The Mysterious Girl
Photography has been pat of my self discovery journey. It brought me to places I would have never thought visiting and made me meet people otherwise I would have never come across . I can write a little adventurous book about this journey.
A story close to my heart was reminded to me by my sister . I forgot about the significance it had on me and the people involved.
At one of my photography courses the assigned task was to take portraits of complete strangers with their permission. Well, this was a challenge for all of us as beginners. No one feels particularly comfortable approaching a stranger and ask them to strike a pose just because you need to practice!? We were escorted to Surry Hills Festival in Sydney where the number of strangers was not a problem.
I remember walking around the stalls ,trying to bring my courage up whilst looking for a person and moment that will get my attention.Very cautiously I took photos of people farther away from me , completely disengaged with the viewer. The clock was ticking and I was getting closer to the deadline . As I was going back to meet my group I saw a beautiful African woman helping her family at their food stand.I could not walk past without photographing her: her smile and eyes were mesmerising .
I asked if it was okay to take a photo and in response she gave me a smile that I instantly captured .
Australian Centre for Photography (ACP Sydney) nominated my image as a winner for a competition called “The Vibes” .It was my first exhibition and the mysterious woman from the photo helped me get there .
A week later we were called to collect our prints from the Gallery. I remember vividly that day. When I picked up the large print I knew that I couldn't take it back home.I had to find the young woman and give it to her , the portrait belonged to her . She had to be acknowledged and thanked for. I was on a mission.Went to Surry Hills council and asked for the organiser of the Festival .After a few knocks on different doors I was finally talking to the right person. I still remember the scepticism of the council lady when I explained why I wanted to get off her the details of this business family .
Who chases a woman to give her a photo??? Sounds kind of crazy ! I was so ecstatic about my mission that managed to convince her that I’m not a psychopath but rather an enthusiastic photographer .
She said she will ring the owners of the restaurant and ask for their permission.I waited for a while and was nearly sure it was a lost cause. The woman came out of the office and stared at me for a moment, gave me a gentle smile and slipped a piece of paper into my hand and said” They are ok to meet you at their restaurant” .
On the way there I stopped at a frame shop and requested a custom made frame for the print . Of course it takes time and was told to go back the next day !But again my persistence and determination worked their magic and I had the frame done in one hour!
There I was with the address in one hand and the perfectly framed image in the other.
As I was marching up the street I started to recognise the surroundings . I found myself standing in front of the restaurant called “Lat Dior” and had a flashback ! I had dinner at this place 12 months prior to this and the girl from the photo was very likely to be the one who served me on that night!The only African cuisine I have ever had was at this restaurant. Coincidence..maybe?
I walked in and met the parents.Told them about my investigation journey and how I needed to give the winning portrait to their daughter ! They said that many people take photos of her saying they will email them, but never did.They never imagined that anyone will cross the whole city to bring a picture to them ! They were more surprised then anything and very appreciative.
We rang their daughter up and I had the chance to personally thank her for allowing me taking her image on that day!I think she was quite speechlessness too. Her kindness at the Festival paid back .
The feelings of joy, accomplishment, gratitude, connectedness and happiness were overwhelming for all of us.
Photography brings people together in the most unexpected way and that’s what I love about it !
Do you recall a moment of kindness that made your heart smile?
I was challenged to capture a Taboo subject in 24 hr. It went beyond my expectation and led me to an experience I will never forget. I decided to look for a homeless person as it is still a topic that generates a lot of controversy and misperceptions.
Walking down the street of one the Sydney’s most picturesque and diverse suburb Newtown I saw a shadow in one of the corners. Looked back, there was a homeless man on the ground holding a disposable coffee mug in his hands.
- Did you have dinner? - I asked
- No - he said.
I offered to shout him a dinner, and then we sat together on the ground and silently ate the sushi rolls I bought.
I felt how intimidating is to sit on the ground asking for money while the busy, buzzy people walk past without even seeing you. You become invisible to the world.
He said his name is Lawrence, and he is an artist and musician. He loves playing guitar with his brother at Redfern Station, but now his guitar is broken, so he is saving for a new one.
We had a chat, and he briefly shared his journey. I told Lawrence about my 24 hr challenge and asked if he will allow me to take a photo of him. He nodded, and I took an image of him that capture the loneliness, a reality for most of the homelessness people.
- How long will you stay on the street tonight?
- I don't know. I need $25 to get a room at a motel nearby. Some nights it takes longer to gather this amount of money than others. - Lawrence said.
We kept chatting. It was a cold night, and I offered to contribute to his room rate.
- Are you ready to go?
He started to pack up while I was still sitting on the ground. As he thanked me I asked him to give me a smile that I can capture. Lawrence looked at me:
- But I have no teeth! - a reason not to smile I would have never guessed.
I put the camera down:
- Who cares, Lawrence!?
He gave me a warm, charming smile that lit up not only his face but my heart too.
I was looking at the final print and asked myself:
Are homeless people “allowed” to be happy?
Can human kindness make a difference in their lives?
Can we change the taboo?