in the street and I thin I have about a 1 in 10 chance of them understanding a sentence. If I say Apple or Water, they understand, however to say a complex, what if sentence would lose them.
Asking about photos leads to confusion, maybe they answered in the Mina, Tree or Fante language and I do no understand, maybe they say in the local language for all to hear, - Take a photo white man; you need to give me money. -
I do not understand, however, in the eyes of the others they are on the moral high ground. He or she told me, so fair to demand money.
I have a lot of experience with this; however, the best solution to all these problems is to only take photos of one-person situations. If a person has the ability to talk with more than one person, say it is market and they can talk among five to ten people it is safer to not take the photo.
The safe decision is to only take photos when there is only me and the person I am taking photos of around the area. Group photos of people are dangerous and a great reason for a long zoom lens on a camera. I have a 12 X Sony and it is great, however it would be nice to have about double the range for the close up cultural photo.
Safe is one person photos in West Africa, a group of 5-10 people is semi-dangerous and when the group is about 40 or more it become safe again and the whole group will normally protect you from the one.
Anyway, you do it; taking photos in West Africa can be dangerous if you are one person. The safest way to take photos is when there the group of people taking photos is bigger than the groups of people being filmed.
I wanted to speed up a photo the other day, a foreigner girl took a photo and it took about three minutes to take the photo, this is too long. I think I can stop and take a photo in less than five seconds. The longer I take, the person who I am taking a photo of has time to think, give me money, or someone tells them to get money.
Taking photos for me is about waiting for the socially acceptable time, and I think asking permission of a person who does not understand my language is a great way to have problems. I ask by showing them the camera, then look in their eyes. Words and talking, the spoken language is a great way to be misunderstood, talking with my eyes and actions is understood quick and fast…
Taking pictures of plants and animals is safe, photos of children is generally easy, taking photos of bums and prostitutes starts to be a problem. Drunks and groups of men are highly dangerous in West Africa. Taking pictures of police, you need to be either very smart or very lucky and stupid.