Time is a valuable commodity in life, it’s something we can’t get back once it’s gone and, in most cases, we are always looking for ways to get more of it. When I started taking photos professionally, I didn’t make the connection between time and the quality of my photos, nor did I see time as something that enhanced my creativity. Time was a concept that I related to other things like long plane rides, traffic jams and shift work.
When taking photos, I always need more time!
In my world of photography I am almost always asking for more time; the more time I spend with people the better the photos will get. And, to be clear, spending more time with a family does not mean I use that time to constantly photograph them, it means that I take time to get to know them and understand who they are and what they will be doing during our time together. More time means sitting and talking and learning, often with my camera in my bag or sitting on the ground at my feet. The idea is to allow people to get comfortable with me and give them an understanding of what I am trying to accomplish. The ultimate goal is for them to get so comfortable with my presence that they forget I am there. When this happens, the photos really start to flow.
Travel to North Africa.
Haoua lives in Chad. I travelled there with UNICEF to tell the story of how the organization is working to eliminate neonatal tetanus. Haoua was quiet and seemed uncomfortable with the attention she was getting. We arrived a bit early so the interview could be conducted in the late afternoon and I could photograph in the early evening to get good light. I sat and listened to the interview to understand who Haoua was, I stood outside her home so the community would get used to me being around with a camera, I snapped a few shots to understand the light, I tried to make eye contact with Haoua and her husband and pass along a smile. Slowly, very slowly, she began to let down her guard.
Working with the time you have
Haoua was still a little uncomfortable when we started walking to collect water. She loaded up her donkey with empty jerry cans and made the trek to the closest water point, and on this walk she let down her guard even further. She started laughing and smiling, she began to interact with the community and understand what I was trying to accomplish with my camera. She started to become comfortable with me and forget I was there. The time I had was working in my favour. Haoua laughed at me as I looked through my viewfinder and tripped over old roots, she tried to explain to me in her local language how the water well worked and how deep the well actually was (200 metres!)
As we started to walk back I realized, as I often do in these moments, that time was starting to work against me because the day was coming to an end. I started to forget that I needed to take photos and I began to interact with the locals as the sun set further into the horizon. The day ended with Haoua sitting with the children in her community; everyone with big smiles on their faces. All I needed, all Houa needed, was time.
Harness your time well, use it wisely and allow it to feed your creativity.