A Picture Paints A 1,000 WordsWe've all seen the tiny shops at the side of the back street. They're not the busiest places, and usually not the cheapest. The experience and skills of the people working in them are being lost as these shops close, and these skills will end up lost forever.
In the Moroccan town of Taliouine there's a small cobbler's shop in the market area behind the old kasbah. It's a hectic souk once per week, and on the other days it's a quiet little backwater. On one of its back streets there are two guys who make and repair shoes. They have no computers, no laser measures, no CNC machines. They have a bunch of templates that their fathers probably got from their fathers. And you know what - they still work. They don't need re-booting, re-calibrating or re-conditioning. They just work.
When I want a photo of someone, I usually leave my camera hanging on my shoulder and talk with them a while. And watch. Loads of watching. With these guys we didn't share a language, so there was just watching until some kind of mutual trust built up. They signaled for me to come into the shop and cleared a few old shoes off the top of an up-turned bucket for me to sit on for a while. It was superb to watch the interactions between the two men as they knew I wanted a photo, and they were guessing when I would ask. Moroccan's have a good sense of humour! I think I out-lasted them and finally one guy pointed to the camera and gave me the international signal of a thumbs-up. I'd earned my shot.
The hard part was to try tell the whole story in just one shot. I wasn't sure I'd get any more! For a photographer, the general rule is to keep removing things from the image until you get to the subject, probably the opposite to a painter, but for this shot I wanted as much of the story as I could get. The templates, the stock, the leather, the dirt, the dark, and most importantly the two guys.
I did manage a few more shots which are over on my blog, but this is the one I love. Almost as much as I loved the 30 minutes on the up-turned bucket!