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The Sound of the Cosmos
Anakwa Dwamena on 3 photographs in the Tender Photo Archive
It’s a hot-sticky afternoon. It smells of boring Tuesdays. Somewhere or other, a presenter drones on a television set. At a back porch, you find a portion of the floor shaded in by a stout shadow. Casting away the feeble plastic chair, you relax onto the floor. The frigid surface holds you down, as though by some gravitational incantation: your body is transfixed, still and even small gestures are seized from wandering. The sound of the cosmos hangs like a lace curtain between the tide of your inner thoughts and the mumblings of the introverted afternoon
It is the oldest sound. A perpetual echo of the big bang. A primordial groan. A sound of moving at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour. And yet it is subtle. We hear it loudest once—in the blink between the womb and the arrival. Before the arrangements of life take over and seemingly drown it out. But it sits beside everything, notable only in discreet moments. In moments so slow that they fall backwards into breaking the barrier of sound, so slow that everything falls away, and we hear all of existence.
Such is a moment in Abdul Hamid Kanu Jr’s image of a man walking down the streets of Freetown. Ordinarily one could connect with the sounds in the image: the wind gliding down the metal roof in merriment; the soft embrace of feet against the earth and, no doubt, the animation and vigorous vitality of street life just outside of the frame. Here, there is an elemental calm.
I don’t, personally anyway, believe you can capture it on purpose. It is a small miracle every time. Maybe, the photographer senses a texture in the air. What Chris de Beer-Procter credits as the “crackling glee,” before a young boy plunges into Lake Malawi. I like to imagine that the camera picks up the sound with the mechanism of a gramophone: conveying invisible vibrations into sparkling electrical charges and propulsions we can’t see but feel through the air. Even in a still image.
About Anakwa Dwamena
Anakwa Dwamena is a freelance reporter and writer based in Accra. He is an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow researching youth climate activism and climate governance. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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This is the #7 edition of Correspondences, a pop-up series on Tender Photo, published every Saturday from March 4–May 20, 2023. I asked a few writers to find “correspondences” between 3 photographs from the archive, chosen without constraint on style or genre, and to write short commentaries on their choice. The goal is to open up Tender Photo’s editorial and curatorial process to an engaged group of readers, broadening the diversity of responses to the varied work featured so far.
Tender Photo is a bi-weekly newsletter on African photography, published Wednesdays and Saturdays. See the archive for more features on early to mid-career photographers. If this newsletter was shared with you, consider subscribing, or forward to a friend. Please whitelist the newsletter to ensure you never miss it.