I am in Lagos attending the excellent Lagos Photo, the annual festival of photography. It has a good mix of Nigerian photographers and many others who have worked all over Africa.
The National obsession here is the endless discussions about the appalling state of the capital’s roads, so congested it is sometimes quicker to walk than drive as the traffic crawls along. It is more comfortable to be sat in your air conditioned car than trudging along the broken pavements in the searing heat. Because getting anywhere takes so long, and unlike other congested cities like Moscow or Beijing, where you can always delve into the metro, one’s timetable and progress are dominated by working out how near you are to rush hour, and how long a journey to the next appointment may take.
There is also a good side to all of this as being late, cancelling a meeting or just about anything can be blamed on the state of the traffic. Needless to say any talk, or gathering has to start late to allow for the participants to arrive having underestimated the traffic flow. Whilst waiting in traffic, you can also buy just about anything from the hundreds of traders plying their goods amongst the stationary traffic. In other words Lagos life is all geared around this insurmountable problem. It is a way of life.
So I have decided to apply this forced situation to my advantage by indulging in a new form (well at least for me) of street photography. This is hybrid of the now famous google street view genre, where in the comfort of your own living room you can cruise your way round the streets, selecting those moments of revelation and the more traditional approach of beating the streets by foot with a camera. So as we crawl along the roads, I sit in my back seat shooting the scenes outside. As well as the obvious comfort, you have the added advantage of not being seen so clearly as being out there on the road. The moment you are spotted on the street, everyone is alerted to you presence and the reactions range from, give me some cash, you can’t do this or even heavier threats) to abundant laughter, none of which help the street photo, as being spotted is normally the kiss of death.
Having established this as a shooting mode, I now encourage my driver to go as near to the action as possible, and even when the streets are clear, to slow right down. Sometimes, when the window is heavily tinted, I have to have the window open, but the basic concept is the same, as the hustle of the Lagos pavement (if you are lucky) reveal their moments.
Before I arrived to Lagos, I had it in mind to shoot another subject, but this just came so naturally as the right way to solve another photographic problem, and I love this unpredictability of photography, and how the circumstances can dictate the action required.