a friend tells me he's glad that people are afraid of lagos. i feel relieved and excited that someone else feels the same way that i do. this place is not for everyone. he says, i don't want everyone to feel comfortable coming here. i think about something my brother said, the world is what it is, you have to give back what it takes from you. how beautiful. you have to give back what it takes from you.
sounds like something a samurai would say.
you can't freely take a photograph of someone in lagos. this reminds me of one of my first experiences filming in nigeria, at a market in abuja. i was entranced with a group of women sitting around a lone tree at the market. once you pass 30 seconds of filming it is too much, people begin to notice. a woman ran towards me and pushed the camera out of my face. of course. i saw it coming. she tried to curse me. i held my fingers in a similar formation up in her face. this filming was not right, but i couldn't let her put a spell on me. that experience was so important. people notice you here, they see you, for better or worse. it isn't like the u.s. where people coldly pass by
pretending you don't exist. nigerians will never pretend that they don't see you with your camera. they will never pretend you aren't there.
a filmmaker talks about how frustrating it is to always have to pay people. if i am hearing correctly, he suggests that it makes filmmaking lose some of its poetry because you are always negotiating capital in the process. i can understand this. but asking for something in exchange for a photograph is important. i see it as a refusal: i refuse the taking of my image to be used by you. i like that people don't just allow their image to be taken, to travel far and wide, to be used outside of the scope of their own lives. (these are not photographs taken for weddings, funerals, or the simple vanity of a self-portrait snapped with a phone on the way to school, on the bus, on okada because you know you look damn good and want to archive that, want to post it, want to look at your own fine image endlessly scrolling through pictures on the blackberry). taking a photograph carries with it responsibility. it must be an exchange.
the samurai would also say, you have to give back what you take.
a photographic conundrum. i'm not exactly sure when it happened--when i noticed, felt the limits of the single image. i am always taking photographs, but rarely, rarely show them. i wonder if the single photographic image is even interesting anymore. can it draw us in and disorient or re-orient enough to be exciting, or more importantly, relevant? and relevant in a way that causes action (whether in thought or response). currently, the moving image solves this problem for me. it is photographic of course, but not fixed. and people are not fixed when they are moving. they remain whole, dynamic.
i made a video a couple weeks ago with my phone. a group of rollerbladers wait under bridge for danfo. as i enter the bus, one catches the window. i am filming him negotiate the traffic. he is awesome. i watch the footage endlessly. i have a mission to find him before i leave lagos, to give him photographs of himself, a collection of stills that i have excerpted from the moving picture. i want to thank him for being different and unafraid, for giving back all that the city has taken, for being free in this place that is not for everyone.