While March Madness may be raging on without me, Njabini is consistently proving to be more and more interesting. I’ve been living here for little over a month now, and to this day I’ve never found time to drag. Usually my daily routine consists of a morning run, then making some pretty pathetic French toast, and then walking around Njabini or going to school snapping photos left and right. At Flying Kites, the kids are usually in school from 8am to 3:30pm, Monday through Saturday. It then gets dark around 6:30 so it can be difficult to get to know everyone here but nonetheless, I’ve managed to meet and greet, and get to know most of the students, faculty, and staff.
What’s incredible about being here is the welcoming and supportive atmosphere that the town embodies. Never have I felt unsafe or unwelcome. Here, the kids will join you for a good 200 meters on your run, and the farmers will wave as you walk by. The word “Muzungu” (White Person) can be heard echoing for miles — shouted mostly from ecstatic children whom have not seen, or rarely see, someone from the outside world. In town, strangers often want to hear your story, and are more than happy to tell you theirs in return. In general, I couldn’t have imagined a more friendly and humble community to be a part of 7,000 miles away from the comfort of home.
There’s also something to be said about the calming nature of this place. About a mile or so from where I stay, there is a river that runs through Njabini. By this river you can often find cattle grazing, families washing clothes, and me. Most of the time I’m sitting around doing not much at all — it’s great. I don’t think I’ve been to a place in my life that’s offered the same feeling of pure serenity. I’ll stop by on my way to and from school and simply sit and listen for a good 30 minutes, something that I’ve never really done before in the states.
On another note: I had someone ask me the other day why I like black and white photography so much. It sort of stumped me as I’ve never given myself an ample amount of time to think about it. Yes, it’s true that a monochromatic image may emphasize emotion and timelessness or the use of negative space and overall composition of the photo more than that of a color image, but for me there has always been a more significant, elemental aspect to it of which I could never explain. Over the course of this trip I’ve been reading sections from “The Power of Myth,” a conversation with Joseph Campbell, and one piece of his thinking directly spoke to, and renewed my view of black and white photography.
Campbell argues that we live in a world full of opposites — good and evil, life and death, win and loss, this and that, and the most organic, him and her. He believes that it is impossible for us to live without opposites as they represent the physical, mental, and spiritual basis of humanity. Within the artistic realm, I would argue that there is no more visually fundamental opposite than black and white. On one side of the spectrum you have White, which is the platform for, and combination of all color, and on the other side is Black, the absorption and absence of all color. Now when it comes to photography, don’t get me wrong, I love color too. Deep blues, rich oranges, and light pinks are all aesthetically pleasing — but even though each of those colors has a direct opposite, nothing is as rudimentarily opposite as black and white.
The reason why I believe that black and white photography is so important to the way in which we view the world is because it directly reflects Campbell’s theory. We view the world in color, not black and white much like the way we view the world as a constantly moving image, not one frozen in time. Not only does black and white represent the epitome of what is visually opposite, but it also forces the viewer to critically think in that same contrasting manner about what lies within the frame and what lies around it. As humans we think in opposites because as Campbell states, it is “the nature of our experience of reality.” Black and white is the purest form of photography in this sense as it most innately acknowledges the underlying perception of the world that is shared by all of humanity.
That’s all for now folks.