Wednesday, June 08, 2011

23 May 2011

Gay Talese writes about failure. And what about failure? Why can't we celebrate it?


We woke up and half the tree had fallen. Not just a limb, but a massive branch with its own limbs and foliage, a mini tree lay on its side like a sunbather looking up at us. We had coffee on the porch and watched John chop it up with a machete.

It's raining now and the air is crystal. From the porch, through a picture frame of tree branches we can see the pastel colours and sharp outlines of downtown Freetown across the bay.

On the speakers, PJ Harvey is scratching out an angry nostalgia about England and I wonder if I will ever be at home there. Will it always be a surreal mix of sunny childhood and family stories, mixed-up with memories of TV shows and old songs. Will I always have to pretend?

I spent last week in Makeni, a town in the middle of Sierra Leone where a huge iron ore mine hopes to level the surrounding mountains and develop the country with smiling promises. Photographing for an NGO, I take pictures for people who will never come here, to show them how the project is changing lives. We intrude on the project's 'beneficiaries', people just busy going about living their lives. We make them do things they were not in the middle of doing. Can you sit over there and wash some clothes? Can you chop up some food? Can you look sad? Can you look happy? Can you give us your story? Can we feed your story to our hungry donors?