Committee’s Drift, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 27 April 1994
From my vault — here’s my favourite image from South Africa’s first democratic election back in 1994. This was my first ‘real’, i.e. commissioned and paid, job as a pro photographer. I was in the last year of my BSc at Rhodes University, and I leapt at the chance to be one of the 8 official Independent Electoral Commission photographers. I had an all-access pass and an earth-shaking (for me at the time, anyway) 20 rolls of Ilford HP5+ and Kodak TMax 100 to put through my Nikon FM2. My job was to cover remote areas of the Eastern Cape. Since there was so little infrastructure, many of the voting places were in tents erected by the army at crossroads seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But that did not stop the people coming. At Committee’s Drift I watched people come in to vote from miles away, walking through the veld from small villages over the horizon. Most were decked out in their Sunday best, formally attired for a day that most of us never expected to see.
Notwithstanding the modest circumstances in which voting took place (the wind often tried to carry the voting tent away during the hours I spent there) the Presiding Officer took his job extremely seriously and insisted that all proper protocol be followed. Everyone had to stand quietly in the correct lines and have their ID book scrupulously checked, and I had to present my credentials and explain myself fully before being allowed to photograph.
Here’s an ID book-weilding voter heading towards the tent to mark an ‘x’ on a meaningful ballot paper for the first time in his life.
I was extremely glad for TMax 100’s ability to hold about 14 zones of detail in the neg. Because it was so hard to block out, i.e. completely overexpose, the highlights, I managed to hold detail in the very bright part of the sky. The print was a challenge, to say the least!