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They Are Encircled by the Same Beam
Pelumi Salako on 3 photographs in the Tender Photo Archive
In the market, a man’s arm is stretched wide, and his left-hand holds a book that seems to be a bible. He is decked in a blue robe in the manner of a clergyman; his closed eyes face the skies and his mouth is open in the manner of one shouting prayers to heaven. Around him, a crowd of women bows in prayer. But in the vast background, a different world of trading continues between market women and their customers who I imagine may gossip or banter about those gathered in prayer. I come into this picture bearing a question: why is a pastor praying in the market sphere and not in a church? Perhaps, the clairvoyant and the traders have more in common than meets the eye. They both trade in the perishable commodities of soul and food.
Two boys wearing flowery shirts and shorts cut from the same material pose for a photo. The older—and taller—boy curls his left hand around the other’s neck. The younger boy locks his fingers in the older boy’s hand, his right arm disappears behind his back. They look sure and unbothered in the innocence of their childhood. Soon, they will grow into adolescents and into adults and choose different routes and life will baptize them. But even then, this photo will always remind them who they once were: Jolly, happy boys who hold hands.
A figure sits in an expanse of water but we do not know who or what they are because they are shrouded in an overbearing ray of light. They are encircled by the same beam. Anonymous and faceless, they become one with water.
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This is the #8 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.