Monday, 27 February 2012

My Tanzanian 'Big Five'

Taanisah's portrait on the Face to Face poster outside the Rock Art Gallery
Rashidi - head waiter at the Arusha Masai Cafe

 28.2 - The camera has given me the greatest opportunity to get out into the world and meet people. Tanzania - with all its wildlife and natural beauty is what brings most people here on their 'trip of a lifetime'; the Safaris into those amazing nature preserves, the so called 'Big Five' - Rhino, Lion, Buffalo, Leopard and Elephant. I'm not sure why they haven't included the Tanzanian national animal - the giraffe? Curious.

The hunters still come to take their trophies home, walk about with their guides inside the 'wild cage' - the guides who know just where to go - and the photographers anxious to repeat endless shots of sunsets, migrations, and zoom-lens photographs out of Land Cruiser windows.

Here then are my top five from the last 3 weeks and a strong reason to return to Tanzania in the future;
  1. Rock Art of Kondoa - the Amarula Campsite and the people of the surrounding villages.
  2. Workshop participants who did an amazing job, learned fast, were passionate and inspired me with their results
  3. Face to Face at the Arusha Masai Cafe - the most fun you can have with a camera and an Epson ink jet printer all in one day
  4. Paper making with Seppo using local materials
  5. Pizza at the Masai Cafe, served by Rashidi - if you haven't tried one its worth a trip to Arusha
I'm off home later today - a nice bus ride north to Nairobi in the changing season. I met some great people here in the last three weeks.

The Face to Face day yesterday was a great success - 30 portrait sessions in just 7 hours - special thanks to Seppo and Julieth, Emmanuel, Elke and Clive Justice who worked from 2pm to 8pm tirelessly providing a seamless flow of people in front of my camera. Big thanks also to Vernon and his friend for their spontaneous music during the gig keeping those waiting for their portraits entertained. I only heard it filtering through the wall as I was busy with the portraits! All the shots were taken with just two Canon 580 EX's and some rechargeables. When the power went off I could still shoot - so this morning we are finishing up the printing. There are too many faces to put into this blog, but here are a few of my favorites before I pack up my gear and head over to the Impala hotel to catch the shuttle.

Marja and Nico

Zainab's brother



Amaranta and Carlos

Peter Mwasha

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Print Day at the Arusha Masai Cafe

Vernon with his prints on the Epson Traditional Photo paper
26.02 - From a quiet start to the weekend workshops, Sunday turned out to be busy from 10am to 6pm. Zaneb -  a 13 year old and some lovely pictures of lily pads and seaside images started by coating some Japanese papers and Tyvek with InkAid. While they were drying we pushed forward with her portfolio - making some small tweeks to the images before printing on the Epson Traditional Photo paper.

Zainab (loading the sheet into the Epson SP9900), Vernon and Peter

Vernon had a great series of street shots again I tweeked them and converted a couple to Black and White and all turned out brilliantly - printing first on A3 and then to A2 for the shot he wanted large.

And then Peter - with his series of monochromatic images - shot on a small pocket camera - great tones beautifully rendered on this great paper.

There were no hiccups, except perhaps the time running out and people needing to dash off for various reasons. Here then is a selection of the participants works.

Thanks to everyone who helped out and took part in this workshop. Always fun and many surprises. Tomorrow we have Face to Face at the Arusha Masai Cafe - last blog update tomorrow night before I head back to Finland on Tuesday.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Finnish Sauna in Arusha

The Sauna at the Arusha Masai Cafe
 24.02 - It was a day of printing the Rock Art on hand made papers. There are dozens of files now prepared for print and with the Epson SP 9900 printing on the heavily deckled edges is quite a simple process. By disabling the paper size check and the paper skew check the bottom rough edged media can be put into the printer feed about 2cm from the feel rollers and the machine will ignore the fact that the paper isn't square. So the printing went really smoothly and the prints started coming out fast.

Seppo and the Rock Art prints on hand made paper

Rock Art Print on Hand Made paper

Arrangements with the students from St Constantine International School to come in the evening for presentations somehow never materialized and after waiting for them to turn up for a while we decided to have sauna.

Now - how on earth did there come to be a Finnish Sauna at the Arusha Masai Cafe? When Seppo and Julieth took over the property there was a building used for storage between the outdoor restaurant and the kitchen. Seppo noticed a chimney sticking out of the roof - and inside a paneled up room - clearly with an area smaller than the shape of the building. Removing the panels he discovered a kiuas (sauna stove) and benches - a complete Finnish Sauna! So, as it happens the people who originally owned the place had been Finns and typically no home is complete without one.

Changing room
The last thing I expected on coming to Tanzania was to spend an evening under the African stars sweating it out in a Finnish sauna - but there we were in that 'holy' place enjoying our Kilimanjaro beers - eating locally made makkara (sausage) and relaxing in the cool late summer night.

Kiuas (stove)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

In Passing - Via Via

24.02 - Yesterday we went out to look for some PVC support sheet - a journey through an industrial area of Arusha - dusty wide rough dirt roads lined with large scale buildings and people walking about. We didn't have much luck finding what we were looking for - but we did get some leads that Seppo can follow up after I leave.

Its not much fun shooting from the window of a Land Rover kangaroo. First off it feels too much like cheating for me - if I take a shot people should have the option to complain and give me the chance to delete something if they really don't want to be in the picture. So there is a certain amount of guilt involved in taking shots like these, but with so little time to get out of the vehicle I haven't got a lot of choice except to not take any.

