Mali, West Africa 2005, somewhere south of the salt mines of Taodenni
I met this boy in Taodenni. I didn’t like him very much. He was with his friends and tried to show off by ruining my attempts to photograph them. The other boys didn’t go along with him and that made him act even more rudely. When they began to follow me, showing me around the mines, holding out their toys, such as a kalashnikov that had been made from salt, he left.
Later, as we were on our way south to Timbuktu (spelled Tombouctou when you are in Mali), I noticed that he and his father were traveling with us. His father was ill and needed transportation to his home.
In the company of his father, he was a changed boy. He stayed close to his father, fetching things for him and for our crew. He helped the cook, washing up after meals, putting chairs and tables out, loading the trucks, etc. And now, he didn’t mind if I photographed him. He began to enjoy the attention.
With a natural grace, he would drop into a pose no matter what he was doing at the time. I wasn’t asking him to do anything but be himself and I think that was something new for him. Among the adult men he was either ignored or expected to wait on them. Although he couldn’t understand any language but his own, he knew that he was making me happy. In the end, I was rather fond of him.