Featured in Camera and Image magazine – Dec/Jan 2009
As days go by we get ourselves into a rut and in negative mind frames. This is a common affliction affecting most of us living in big cities in South Africa. With all the aggression, crime and negative news that we are exposed to every second of every day, it’s a miracle that any of us find the energy or enthusiasm to get out of bed in the morning.
So it was with a battered, tired, bruised body and mind that I eagerly waited for the arrival of my week’s break to Namaqualand. I was born in South Africa, and 42 years later, had not found the time to travel to this part of our country. Somehow, I have always found the idea of traveling abroad so alluring that I have pursued this more extensively than traveling in my own country. Pathetic, yes I know.
I debated for many hours if I should take my camera equipment with me. As a professional photographer, I sometimes feel I need a break from the cameras too. After much deliberation I decided that a professional photographer should ALWAYS have a camera at hand and take photographs to record events. Once I had decided that I did, in fact want to take photos, I set myself the challenge to take photographs that had not been taken before, to see things my way and to capture it that way, even though at this stage I had no idea what this meant.
I had seen many photographs and done the necessary reading and research on Namaqualand and the West Coast. I expected a lot because everything I read gave rave reviews. I was not disappointed.
We flew to Cape Town and with a hired car started our long trip to Springbok. We decided to take our time, stop along the way and have lunch in Paternoster. What a scenic little spot. Perfect for the fresh fish and chips we scoffed on the beachfront. Unfortunately, I left somewhat saddened after hearing from the locals that rich developers had eyeballed this sleepy town and are planning the building of resorts, casinos and goodness knows what else. Are there not enough of these around already??
My sadness did not last long. I found it impossible to feel anything but upbeat and happy as I was flooded with a visual feast of spectacular landscapes in every direction I looked. I could feel the Johannesburg stress literally ooze out of my pores and into the ether. I opened my body and mind to the sensual feeling of calm and hope seeping into me. The sensations and feelings surging through me demanded my absolute focus and attention leaving no space for thoughts of anything else.
Namaqualand with, or without the flowers is simply spectacular. Of course the flowers and the quiver trees are a vision to behold. But the vast, rugged, open landscape captured my imagination and soul in a way that not many other places ever have. I could not get enough of looking around and breathing in the pure, unpolluted air. I felt at one with our planet and incredibly grateful to be alive.
As the week progressed, I found my faith in this country restored. I left my expensive camera equipment in the car, in full view and unattended as we walked off to lunch or for a walk. I felt safe and secure. People spoke with us. They shared their stories with ease and without ego. I felt wanted and attended to.
Of course, the better I felt about myself and about life, the more I saw and the better I experienced life. I snapped away constantly and at everything and found myself enthusiastically looking for different angles, new approaches and ways to freeze a moment or a scene with my camera. I left all inhibitions behind as I lay on the floor or bent over bum in the air to get that important angle for my photograph.
The spectacle of the flowers in bloom took my breath away, and I found myself taking photo after photo, all the time praising the virtues of digital technology. I felt the magic again. The magic that I feel when I travel and I take photographs for no greater benefit other than to please myself. I realized that I probably had not taken too many “different” photos to anyone else. But this did not matter. I had experienced and seen things “my way”. This experience and these photographs are uniquely my own.
I learnt many things last week. I learnt we have a beautiful country. A country with beautiful people, who care and only want good things for themselves and this country. I learnt that I do not have to go outside our borders to see different things, experience different cultures or to be inspired. I learnt to look and to see again. I learnt to let myself relax and to experience. I learnt that there is so much more to learn. And I felt passion all over again. For my country, South Africa and for my work, photography. What a great week!!