Back to Mauritania, with a Fuji x100s
It didn’t take long for me to be back to this fascinating country. It’s winter here and, everything looks much more lively. I talked about how much I loved the Fuji x100s in Istanbul and I was serious, so, I took it with me to Mauritania. This’ll be a very quick post, since, so far I’ve only had a total of 2 days of actual shooting anywhere. We’re off for a fairly big trip into the desert tomorrow though.
I’m in Mauritania because I really loved being here the first time and, it was damn hot then. 44C during the day and not much colder at night. I felt that there was still much more to explore and, I particularly wanted to photograph the nomads here. Mauritania is one of a few countries in the world where one can still encounter fairly traditional nomadic communities, which haven’t been marginalised and made to settle because of modernisation.
We’re planning a much longer trip later, but, we decided to do a sort of a warm up trip, while we’re waiting for a few things to come together. So, we went out into the mountainous desert around Atar to search for some nomads.
We found one settlement, away from any main roads and decided to invite ourselves over. The funny and I’d say pretty wonderful thing with people in the desert is that, you can be an alien/foreigner like me and just stroll into their lives. You’ll instantly be invited for tea and if language permits, chit-chat will ensue.
The nomads live in tents like this one. There’s no furniture, at least not in this settlement. However, all the kitchen appliances are there. Especially everything to do with tea.
We arrived in the afternoon, so the women were preparing couscous, which seems to be THE meal of choice all around Mauritania. I’m not a huge fan of the couscous the nomads make, but, in comparison to some of the other foods that I’ve come across, couscous is great! The children in the tent had not been photographed before, nor seen foreigners. They were very shy and giggly.
This woman sort of became our host and here she too is preparing couscous, the only problem was that she burnt it and, spagetti was offered instead.
This man is a teacher of the Q’uran. Like the nomads he travels as well, though, from one nomadic family to another, to teach their children, for a fee. Josh, my new friend and traveling mate, impressed the teacher by reciting the opening of the Q’uran. This however, lead to a lengthy debate about salvation, good, bad and religion in general. A bit too heavy for my liking, but, it was all in good spirit.
Since I only really spent a very short time shooting, I am repeating myself, but, here are more couscous preparations.
This girl became my “star” of the day. Like so many of the nomad children, she is absolutely beautiful. Her name, strangely, is Deisy. This is the only photo in the post not taken with a Fuji x100s. It was shot with the Fuji X-E2 and a Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8 lens.
Two sisters. You can see that most of the nomads’ possessions are bundled up in the corners of their tents.
I have somewhat of a dislike of photos of smiling children, but, these kids were so adorable and playful… and, the light was nice and warm too.
The nomads usually stay at a place while there is water around. Here the women are pulling out what seemed to be the last of the water in this well.
She might look like an adorable little munchkin, but, Deisy had some real feist to her. She took charge of rounding up of all the baby-goats and ordered around her siblings with a rather stern voice.
The baby goats are placed in an enclosure for the night. It took the children quite some time to get all the goats in there.
The larger goats come back after grazing on grass, of which there seems to be quite a lot now (winter) in the desert.
One of the adult nomad women with firewood in one hand and a baby goat in the other.
The nomads place a LOT of importance on Islam. So much so that the families pay for their children to be taught the Q’uran by a sort of a freelance nomadic Q’uran professor. The kids learn every morning and, a little during the evening. They didn’t seem to enjoy it at all and this was confirmed when I asked (when the teacher wasn’t around).
I photographed in religious schools, called the “Mahadaras” the last time I was in Mauritania. Text from the Q’uran is written on wooden tablets, the children recite it until they memorize it. When they do, new text is written.
Portrait of two nomad boys. The one on the right also had a name which seemed strange to me for these parts of the world – Jeime. Maybe his family watched some soap opera and got inspired. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen this before.
Teacher and student. The teacher listens to whether or not the student is reciting the right way.
Since the nomads’ lives revolve around their animals, you see a lot of goat-chasing every morning and evening. I tried chasing one and.. it isn’t easy, that’s for sure!
A grandmother taking baby goats to an enclosure.
I didn’t see many camels in this community, which probably meant that they weren’t very rich. Here Jaime takes one of the camels out to graze.
How did the Fuji x100s perform?
I have to say, I am loving this camera more and more every time I use it. The fact that it’s so small is one good thing, the silent shutter is another. I’ve also been shooting using the screen on the back of the camera rather than putting it to my eye and looking through the viewfinder. All in all, these factors make the shooting much less intrusive. My subjects don’t see a guy rolling around on the ground (as I often used to have to do to get the right angle) with him head stuck in the camera and, they don’t hear non-stop shutter clicking, as I take one photo after another.
As you can see, the image quality is basically the same as the larger DSLRs. The 35mm equivalent fixed lens is much less limiting than most would think, especially when your aim is to make fairly intimate photographs. Having a slightly wider angle sometimes would have been nice, but the benefits far outweigh the lack of a wider angle.
This was to be my other main camera, along with the 75mm f/1.8 Voigtlander lens. I mostly wanted to use it for portraits, but, I haven’t actually shot many portraits yet. The lens isn’t so usable for almost anything else. As, it has crazy chromatic aberration. So, that’s a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps I’ll pick up the 85mm equivalent when I am back in Australia.
That’s it from me for now! I hope to have something amazing to blog about in the near future.