Accra, Ghana is an incredibly social place. If you wander around an unfamiliar neighborhood silently taking pictures of anything – people, inanimate objects, buildings – you will probably be yelled at, and someone will definitely try to extort money from you.
Instead, you’re expected to say a polite “Hello!” to everyone around and strike up a conversation before you shoot. I did an extreme version of this in Accra’s Sodom and Gomorrah slum, spending hours and sometimes days getting to know my subjects and scenes before shooting. I wanted people at ease, and going about their daily business mostly unaware of the camera.
This is how the picture of the schoolgirl reading in a shaft of light in her otherwise darkened classroom came about (above). Hanging out gave me time to play with slower exposures – there was no other light in the room – and fade into the background.
Most of my time shooting was spent avoiding Ghana’s harsh, blue-toned daylight. I sometimes got around this by carefully underexposing my shots, but by far my favorite approach was to shoot at golden hour, dawn and dusk, as I did in the shot of a merchant pulling a cart through the slum (below). The streets are cooler, the pace is slower, and the city is bathed in light with an almost dream-like quality.
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