The Snake and the Camera

The little boy slinks sheepishly into the mud-bricked classroom, hiding the donated camera behind his back. For months he has participated in a photography project, learning to use a point and shoot camera – but more importantly, learning to see and find the beauty in his daily life. Now he nervously hands over his battered camera. It’s still sealed in a zip-lock bag to protect it from dust,  but obviously this camera has bigger problems than dust. He starts to tell a story about his little brother and a snake.

As the sun went down, he had carefully placed the camera on the dirt floor of his house – since he had no furniture – and warned his younger brother to stay clear of it. Before long, a large snake slithered out from the corner and the boys panicked. The young photographer tried to beat the snake with a stick, but making no headway against the snake, he handed the stick to his brother and ran outside to look for a larger weapon – yelling reminders not to hit his camera. But with his big brother gone and finding himself alone with the snake,  the young terrified boy picked up the stick and began flailing wildly. The snake survived, the camera did not.

After some laughter on our part and assurances that these things happen to budding photographers, the boy returns to his home with a different, slightly less-battered camera – and with a huge smile on his face.

Of course, it is not easy to wrap our minds around two little boys battling a huge snake alone in their mud-walled hut. They tell us that the snakes often curl up next to them at night while they sleep. The young ones tell how they are afraid to leave the house to visit the toilet at night for fear of the snakes that lurk there.

The children who have participated in our photography project over the years have many stories to tell – some are humorous, some tragic and many are beautiful. One little boy told us that he had never noticed an African sunset until he looked at it through the lens of a camera.

That statement alone made it all worthwhile.