After work we ate at the cafe and headed out to Via Via - a local outdoor night club frequented by local Tanzanian's, European's and white faces from various corners of the world in a large rambling series of dance floors, bars and a food stall or two.

White faces provide a ticket to a so-called 'better life' for ambitious youth, and there is a slight feeling that it doesn't matter much who you are as what you might be able to do in providing more options to an otherwise limited choice. Stressed out Europeans and North Americans tired of fighting a losing rat race battle to have more of everything enjoy the 'chill' of the Tanzanian culture and women and men everywhere in the world fall for the 'I've never felt this way about anyone before' routine with the conviction of lemmings with only a small proportion of them finding someone who really means it.

Inside the first dance hall the live music had the possibility to be quite good except that the habit of bands here tinkling away their tunes with the characteristic echo effects on full is to turn the volume of the singer up so high that it sounds more like an auction at a cattle ranch than anything remotely melodic. The beat of the drummer stands up to the punishment inflicted on the rest of the band by the singer, so you can enter the dance floor for a limited period until the blood starts dripping from your ears.

In any case watching from a comfortable distance I do marvel at the articulated hip movements Tanzanian women are capable of while dancing and wonder if they are actually engineered differently to us westerners.

Somewhere around 2am I got a tap on the shoulder and I turn to see Elina Voipio - a neighbour from Finland doing voluntary work here. She's bright eyed and obviously thoroughly enjoying the work and as most people who come here to live for a while the journey home is met with a degree of reluctance.

Back to work topics then. Tonight we start the second Arusha Masai Cafe workshop so there is work to be done to prepare. It will be a mixed bunch this weekend with some from last weekend's workshop and some newcomers. A busy few days ahead and at sometime today I try and get a bit of shuteye to make up for the lack of sleep from last night. Its sunny again this morning and the cock is crowing - time to get moving.

Face to Face at the Arusha Masai Cafe

23.2 - Its raining every day here. The autumn is approaching and by mid March the heavy rains will be at their fullest and the streets will be like rivers. With the afternoon rain comes the power cuts and here at the cafe the staff run around outside removing cushions and the guests take shelter underneath the straw shades.

This morning I was at the police station to report the stolen phone. Fares Lameck came with me and the process took only an hour. There are no computers here, the station is a drab and dirty building with heavy report books and papers everywhere.  At 8:30 am it is full already. A group of officers carry out a beaten up guy covered in blood and he lies on the floor beside 7 others huddled together. The officer takes the details of my case with Fares's help and the large report book with a carbon copy is filled out. We are directed upstairs to a long corridor with women and children huddled at the end of the hall and a series of rooms where I fill out forms and pay the 500 TZS with receipt - followed by another room where I pay a further 1000 TZS without receipt and are free to go.

I'm coming close to the end of my stay in Tanzania. Yesterday I gave a talk at the St. Constantine International School on the outskirts of town to a group of 14 and 15 year olds - some local children and some the children of diplomats and NGO personnel. It is midterm exam time and so the planned workshops during the week were cancelled and some students will join us this weekend and combine with the group we started with last week on Sunday for a final day of print. At the end of the talk several signed up for the workshop and I'm expecting a busy few days.

Seppo and I had been talking about the Face to Face project which I had done in Germany and Finland - a spontaneous and surprising exhibition of portraits created in real time and printed on the Epson SP 9900. The Arusha Masai Cafe is a meeting point with plenty of visitors popping in all day from 12 noon to 8pm and I thought it would be fun to try this using my Canon speedlights inside the gallery space. We've put an advert in the local advertiser and starting at 2pm. Emmanuel Kichere will be my assistant and will handle the downloading and cataloguing and prepare the shots for print.

So, on Wednesday afternoon we set up the lights and I ran him through the workflow. He's a bright guy, a very fast learner and certainly knows more about computers than I do - so he's at ease with the process and will hand the printing.

As were were experimenting with a few lighting setups Taanisah walks in the door - a young Tanzanian artist making enquiries about the space and I seize the opportunity to model and teach Emmanuel a bit more about lighting at the same time.

Here then is the very primitive lighting set-up. I've got 2 x 580 EX's - a key light mounted on a tripod stand and with a Lastolite softbox and the power set to 1/2 through 2 diffusers. This creates a relatively strong main light. Emmanuel uses the light meter to get us a good exposure at 125s ISO 200 and F6.3 for a shot with enough depth of field to keep the models face in focus and blur the not-very-smooth wall behind.

Our really basic lighting set-up with Emmanuel Kichere
I would like a darker background to give better separation but you work with what you have and I'm happy with the results. The fill light is provided by a shoot-through white umbrella jammed inside the rungs of a stepladder and up really close set at 1/32 power. Everything is on manual so I can jump around the model and always get a perfect exposure.

As we were finishing up, Alvaro - the Spanish biology teacher and gifted photographer whom I met at St. Constantine's International School turned up for a beer and chat. He gave up a lucrative photography career in Madrid to come to teach biology here after getting his PhD.

Face to Face - If you are in Arusha (or want to pop down to Tanzania for the afternoon) come and join us. Its going to be a great last day (barring technical issues like power failures which happen on a regular basis anyway) and on Tuesday I'll be on a bus to Nairobi to meet up with Mukesh from Epson before I fly back to Finland on Wednesday.