Day Eight: Johannesburg

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

Today felt more like work than a new experience. I’m not sure if that means I’ve become accustomed to the environment or what. In any case, we had another four shoots today, and all of them went well. …or maybe I should say, we got good pictures of all four ladies we shot.

The first was a seamstress. She works out of a warehouse and employs a team of about 8 people. I’ve always been fascinated by people that work with their hands and the tools of their trade, so I really enjoyed seeing them in action. It was also inspiring to see her in this setting in light of her story, knowing that she had nothing before and now she’s running a successful business.

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

We also had the luxury of a makeup artist today. Not my favorite makeup artist in the world, but she was pretty good ;) Jedd was eager to update his modeling portfolio, so he stepped in throughout the day to get some shots instead of the entrepreneurs.

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

Our second shoot was about a woman who was quite possibly the poorest person we’ve photographed, yet her heart was overflowing with love for the kids she cared for —both her own as well as those in her day care. Her story centered around the time when she had absolutely no food to feed her children. As the shoot progressed we learned even more about her and how selfless she truly is. I dare say it’s impossible to walk away from a story like that unchanged.

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

Our third shoot seemed to be scheduled on Africa Time, but in the end it all worked out just fine. She was the oldest person we’ve shot, in her 70’s I believe, which is quite impressive when you consider that life expectancy is only 56 in this country. My initial impression of her was uneasy, but as soon as I pulled the camera out something changed and she ended up being the easiest person to work with. Normally I have to go through a song and dance to get people to understand what I want them to do, but she seemed to know exactly what was needed. After a week of struggling to get people to look, pose, laugh, turn, and take a small step; it was refreshing to have someone take direction so well on the other side of the lens.

We attracted a small crowd during the shoot, not the least of which were a couple school girls who seemed amazed by the work of the makeup artist. Lauren sat them down and gave them a little makeover, and I snapped their photos in between sets. It was so fun to see these little girls trying to contain their excitement. Neither of them had ever worn makeup before, much has been the star of a photo shoot.

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

The fourth and final shoot of the day was interesting to say the least. I’m not sure if it was an issue of a language barrier, or if she didn’t understand what we meant by “photo shoot,” but she came in thinking we were making a movie and she had no shortage of suggestions for it. She was also keen on directing what the shots should be. It was probably the most odd shoot of the trip, but I’m really happy with the photos we got.

Her story, in a nutshell, begins with her walking 2,300 miles from the Congo to South Africa in hopes of finding freedom and opportunity. Given the determination it takes to accomplish that, I really shouldn’t have been surprised by her resolve and ideas.

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

We rounded out the day with a team dinner at a cool African restaurant called Moyo. It was the last time the team will be together, and it was definitely a high note to end on. We reminisced about both the fun times and the challenging ones. Laughter pour from our table constantly, and we left with full bellies and full hearts.

Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com Photo by Stephen Elliot in association with MudProductions.com

Tomorrow I have just one more shoot before we wrap this incredible project. All for now. More to come!

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4 thoughts on “Day Eight: Johannesburg

  1. Brings tears to my eyes as I reflect on just what I have read about your experiences there; can’t imagine being there to walk through the “experience.” Boy, for such a time as this!

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