She pays attention but she doesn’t see. She has an astigmatism her contact lenses don’t correct. She can’t use her camera properly, can’t see well enough to align the split screen or clear the micro-prism ring. It is hit and miss whether her photographs are in focus. It is hit and miss whether they are well composed.
A photograph of hers appears on the front page: teenagers at a mass funeral to bury protestors shot by the police. The teenagers wear khaki clothes and black berets; they carry wooden machine guns with AK-47 painted on the barrels. A photographer discusses composition with her, points out why her photograph works: the way the head of one teenager is higher than the rest, the way his raised hand points to the left and the teenager with the gun faces right. She knows it was a fluke. She has seen the negatives, the contact sheet, the strip of blurred photographs on either side.
She has tunnel vision. She wears her glasses if she works at home at night, finishing feature articles she started in the day. She needs quiet to think, to focus. She asks those she interviews what they saw, not what they felt. She turns her head to see when she wears spectacles, the periphery is blurred, discounted.
She sees what is in front of her. She concentrates on the grid of streets in a new city, the famous landmarks, the houses of the jailed heroes, the hospital with prefab bungalows. Her guide’s discomfort is peripheral, his reluctance to show her around as if she were a foreigner.
She sees herself as a voice for the voteless, bringing their voices to the ears of those who have the vote. She doesn’t focus on why so many voteless reporters are covering sport or employed only as freelancers. She doesn’t ask the reporter who covered the boycotts before her why he was taken off the beat.
Her eyes and ears make sense of two languages only. She cannot interview everyone in their mother tongue. She changes quotes so the voteless speak standard English. She doesn’t see that grammar is evolving, that she is casually eclipsing voices herself.
archive - issue 20
Friday, 31 March 2017 15:13
PeripheralBy Jo-Ann Bekker
Jo-Ann Bekker has an MA in Creative Writing from the university currently known as Rhodes. Her short stories have appeared in Itch #16, Volume 1 Brooklyn, New Contrast, The Drum, Type/Cast and Problem House Press