I printed 6×4 prints from my visit to Oltepesi in 2009 and set about making sure we matched as many people to their photo as we could …. or at least passed them onto a friend or family member. Three years is a long time in a small child’s life and there was much hilarity as the kids compared each others’ photos. Almost without exception the villagers were amused to see themselves in print. However one woman, whom I have to say I barely recognised from her photo, was a little distressed and without a shared language she tried to explain why.
She mimed tearing it up and pointing to her face, the covering her face with her hands … which I took it to mean that she didn’t like the image or was in some way offended. The sadder truth was that she was upset by how old and tired she looked in the photo, not through any sense of vanity; rather the reminder of the deprivation wrought by the drought of three years previously. I then noticed that almost all the women did look better this time – fuller of face, happier certainly and even a bit younger in some cases.
It’s maybe a cliche but a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, even if we don’t understand the language.