Thanks to the blessed traffic in Jo’burg we got to our first location 45 minutes behind schedule. Everything leading up to that point was a bit hectic, but when we arrived on location we were able to calm down and focus. After a few test shots I found my rhythm and we were capturing some great images in no time, thanks largely to a wonderfully loving old woman named Dorcilla. She runs a day care and clearly has a heart to help the kids, not merely kill time until their parents return. Near the end of the shoot I was hard pressed for ideas, so I simply asked her “What would you be doing right now if I weren’t here?” The next thing I knew she was singing, clapping, and dancing with 58 little kids bobbing around her.
Jedd and I drove around the slum community scouting out our next location. I’ve lost count of how many slum communities (called townships) we’ve visited on this trip, but this one, to me, felt the worst of them all. I found myself thinking that the people in Dassenhook [a slum community in Durban] were living the high life compared to this.
Safety is something I’ve not taken for granted since landing in South Africa, but Jo’burg especially makes you aware of the potential for crime here. There are burglar bars on every window. Everything from churches and schools to restaurants and soccer fields are confined by gates, electric fences, and security guards. It honestly makes me feel a bit like living as a prisoner, but also makes me grateful none of my gear has run off.
All four of our shoots today were quite special. Each of them had a very different feel, but we walked away with some solid images every time. Jedd and Janelle lived in Jo’burg for four years before moving to Cape Town. This is where they launched Paradigm Shift, so the people here are very close to their hearts. Musa, pictured below with Jedd, is a paraplegic who now owns a car and drives it around with the help of a stick. …as in, literally a stick. He asked me to break off a piece of a tree branch so he could use it to reach the pedal. He’s one of the most remarkable people I’ve met so far.
Our last shoot of the day centered around an incredible story of a man called Joseph who’s house burned down one night. It’s been a year since it happened, and there is still a pile of rubble with his clothes and half-burned items strewn about. The moment we pulled up to the site I said, “I would love to get some smoke in the background for this shot.” The sun was setting, so it was a race against time. Jedd was running around collecting dry grass and sticks, lighting them on fire and filling the scene with smoke. Janelle was holding a flash (and a baby) and offering creative ideas for the photos. And I was setting up lights and trying not to trip on the precarious pile of rubble in which we were standing. In the end it was Janelle’s idea that produced the money shot. It’s one of my favorite moments of the trip. We all walked away changed because of the way God is using Joseph’s story to shine hope. I can’t wait to share it with you, but again, you’ll have to wait ’til the book is released to see the final product.
After packing our gear we picked up the other two kids and headed for dinner. We were joined by Howard Johnston, a renowned architect and adopted grandfather for the Schroy kids. It was one of the most heartwarming meals we’ve shared on the trip. Howard is a master storyteller and an avid car collector. After dinner he said, “Why don’t you guys [J&J] head back, and I’ll take Stephen for a spin in my Astin Martin.” I spent the next hour getting the tour of his house —complete with an expansive train set, architecture office, and several amazing cars— before he put the pedal to the floor and eventually dropped me off at my host home. It was a completely unexpected ending to an otherwise amazing day.
Tomorrow is my last full day here. I’m not sure if the trip has gone by quickly or slowly, but it feels just right. I’m excited to finish this project (and finish it well).
All for now. Tune in again tomorrow!