Broken Lens

Gloria Kirk - Senegal


November 22, 2016

I think I have always loved photography, both looking at pictures and taking them. My favorite being documentary photography. I love the way a picture can tell a story and especially the way people can be captured within that story. I had been hoping that this year I would have the time to really explore and learn more about photography. Being in my community for nearly two weeks, I have been waiting to take my camera out until everyone was more comfortable with me. Unfortunately, I am going to have to wait a little longer. My 15 year old cousin, Ami, knew I had a camera, and one evening told me to go get it. I was reluctant and she could tell. She even started to get kind of mad when I asked her why she needed my camera, “You haven’t even taken pictures of your family! Why?!”, she says.

So, since I don’t like conflict, I concede. I get my camera out take a picture of her and the two teenage boys next to her, I was about to go put my camera away, maybe try to get some pictures of the compound, when she took the camera from me. She takes pictures of her friends making ridiculous poses, I inwardly sigh thinking of how many pictures I’m going to have to delete tonight.

She finally returns my camera to me and that’s when I decide to let Daba, an eight year old, take some pictures. Now, I’m no stranger to children and how destructive they can be, but I have given my camera up to children many times. When a child is given a camera, a whole new perspective is shown. When I travel I sometimes let kids use my camera. Instantly the people around them open up, because instead of a foreigner taking a picture of them, it’s their friend. And they get some pretty awesome photos. I always put the camera strap around their necks and stay next to them. I was not concerned at all letting Daba take pictures.

But what I wasn’t counting on was Ami, who came and yanked the strap off of Daba’s neck, claiming she needed to take a photo, which then sent my camera hurtling to the ground. When I picked it up, it rattled. Rattled. My heart sank. When something rattles that shouldn’t, you know it’s a goner. I went to my room because I guess I thought I was suddenly a camera genius and could take apart the lens and fix it. When I couldn’t even open the dang lens, I started crying. I was already having a bad day, and then my camera, of all things, breaks? and then I notice Ami staring at me through my window. She then proceeds to tell the whole compound that I’m crying, which definitely did not make things better. She comes in my room and tells me “You shouldn’t give your camera to little kids.”, and then walks out.

It took a while, but I have a new perspective on the fall of my camera. It was ultimately my fault. It’s not the end of my photography in Senegal, I can have my parents send me a new lens, easy fix, at least it wasn’t the camera body that broke. It might be until January that I get a new lens but, hey, remember what I said about me wanting to wait to get to know my family better so the pictures would be more personal and less awkward? Now I’m forced to do that. I will take in my surroundings without the distraction of a camera and see things first maybe making note of things I want to capture in a photograph later. I’m just thinking of the advantage I will have once I can fully understand the language and the significance of the things around me, my pictures will have more heart and meaning put into them.

Gloria Kirk