There is a John Mayer song I have always loved about putting the camera away and enjoying the world through your own two eyes. I have adopted this rule for our first few days in country.
Perhaps it isn’t even the fact that I want to enjoy my surroundings without being separated by a lens but a sense that capturing a photo of life in Niamey is almost an intrusion at this early stage. This is life at it’s most pure. Stripped from any sense of towering monuments, extraordinary architecture, or grandiose capitalism, people are living their lives doing what they need to do for survival.
It makes me think of the Amish. Ok, it’s a far stretch, but I will try to explain. The Amish don’t have their photos taken because of their beliefs and, for the most part, other people respect their views. On a different level, I believe that while I don’t share their beliefs I respect their lives. However, on a deeper level the Amish are not tourist attractions for us to ogle. They are part of our society but chooses to dress and live a different way than the majority. Does this mean that we should photograph them for our pleasure?
Niamey is not a tourist town. The people who live here are not pieces of art to photograph and put in an album. I have not built a relationship with them as I would with friends I may take a photo or two. They are only living their lives as I am living my life. What would I be capturing if I were to snap a few shots here and there? I’m not sure yet but I’ll have two years to figure it out, God willing.