The Pictures I Don’t Take

Throughout the last year and even during my first trip to Uganda, there have been so many missed Kodak moments. Honestly, I apologize for those. I wish with my whole heart that everyone I know could experience the beauty, the simplicity, the confusion, the joy of Uganda. I wish I could photograph every experience and send it to you so you all could see why I love this place so much, and maybe even want to experience it for yourself.

I try my best to photograph moments I love, but some of them just get away from my camera.

In many cases, it’s not possible for me to take pictures. Sometimes, photographing certain scenes from people’s normal routines that are interesting to me but mundane to locals, could be insulting or confusing them.

Kennedy Odede, a man from the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya illustrates this point when he recalls his first memories of white people in his book, A Path Appears, “One day I saw something very strange, people walking around who looked like they had come directly from the grave, their skin was so pale. Mzungus. They carried black machines that flashed bright when they pointed it at me. I screamed. I thought the machine was going to harm me, and so I fled. Later I learned it was a camera. Its flash and their voices terrified me. We didn’t see them often, less than once in a year. But whenever I saw them, I ran and hid. I had many ideas about them; first, I did not expect them to be smart, because they loved to take pictures of silly things like chickens on the street, shanties and other things that were not interesting.”

Even today, my boyfriend, Michael, will tell me I’m being “so mzungu” when I do things like taking a picture of a goat standing proudly on top of a rock. (I took that photo anyway)

So for various reasons. There are many moments that go unphotographed:

When my neighbor kids ask me to pour for them water from my bottle and they all simultaneously take their shirts off so they don’t get them wet, and unfortunately my phone is dead.

When I’m in a taxi licensed for 14 passengers and I physically can’t take a picture because we’re carrying 31 people (some of them on my lap).

When I see ‘Barbie Savior’ printed on the back of a taxi while I’m in a traffic jam, but I know if I pull my phone out it will most likely be snatched out of my hand.

When I want to take a picture of the gigantic and terrifying Marabu Stork sitting on the roof directly outside my open classroom window, but I know it would disrupt my already rowdy class.

The day I saw a man sitting on a boda (motorcycle) holding a car door and sadly my phone was at home charging.

When I have a perfect shot of little Azza standing, looking out over the hill we live on with the words “Never Give Up” printed on the back of his shirt, but every time I take the camera out he spins around, smiles and yells, “Photo! Photo!”

When I’m sitting in a field in the village with a gaggle of children around me, laughing and staring off at the rolling green hills, and I don’t want to disrupt the moment by running down to the school to get my camera.

Often I’ve thought, “Oh, how the people at home would love to see this.” And I’ve really tried my best to give you images into what my life is actually like, when I can.

But over my last year in Uganda I’ve also come to this conclusion:

Some moments are just too good to photograph. 

Sometimes I really want to take a picture, but I feel it would disrupt the scene or change the atmosphere.

Sometimes I just want to enjoy. I don’t want to be a spectator in my life. I want to be fully immersed in what’s going on around me. Sometimes I have to tell myself to stop watching life through the screen on my phone and just watch it through my eyes.

I don’t want to video tape the kids running down the hill to welcome me home from work. I want to be free to accept those hugs with arms wide open.

I want to enjoy time face to face with a friend, rather than posting an image so everyone knows we were together for lunch.

I want to take in the sights of the many hills of Kampala as I wiz around them, rather than trying to capture them from the perfect angle.

Because in the end, no matter how talented I could be at photography, I couldn’t capture these sights and these Ugandan moments as well as the eyes and the ears ca n. In order to get the real snapshots, you have to see it for yourself.

So please, enjoy the pictures I take, and forgive me for the ones I don’t.

Here are some of my favorite moments that I have caught in the past few months:

Currently Reading: The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers
Currently Listening To: Pieces by Bethel

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