Andrea Calestani Photographer

My Africa 1978

The smell cannot be photographed. But that would have been the only photograph that well represented my “Africa homesick blues”. Because, even before putting my eye into the viewfinder of the camera, the smell of that land was the first overwhelming sensation as soon as I set foot on it.

Southern Africa: first Johannesburg in South Africa, then Bulawayo in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). A unique and adventurous journey like no other I had the opportunity to experience. The first challenging reportage.

I arrived there with a good supply of Kodachrome 64 and proper equipment: two camera bodies, sets of lenses from wide angle to telephoto lenses.

It was the summer of 1978. Apartheid was in force in South Africa. Rhodesia was militarized and besieged by independence movements that the following year would take power by subverting the white government. A situation that did not allow any exceptions in terms of freedom of movement.

I had to keep the cameras hidden, or take photos without being seen; I risked having the material confiscated, or worse. My permit was a tourist one, so I couldn’t go outside the cities unless accompanied in organized groups.

Therefore, prudently setting aside any hypothesis of photojournalism, it was the people I came into contact with who filled the first rolls of film. Then the landscapes from documentary films in the rare allowed excursions: the farmers’ village, the magnificence of the Victoria Falls.

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