In 2005 I had a unique opportunity to go to Africa for a few weeks. The trip to Ethiopia was not a photography trip, but I knew that taking photos would be an important part of it. At the time I was far from having any notion that I might one day be a “photographer”
I was with a group of people who are a part of something called the Mossy Foot Project. A visit to the Mossy Foot website will give you some great information way beyond what I can type out here. Mossy Foot in a nutshell is a debilitating disease that affects hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia and beyond. The people, who are already some of the poorest in the world, take an even lower spot in society when they have the Mossy Foot disease.
With my first digital SLR in hand and a single lens I began documenting our journey. Dirt roads, animals roaming, landscapes and the people within my group…then we stopped at our first Mossy Foot clinic site…and I stopped shooting. I didn’t stop for long, but long enough to try to figure out what I was doing and why I was there. I was in Ethiopia, had just traveled for about 24 hours and about to take photos of people I didn’t know…I didn’t speak their language…those were only a few of the things I was trying to wrap my brain around.
After a few minutes of observing and being observed…I reached for my camera and began taking photos of faces. I was at a distance and still felt a bit uneasy as it was explained to me that many of the people I was photographing had not seen a camera before. Shooting photos of the people became a bit easier with time….but I knew there was more to shoot than just their faces.
Documenting our trip would mean shooting images of the disease. I was shown a few photos before our trip of people with Mossy Foot and they were disturbing. Of course viewing a few photos does not prepare you for the real thing. Once I began shooting I noticed many of the people “wanted” me to shoot their feet. I was told that they didn’t know if I was a doctor or exactly what pointing my “device” would do for them. All of it became easier as the days went on, but nothing can really prepare you for such an interaction.
The trip gave me a unique opportunity to grow as a photographer and a lifelong desire to continue to help the people with Mossy Foot.
More info can be found on the Mossy Foot website.
**Some of the last images below of Mossy Foot below can be disturbing to some