Boats | West Africa

I am transported to the magic of emptiness when I look at this image. I waited for three hours to have that come about. Most days, the fishermen set out to sea during the black pre-dawn of morning, and upon their return, their blue boats are full of fish. The shipyard is bustling, noisy with sounds of fishmongers sorting fishhooks and tipping cartloads of ice into grimy wooden boats while locals in djellabas -or hooded cloaks- and pointed slippers inspect the day’s catch. Rows of strangely shaped fish twitch on the boat bottoms or nearby cobblestones. Gulls squawk overhead and the smell of fish is nearly overpowering.

Eventually, the fishermen gather their netting and equipment, and upon bundling their catch, they all depart to the market—except the person you see here. He is like a valet of the sea and tethers the boats; organizing them according to specific licenses to facilitate a smooth departure the next day.

The repetition of the form and the color of these brilliant, blue vessels is what attracted me to this scene. There was an emptiness, but also vibrancy to be found in the total stillness and quiet that descended on the fishing port. The graphic repetition of the boats and the vermillion red of the hooded robe the one man is wearing are silent but strike a resounding tone.

I study a place when I’m going to work in it: watching the light and the energy and how things shift, before pulling out my camera. The practice of allowing things to unfold is a worthy one. When I was younger and working, and nothing was happening photographically, I used to get anxious, almost wanting to force an outcome- unsuccessfully. Gradually I learned to allow life to unfold. If we are patient and ready with good intentions, the magic happens. The more we try to control beauty, the more we squeeze life dry of it. If we just relax, trust, and wait in the emptiness, beauty flows unceasingly.

Lisa Kristine Photographer

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