Say Cheese!

A lot of the Ugandans I’ve met have great senses of humor. Their sarcasm can be very disarming; they’ll say something outrageous and just sit there grinning until you realize they’re only joking. So many of my conversations here have been only half-talking–the rest is spent laughing.

So, at least in my limited experience, Ugandans smile a lot. That is, I’ve learned, until you point a camera at them. Then bam! Suddenly, they’re stoic, stern, the cheer replaced by a straight-shouldered seriousness. With some coaxing, maybe they’ll turn up the corners of their mouths a tiny bit. This puzzled me for some time. Then on the past island excursion, when I was shooting portraits of the Kikongo school staff, one teacher asked as soon as I finished with him, “I have not over-smiled, have I?”

Later on, when several teachers were waiting in line for their turn to pose, they started to tell the man in front of my camera how good looking he was, until he laughed. I got a great photo of his smile, but he was a little distressed that they had made him grin.

Just an interesting observation I’ve made. I’m not sure what causes this difference culturally. I have seen, however, that not all of the children have learned proper camera etiquette. This girl here is already a pro:

This girl here, however, needs a little more practice; even her eyes are smiling! 🙂

This one? He’s not even trying.


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