Of necessity, this is a long post – lots of words, that is. You have my apologies up front and can do a TL:DR and scroll down to the photographic content should you want.
I’m pretty much off topic here, but hope you’ll bear with me – there are lots of photographs to see.
As you will doubtless know my wife and I live near Cape Town in South Africa.
The disastrous nine year
presidency and leadership reign of corruption of Jacob Zuma has devastated much of South Africa’s infrastructure and economy. This article was published a couple of days ago and while there is nothing new here, it details Zuma’s ascent, looting of the nation, legal difficulties and partial fall from grace in excellent detail. Take a few minutes to read and try to grasp the scope of the man’s greed and the mess the nation is grappling with, to put matters to rights. Or not, if some of the electoral polls are to be believed.
Our Post Office is incapable of delivering letters and parcels within weeks rather than days. The rail system is shambolic, often dangerous, poorly managed and run and even the crack inter-city expresses are almost always hours late arriving.
Justice, police and the prisons are best left unmentioned. South African Airways and the SABC (state broadcaster) are both on the verge of bankruptcy and often heard whining that they require more government bail outs (read taxpayers’ money) or are going to be unable to pay salaries at month’s end.
The official unemployment figure is 27%, although most of us believe it might be as much as 5%-7% higher even than that.
An additional government sponsored, opposition backed land expropriation without compensation bill is before parliament, although the nation’s constitution already details specific remedies for such situations. We are assured that this will only impact state owned land, but these are politicians speaking…
Against this backdrop, ESCOM, the state electricity provider is the engine that should be driving the economy. Instead, ESCOM is currently some €30bn in debt, the network is only able to deliver around 70% of the required demand and then only sometimes. South Africa has been subjected to nationwide rolling electricity blackouts for several years, which recently, have been ramped-up; meaning two or three multi-hour outages a day. Our two new power stations – the world’s largest coal powered installations due to deliver 9600MW between them – are years late, billions over budget and largely useless because of dire levels of corruption, engineering and supervision. The electricity has been on and off more times than a bride’s nightie in recent days – and given the above, that’s hardly surprising.
The tiny Cape village we live in has suffered almost two dozen major lack-of-maintenance-related water leaks – requiring day-long periods of no water to facilitate repairs – since the beginning of December, with no end in sight.
Despite his recall a year ago by the ANC, the government is still held to ransom by the remnants of Zuma’s patronage network and current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, seems unable or incapable of even making a start on finding/arresting and jailing the culprits. This despite shipping containers full of incriminating evidence, several (highly respected) judge-led commissions of enquiry into state capture et al, yet not a single high level corrupt official has yet been arrested.
In fact, many/most are still on the ANC’s list of candidates for next month’s election. Go figure.
In desperation, the non-African sectors of the population are blamed by government for just about every ill the nation is suffering and the slide into racism, violence and civil war is becoming a constant threat, especially as our political hot heads seem ready to garner increased support in May’s upcoming general election.
Meantime, for our sanity and safety, we have rented a flat in London and will be travelling back and forth for a while. At least until the situation is clarified a bit and settles, or much more likely, this extraordinary country that has been our home for more than 40 years, slides into a Zimbabwe-style meltdown. If that happens, we won’t be there to witness the crash and will both be long dead before it gets fixed, if ever.
This last fortnight we’ve been a family living almost a normal life in London for the first time in more than a decade. Our adult children live here, our daughter has a four month old granddaughter and now, we have a lease to move into a flat in London Fields (Hackney) in April. But for the time being, we’re briefly back in South Africa, tidying up loose ends.
The trip was originally planned to enable us to find somewhere to live, but we managed that some weeks ago between our Up Hele Aa sojourn in the Shetlands and returning to South Africa at the beginning of February. We didn’t want to forfeit these two tickets, so for the last fortnight, we’ve been spending the kids’ inheritance buying furniture at IKEA and used much of my now free time walking the streets of east London, taking photographs.
Pascal Ravach’s recent DS post must have been on my mind; I’m not seeing anywhere near as many faces and people going about their business as I normally do. I’ve even seen less going elsewhere opportunities than usual. No. I’m looking for the London I grew up in, grubby walls, broken cars and trucks, evidence of industrial archaeology, although I know so much of it has been swept away in the name of gentrification and an improved quality of life.
Still, I have found some interesting things to photograph. And that makes me pleased I limited my camera choice(s) and concentrated on the end result I wanted. In short, I packed the inimitable Fuji X100F for pocketable and unobtrusive street use and my X-Pro2 with 23mm/35mm/56mm lenses for everything else.
I love my X-Pros (I have a -1 and the -2) for their honesty and ability to produce images that I know I couldn’t deliver with any other camera I own. They even surpass my X-H1 in delivering some types of photograph.
Now I have a clue; when I leave Cape Town for London at the end of May, I’ll have both X-Pros, the primes above and the SBH (16-55 zoom) in my bag. I may also bring my Leica M9 and a couple of it’s magnificent primes as well. Those lenses will also do double duty on the Fuji bodies, with Fuji’s excellent X -> M mount adaptor. It will also mean that if there is a maintenance issue with the M9, it can be done locally and not over a 16,000km return trip to Europe.
Is that the start of a change in my photography? I don’t think so, more of what the railways call a positioning move. I’ve now got some nice ideas for my months-long stints in London and a way to bring them to fruition. I’ll doubtless share more of them with you soon.
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