The Photograph by Sefi Atta

The Photograph by Sefi Atta

In the modern world, photos surround us constantly. We can see them in newspapers, on television and on any website on the Internet. Magazines about fashion and movies are filled with photos of famous actors and models. Athletes and politicians look at us from the pages of newspapers. People say that it is better to see something once than to hear about it. But sometimes the picture can fool us. Imagine a thin sad girl. Around the dust, you see trucks with food going behind her. Soon they will leave the village and there will be only many footprints on the ground. In the village there are many photographers from other countries. One of them kneels to photograph the girl. Later he will return home and receive many awards for this photo. But they will no longer please him, as he saw real starvation.

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The Photograph by Sefi Atta

In today’s world there are photographs everywhere – web pages on the internet, magazines full of fashion and film stars, newspapers full of photos of war and sport, places and people from other lands.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and maybe it is, but what is the picture telling us? Sometimes we only see what we want to see…

The Photograph by Sefi Atta

Make a picture in your mind: a girl with thin cheeks and tired eyes. Her arms and legs are as thin as sticks; she is only skin and bone. Clouds of dust circle above her head as the food trucks drive away. Their wheels leave marks on the dry ground, and soon only, the marks show that the food trucks came to the village, and left.

The sun is at its hottest; the African sky is unending and cruel. Even the white men with cameras, busily taking photographs of the usual fighting over the food, are now getting ready to leave. They pack away their cameras, jump into their cars, and drive quickly away to cool, modern hotels in a city miles away. They are photojournalists.

One of them, sunburned and hot, dressed in a shirt and jeans, kneels down on the dusty ground to take some photographs of the girl before he leaves. In the pocket of his shirt, is a protein bar, soft from the sun, uneaten, untouched, forgotten.

He doesn’t stop to think about the uneaten bar in his pocket and the starving girl. He is only one man. What can one man do in a world where life is cruel, and governments cannot or will not help their people? And who wants to stay in a place like this, with its dirt and its terrible smells, if they can drive away from it?

The girl caught the photographer’s eye. She was in the middle of a group of boys, fighting just as strongly as they were, when the food trucks arrived. But she was pushed down and fell under the boys’ feet. The boys stepped all over her, and when she could move again, the bags of rice were all gone. She stayed there, red-eyed, moving her fingers slowly over the dusty ground…

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