My Best Ever Shot?

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December 2nd 2019
Published: December 2nd 2019
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While working in Cairo, I used to visit a little shop on 26th July Street, Zamalek, that sold fruit drinks. It was on the way home from school, and I would invariably order a glass of banana juice (‘muz’ in Arabic) or fresh orange (‘burtuqal’). Both were cheap and delicious. I was served by either the father or the son. The father was the more traditional of the two, always attired in a flowing galabeya. Our communication was minimal, because my Arabic was hopeless, and their English was non-existent; nevertheless we took to one another, probably because I was such a frequent customer and, perhaps, the only non-Egyptian to patronize the place.

I shot this photo one day after school and gave a blown-up copy to the proprietor. He was overjoyed, had it framed and hung it on his wall. I had my own enlargement, which graced my Cairo apartment and now graces my HCMC living-room.

I had assumed that the laminated blow-up on my wall – dating back to 1989 – was the only copy of the photo I possessed; it was unscannable, and the old negative had long since perished. Then, the other day, while sifting through my Egyptian memorabilia, I came across a small perfectly preserved print of the cherished photo. I had it scanned and – voilà! – now the entire cyberworld can admire my handiwork.

It's a fine photo, perhaps my best ever. The man knew I was taking his picture but just got on with the job in hand. Concentration is written on his face. I caught him at exactly the right moment – his left arm stabilizing the press, his right arm crushing the oranges. This is an action photo. The composition is good: the three elements - the man, the press and the tray of fruit – are in harmony, and the blaze of colour in the foreground contrasts nicely with the other more subdued tones.

I'm proud of this photo. It's a lovely memory of my time in Cairo. And I sometimes wonder if, nearly a third of a century later, my magnum opus still adorns that shop wall.


3rd December 2019

Your photo reminds of the paintings The Fish Scaler by Mathias J. Alten and Johannes Vermeer's The Milkmaid. They depicted people doing their often deemed ordinary and lowly jobs, much like yours. Yet, there is so much beauty in all of them. For me, what makes these seemingly prosaic moments appealing is the way those people enjoyed and concentrated on their work. Of equal importance are the harmonious composition and colours of the painting/photo. Nice work, Kevin.

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