Thursday, January 15, 2009

Camera Shy

Now that I've got the camera problem solved, I can start working on the next difficulty related to posting pictures, which is that it's very hard to get them. Unlike anywhere else that I have been in the world, Cameroon is not friendly to casual photography. Some people say that it's because people are superstitious and think that if you have their image you can somehow harm them. I think the more likely explanation is that they feel exploited when some stranger takes their picture. They think that you are getting something from them while giving nothing in exhange. (This is supported by the very common response when you ask permission to take someone's picture. He or she will usually do one of these: 1. refuse 2. ask for money 3. agree, but only if you promise to get them a copy of the photo.) It is extremely unwise to, for example, pull out a camera in the market. Chances are good that it will get ugly. One time Paul took a picture of a "bush taxi" (a van that hauls people in and out of town) being piled high with colorful baggage, banana stalks, etc. A plainclothes policeman happened to be passing by. He angrily confiscated the camera, and Paul spent the rest of the afternoon at the police station, trying to get it back. (He did, but only after agreeing to expose the more recent photos, to ensure that none that might include the policeman were still on his film.)

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