Developing your confidence

This part of the course where I'll have to take images of people unaware is going to be a challenging one. Not because I don't know which places to go to to take photographs, or that Senegal is not interesting enough, on the contrary! It's most of all because I have had quite some experiences of people getting angry with my for taking photographs in the streets, or asking money for having their photograph taken. Others have yelled at me for not having respect and straight away popped the question whether I'm married or not!

I think Dakar is a difficult place to take images and I often wonder if I would have the same anxieties if I had lived in a different place. Part of my uneasiness is that I understand that photography is an invasive art. You literally take a slice of a person's time and space and keep it forever. Especially when not asking permission for that, I can imagine that one might consider it rude.

In a way it is quite understandable that the Dakaroise don't like to be photographed by foreigners. They feel like they're a kind of attraction and don't feel respected. An other thing that has often happened is that images have been used for commercial purposes, and they think that the photographer is going to make a lot of money with their image. To be fair, this has happened a lot in the past.

When taking images of people I feel driven by curiosity and a sense that I want to show what attracts me so much in what I see and experience. This experience is often a sense of feeling an 'alien in a completely different world', as Susan Sontag describes in her essay Plato's Cave. Personally I don't like feeling an alien, but I love the excitement of being in a different world. When photographing, I'm not taking part of that world, but truly focusing on what it looks like so that I can capture it and in a way understand it better. I notice that in public spaces I can't photograph out of pity, only out of interest and a sense of awe of what I see. 

There are quite a number of places in Dakar that I really want to go and take pictures, but I've been too afraid to do so up till now. I hope this part will help me to step by step gain the confidence to go out there. I think that I can build this confidence by doing so step by step and set up a plan of when to go, how frequent, what contacts to establish beforehand, etc. The exercises in the reader help with that.

The aim of this exercise was to take images in a situation where I feel at ease taking photos. I decided to go for a walk on the beach with my friend and start from there. There's always lots going on on the beach and there are enough spaces to turn to if people think I'm taking images. Here's a selection of images I took. Under every image you'll find my explanation of what happened.