Many people in Mozambique don't have a single photo of themselves. There are some who have never even had their picture taken. Photos are prohibitively expensive to print, after all (up to fifty cents apiece), and cameras are prohibitively expensive to buy. And while all of this is starting to change with the growing popularity of the camera phone, the concept of sit-down portraits or yearly "school photos" is still completely foreign.
So, before Dan and I left for the United States in June, we thought it would be nice to offer free pictures to the kids whose families were interested. We initiated "Picture Day" in our part of the neighborhood, and told the kids to brush their teeth, wash their faces, and put on their favorite outfits.
The idea was to make nice, official-looking portraits, print them in the States, and then bring them back to Mozambique for the families to keep. We used the wall of our veranda as a makeshift backdrop and told the kids to sit, be calm, and smile for the camera.
The results, as expected, showed an impressive range of variation. Some kids totally got it, and really rose to the occasion. Others were just excited to get their picture taken.
|Nelson brushed his teeth, washed his face, and combed his hair for this picture|
|Feta wore her best school outfit|
|Bonita showed up messy, but with a lot of pride in her new hair extensions|
|This little one was just excited to be there|
|Fatima's uneven hair extensions made for a gorgeous and striking photo|
(plus, she looks like a young Zoe Saldana)
|This little one couldn't sit still to get his picture taken. Instead, he rolled around|
the wall, giggling. His happiness was infectious.
|Confianca came with her older sister, Shana, but ended up with her very own portrait|
|Shana asked to pose with all of her school materials|
|Eva took several pictures, seated on a stool. Then, he asked me if he could do a|
karate pose. This one, as it turned out, was my favorite one.
|Junho simply doesn't know how to smile|
The best part of the whole experience was the returning of the actual printed photos. Until that point, many of the smaller kids thought that my camera was just a toy that took pictures and then displayed them for ten seconds on a tiny screen. They were beside themselves to see their own faces printed out on paper.
Dan and I made a big production out of the returning of the pictures. Each photo was shown to the group of gathered children, then handed over to the rightful owner. The kids were just as excited to see the photos of their friends as they were to see their own, and not a single picture escaped the circle without hundreds of little smudgy-finger marks.
In the end, it was one of the happiest experiences of our time in Mozambique. Taking and printing those pictures was a very simple gesture, but it was one that made everybody happy.
Of course, now they want more photos...