We recently visited the tiny village of Akato Viepe in the Aka Valley in Togo in west Africa. This village is about an hours drive from the main port of Lomé, As a youth I collected stamps from all over the World, not realizing that I would actually be visiting most of those locations during my life time. Togo on the west coast of Africa is one of those countries.
From my 1960’s era stamp collection:
Anna and I were both escorting Oceania Cruise Lines shore excursions tours to this village. Instead of waiting on the benches with guests and before the start of the official ceremonies, I decided to wander the village with my usual serendipitous style with my camera and I was rewarded handsomely. At the back of the village were several rustic huts with no one around (they were all at the ceremony in the village center) except for a very proud looking woman leaning against her front door. As always I approached her and asked permission to take her photo.I covered the subject of how to photograph people you don’t know in a previous post. Without answering she whispered in broken English voice “come inside I have babies!” and she held my arm and we both went into her modest hut. With a sweep of her hand she parted the mosquito netting and laid bare very tiny sleeping twins obviously born just a few days ago. With natural light flowing in from the open door I quickly grabbed two shots, mom with her twins and a closeup of the sleeping beauties. We both tiptoed back to the front door where I captured a simple portrait of this beautiful mother. She wanted nothing in return but I gave her some bills anyway “for her babies”. We smiled at each other while I said ” bella bambinos and thank you” as I shamefully did not know a word of her local ewe language but she knew what I meant. Striking a photo op gold medal I hadn’t even seen the ceremonies awaiting me as I strolled back to the village square with a joyful tear in my eye and the distinct feeling that I must be the luckiest photographer alive.
Enjoy the excited school children, colorful ethnic costumed villagers and a royal welcome ceremony with the village chief, his royal family and and west African drummers in this colorful 4 minute video:
Simple Objects Can Change the Viewer’s perception of a Scene
Sometimes the presence of a simple object will change the viewer’s perception of what an image is about. While visiting this village and during an amazing welcome ceremony by the Village Chief (actually a King), his royal family and the villagers I came across what appeared to be a father and daughter leaning against a mud wall and wearing beautiful and colorful African fabrics. Having asked permission (see prior Blog post on How to Photograph People you do not know) I photographed the both of them and then a close-up of the young daughter. To get a good composition of the two I had to include an unusual object at the same wall- an empty gin bottle! I photo journalist would likely be fired for removing the gin bottle while a fine art photographer would likely remove it for aesthetic reason. Here are both versions of the scene and each conveys a totally different message – what would you do? Please comment below. The gin bottle can be easily removed in a few seconds with the often used clone stamp tool. I used some of the photographs from this village visit in my last post on Travel Photography Tip – Border Patrol and the section with those images is repeated below,
Compare the two Images: With or without Gin Bottle? What would you choose? Click on the image for my choice
This is one of my favorite portraits. This image shows how the colors of the young girl’s fabric wrap dress match the colors of the earth in the mud wall exactly. The vivid blue in her wrap compliments the dominant orange-brown tones of this scene and her beautiful white eyes shine like a beacon towards the viewer against her smooth silky dark face. Do you get the sense that I love this image?
We also visited the local school where the children went ballistic with excitement as very few visitors come to their school. If you every get depressed just hang out with these wonderful kids, you will be uplifted forever. Watch the video in this post to see what I mean. This was our second visit to this village and we hope to return soon.
Young girl in Akoto Village, Togo Available as a fine art print. Click to view.
About the Author. David Smith of Vancouver, BC is a World travel & fine art photographer and is published worldwide. As a Blogger, photography workshop leader, key note speaker and cruise ship guest lecturer, he and his wife Anna have visited over 120 countries on 6 continents. They just returned from assignments in Africa and South America and will be visiting the South Pacific, Mexico and Central America next. Their motto: Capturing the World one smiling face at a time!