When you love photography and have the tugging urge to travel the world and see as many humans as you can, you end up staring into so many different faces. Some of these faces are simply unforgettable. This girl had a strength of spirit that radiated out of her as she stood there defiantly and curiously questioning the stranger in her village. She stood her ground and all I could do was smile in awe.
Have you ever been scrutinized by innocence? Has a child ever looked straight through you, cutting through the layers of your assumed identity to strip you down to the bare truth of who you really are? Children are not yet trained in our adult games of hiding behind borrowed personalities and when they look at us they ‘see’ us.
When a small child looks at me and holds my stare, I can’t help but wonder ‘what’ looks out of those eyes. Unburdened by personality traits and identity, small children can look deep into your soul with a strange kind of knowing, soul to soul.
Like so many other developing countries, many children in Egypt have to work to make a living. On my journey to Egypt I met and communicated with so many children and for some reason, it is these encounters that stayed alive in me till today. Children’s eyes can tell it how it is, the truth. Their gaze is penetrating and they are able to establish a connection with you and to tell you stories without words.
Going through my archive of slides and film, I saw this photograph and despite the 15 years that passed since the day I took it, I felt as though I was there now, locking eyes with this boy, seeing him stare in defiance at my lens, and remembering how later he broke into a wide smile when he realized I spoke his language.
Maybe the reason we love photography so much is the fact that it can encapsulate a memory, to store a moment in time with all that surrounded it, in the same way that a statue can, or a painting, or a work of art. One thing I am sure about: when I looked at this photograph, the Egypt journey came alive in me. I wonder where this boy who sold trinkets is now…
Have you ever been looked at in a way that made you stop in your tracks and be forced to re-evaluate and to re-consider certain importances? Some stares can do just that to me. They can force me into a state of depth and non-superficiality because they just carry that power within them. This lady has worked all her life and still works at this late age physically harder than I ever had to. She cleans the streets of Shanghai at a stage of her life when she ought to be traveling the world and relaxing in spas in most people’s standards. Yet she drives on, she struggles and she fights to survive. And just like that, in a single stare, she makes my daily worries seem so petty and insignificant and gives me a not so gentle nudge into the more serious side of life. I am thankful to her and to people like her that are an indispensable support for our communities.