Photos I Wish I Had Taken

Photos I Wish I Had Taken: Olivia Arthur

Photo: Olivia Arthur

Photo: Olivia Arthur

I’ve been thinking about portraiture a lot lately. What I like about an image that grabs my attention. There are so many factors but an emotional, visceral reaction is usually a prerequisite. Hence my love for this wonderful image of Martina Akello, 66 in Uganda, by photographer Olivia Arthur.

Martina’s expression, her gaze, the way her forehead furrows, conveys an angst, an intensity that even in a tiny thumbnail on twitter, caught my eye. The extreme, shallow depth of field, draws the viewer in to explore the lines on her face, her mouth and her blood-shot eyes.  It’s extremely powerful.

This photo was one of many by Arthur on Magnum Photo’s website. An interview with Martina accompanied it and I’ve quoted it below..

UGANDA. Amuria. 2008“I have lived here for a long time. I moved here from Wila – not far. I came to escape the fighting during the 1985 civil war. It was not easy coming here, I had to run through the bush. I had torn skin and clothes. I arrived with nothing, not even a change of clothes. I didn’t know anybody when I arrived. The first night I arrived I slept in the primary school, I spent one month there and then I built a house. Now I work in people’s gardens which I use to buy food. I alternate work and rest days. Today is a rest day.

I am appreciating the hygiene education process. The compounds are clean, the smell is gone, the air is clean, everything is better. Before the latrine the children used to go everywhere- the smell was so bad you couldn’t sit anywhere. You would be chased out by the smell in one minute!”
Martina Akello, 66

What do you like about it?

More Photos I Wish I Had Taken

4 replies »

  1. That is a powerful portrait. It says so many things about her life. I stayed with it for quite a while, and realized I met many women like her when I lived in Uganda.

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