I’ve taken a lot of photographs in the developing world. And I’ve done a lot of photo-shares.

Photo-sharing. It’s great fun but leaves everyone feeling a bit unsatisfied. (Photo courtesy of Joe)

Here’s how a photo-share happens. A child sees my camera and approaches me, asking to be photographed. I snap a frame and show it to the child on the camera’s LCD screen. Suddenly the child is multiplied by ten and I have a gang of kids surrounding me. Everyone laughs and begs for a pic with this friend or that friend. After a while I get tired, say goodbye, and move on, feeling generally happy but also a little sad that I’ll probably never see those kids again.

Three months ago, about a dozen Joburg Photowalkers went for a walk around an informal settlement called Diepsloot. It was an amazing day and we did countless photo-shares. Read my post about it here.

My favorite photo from the Diepsloot Photowalk — a little boy doing his own version of the photo-share. (Photo courtesy of Joe)

The Diepsloot photowalk happened two days before Nelson Mandela’s birthday — a day that South Africans devote to giving back to their communities. We (the photowalkers) got so much out of that visit to Diepsloot, and we wanted to give something back. So André Harmse, one of the photowalkers that day, came up with an idea: Print the photos we took, bring the prints to Diepsloot, and give them back to the people we photographed.

Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. André, with a little help from the rest of us, spent countless hours pouring over photographs, identifying faces, arranging sponsorship for the printing, and planning the handover event. André secured funding for 1,000 prints to give out to the people of Diepsloot, a collage for the Diepsloot Youth Centre, 10 large prints to be hung in the youth centre, and a photobook about our visit to Diepsloot.

The handover event was yesterday morning. My photos can finish the story.

Photowalkers André and Jane help children look for their faces on a contact sheet.

André and Jane matched people up with their images on the contact sheet. Once a match was made, the person received two copies of his or her print.

Themba shows off his prints. Do you recognize him? Themba was the boy who turned my camera on me three months ago. (See photo above.)

Checking out the stunning photobook. I think the little boy in stripes is looking at a photo of himself.

Thanks to Mark Straw — the driving force behind Joburg Photowalkers who introduced us to Diepsloot in the first place — there were computer screens rotating through the photos on a continuous loop. 

A young girl admires her print while checking out the collage in the hallway. The collage is made from 500 individual prints and was put together by the staff at the youth centre.

Mark also put up a white screen so we could take studio-style portraits of people with their prints.

Re-enacting the moment when I bought my T-shirt back in July. (Photo courtesy of Joe)

Every time I do a photo-share I think to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I printed out this photo and came back here to give it to [insert name]?’ But let’s be frank: I rarely, if ever, do that.

André, on the other hand, said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice…’ and then he actually did it. For hundreds of people, not just one. And I’m guessing that lots of these kids have never received a photo of themselves before.

Congratulations to André and the Photowalkers for making our Mandela Day project a success. And thanks to Susan van der Westhuizen and New Teltron for sponsoring this incredible event.

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