Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Casting a big shadow

A boy in Yei, Southern Sudan.

I love this photo. The technique was simple: I stood on my toes. I often look for a different angle, and love getting high. (yea, yea…) But "high" can often mean just a couple more inches. In this case, it allowed me to isolate the boy against the dirt, without any distractions from people or huts in the background. The absence of any other items in the frame helps give it power, and the subtle tracks in the dirt give it enough texture that it's not somehow stylized. But the main ingredient in the image's success is the kid's wonderfully fierce stare. I was walking around a neighborhood in Yei, South Sudan, in 2009, and the appearance of a muzungu, as usual, provoked most kids to start yelling for me to take their picture and mugging for the camera. This kid didn't. He'd been standing with some other kids, and he just stared at me as he hung onto his spear, err, stick. When I moved closer to him, he stood his ground and maintained his gaze, even though off camera about ten feet to his right is a group of about 20 people, including his mother, and they are cracking up, real roll in the dust laughing, and yelling encouragement to him to look even fiercer. His mother says he resembles a Massai warrior. I loved the shadow, and managed to get it all in the frame by stretching up on my toes as much as I could. The fact that the shadow is "taller" than him, and makes his stick seem longer as well, suggests a relationship to a bigger warrior, maybe him in the future, or maybe his ancestors, and somehow adds a touch of dignity. (Far be it from me to over-analyze an image.) There's some distortion, like his head being so much larger than his feet, 'cause I shot it at 14mm so close to him, but it nonetheless works well. Thanks, my fierce little Sudanese friend. By the way, he laughed as well. Once I put the camera down.

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