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Senegalese girl in the shade

"I was in the town of Diourbel, Senegal, a few hours east of Dakar at a death ceremony for a man, Mustapha Kane, who had been in a car accident and broken his leg. His family couldn't afford the operation and he died in the hospital of an infection. The family was taking care of me when I was in Senegal on a Watson Fellowship studying traditional African beer brewing. We took bush taxis to this town, the family's ancestral home. There were about 200 relatives from all over Senegal and I was the only Westerner there. It was more like a celebration—even I wore traditional robes. There was a lot of eating and it was very hot.

"This little girl and guy were just hanging out. I saw them when I stepped outside from the celebration. The little girl was pretty shy, and didn't really want to be photographed. I asked her if I could take her picture; she knew who I was and trusted me, so on second thought, she didn't mind. The little boy was just off to the side, but he ended up in the frame. I think I might crop him out if I were going to use this photo."

—Reporter/Researcher Christian DeBenedetti

Photography Notes

  • Camera: Canon AE1, 80s
  • Film: Ektachrome, 400 ISO
  • Lens: 50-80mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/60th
  • Aperture: F5.6
  • Time of day: 2 PM

"People seemed pretty shy around cameras. I carried mine around at all times. As people became familiar with me, especially my host family, they didn't mind when I took it out to take a photo.

"I liked how the light was coming diagonally across the background. The exposure was accidental, but the way in which I framed it was intentional. I know it goes basically against conventional wisdom, but I definitely set the girl right smack-dab in the middle."

"The composition in this photo is pretty well executed. I like the fact that the kid here is nearly out of the frame. I wish he were a little more into the frame so that it would look less like a mistake and more like a real composition element. The fact that the kid in the middle is really smiling and engaging the photographer is a good thing, but maybe the photo would have more of an editorial feel if the kid was caught in a moment where she wasn't looking at the camera. The light is beautiful. The colors are great. The exposure is good. The thing that would have made this photo really great and really sort of special would have been to have more of that kid in that frame. And also, if the photographer had been closer, the boy on the edge of the frame would give little more of an extreme foreground-background perspective to the photo."

—Picture Editor Sabine Meyer


June/July 2003

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