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PARTING SHOT: The girls in the photograph

PARTING SHOT: The girls in the photograph

Dear Merina and Elanie, I am writing to you 24 years and four months after I took this photograph. It must have been early January 1994. Some of those moments are dusted and faded, but I remember that I saw your holiday house from the main road when driving through Betty’s Bay. It stood out, almost strangely magical, like a little child’s doll’s house in a fairy tale. Heavy, grey clouds were sliding in from the ocean and the occasional dabs of sunlight made it the prettiest of scenes. Chocolate boxy?

Only when I had driven up a side road and closer did I see the two of you. I guess, even back then, I must have thrown out some photographic charm, because very soon I had you posing in the landscape. Without looking at the image, I can still see a patch of light drifting past behind the house along the Kogelberg, the pink flowers, the red T-shirt and the white dress with the red polka dots.

In those years I was still using a medium-format camera with colour roll film, so for quite a while you travelled with me in the film emulsion as an exposed silver-halide, latent image. Only later, during the colour development, did colour dyes embedded in the emulsion attach themselves to the halides and make you stand out so beautifully in the landscape.
Digital images are immediate, but with film you never really know the result till the film is processed. I have driven many miles over long times carrying with me rolls of the undeveloped, the unknown.

But I have learnt many a lesson from this, lessons that taught me about viewpoint, angle of view, technical precision and correct exposures.

After I left you I drove all the way to Cairo in Egypt. Back then, all of South Africa was gripped by the first democratic election fever. Nelson Mandela was on everyone’s lips. In Hermanus, I stole one of his election posters and he travelled with me, wedged between the fridge (full of film) and two large camera cases. He got me through many an African police and army roadblock. I spoke to him for thousands of kilometres and, after nine months through Africa, I let him float away into the Mediterranean, from a pier in Alexandria.

So tell me, dear Merina and Elanie, where are you now? Maybe Vancouver, maybe Perth, or are you living happily in this great Southland? If you do see this picture in COUNTRY LIFE, then I have a favour to ask you. Please take a picture of yourselves standing like you did all those years ago. With some flowers, don’t forget the flowers.

What about the house? Do you still have that house in the country? You can mail a picture of it to the editor Nita Hazell and hopefully, she will publish it with a short letter from you. Oh, and thanks for posing so wonderfully among the flowers. I will always remember that day in the Kogelberg.

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