I have stayed long enough in medical school to understand that almost everything has a technical term by which they are called, especially in the world of phobias. Phobia for almost everything has a name:
Claustrophobia – fear of enclosure
Sitiophobia – fear of food
Anemophobia – fear of air
Coprophobia – fear of faecal matter
Anthrophobia – fear of flower
Phobophobia – fear of fear itself.
But fear of soldiers or guns, what do we call that? Or you think such phobias don’t exist? Trust me, they do. It was the worse thing that could happen to a harmless female photographer while behind the camera attempting to shoot some soldiers. Its interesting writing about it now, but at the very time it happened I wasn’t laughing.
The last two working days of the week was fun. Doing a funeral photography for the first, in the ancient city of Ibadan (I had only been there twice) was for me a fantastic experience. With that excitement, I jumped up and down, and from point to point, trying to capture interesting moments of the event. The service of song went well the day before the incidence am about to describe happened. So with that excitement, I went the next day, with my other female photographer colleague (the GREAT Ronke Alao), to cover the lying in-state at the home of the deceased. Distinguished dignitaries were present at the event, so were their soldier entourages.
Just before the lying in state started, I decided to take photographs of other side events like the food session, the condolence register, a side view of the beautiful house etc. It was while I was doing this I noticed the soldiers standing with their guns and I thought that would also make some nice shots, thinking about it now, I realize how silly that decision was. Well thank God I did, at least, it gave me something to write about.
I didn’t even know what gave me the effrontery to move close to them in an attempt to take the shots. They stood in two groups, three soldiers in each group. I had taken a shot of the first group, and still feeling cool with myself, I started focusing my lens to shoot the second group. As I looked into the camera, I saw to my surprise the soldiers pointing their guns at me!!! Was that a pose or what I asked myself. Just then, one of them ordered me to come close.
At that point, all my excitement turned into cold flushes of fear and it traveled with turbulence through my blood vessels. I wished for rigor mortis (stiffening of my joint and muscles, the type seen in dead bodies; pardon my medical jargon) but my feet moved in the direction of the pointed guns. It all happened in a split of seconds, but that was long enough for my heart to travel down to my mouth. Thank God my boss had taught me about the importance of always having the camera strap on the neck, it saved my camera that day because I would have dropped it on the floor while shivering with fear, had the strapp not been on my neck.
“Why you dey snap us photo? Who you be? Who send you message? You no know say dem no dey snap soldier?”– the soldiers asked me, All I could say was “Am sorry sir”, with a shivering voice. Another soldier ordered me to show them the picture of them I took. I quickly reached for the camera which was hanging on my neck and showed them the picture. They ordered me to delete it. “Yes sir” I replied and I reached for the delete key at once. “You sure say e no remain there”? one of them asked me wanting to know if I still had any other picture of them on the camera. “e don finish”, I replied, bending my knees with each response as a show of submission, respect and humility. They threatened that they would deal with me if they ever saw me point the camera at them again. Well, they really didn’t have to tell me that, I had learnt my lessons.
Just while I thought the discussion had ended and I turned my back to leave, one of the soldiers ordered me to come back, I obeyed at once. I was surprised when I looked up & saw a pitiful look on his face, as if pitying me for all I just went through (I wondered what the look was about). “I for deal with you today, but na this your innocent look save you”. Was that supposed to make me happy or trying to put himself in my good books, or was he just trying to sound the last warning, I wondered. Anyway, I said a sober thank you and stylishly moved fast to leave the vicinity of the soldiers, before they changed their mind about the mercy they had had on me.
As I reminisce the scene, I couldn’t stop being baffled at how much fear I had for the soldiers. I guess I was more afraid of the gun than of the soldiers themselves. Well may be its more of phobia for gun then. I have a feeling they did all that because I am a lady, I doubt if they would have done that much ‘shakara’ if it was a guy. Well, sounds like some form of achievement. I can boldly say now that I have been at gun point because of Photography (what a heroic feeling!). I also couldn’t stop wondering why the soldiers would not want their picture taken and at how much of mountain they made out of a molehill. Anyway, you should have seen the way I avoided the soldiers all through the rest of the event. I made sure I kept my distance from them and our paths never crossed again.
Apart from that incidence, the whole event went smoothly, I had maximum fun doing what I love to do. Other than the photography excitement, it was an opportunity for me to think again about life and its essence. As I watched the remains of the deceased lie still in the casket and being committed to mother earth, I asked myself: is this where it all ends? Whether we like it or not, one day, this body we all carry about, and we sometimes tend to give all the attention, all of our runnings about, the troubles and cares and fears of this earth, will end in that lonely chamber called GRAVE. Of course with long life, we’ll be satisfied, but there’s still an inevitable end. This earth is more like a sojourn, there’s a place we all are returning to afterall. We seem to forget that fact sometimes, or do we simply not care about what happens to our souls when the body perishes? (That is if we even believe we have souls in the first place).
” What shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and looses his soul, or what shall a man give in Exchange for his own soul? Mark 8:36-37. Ponder about this.
I’m Damilola Opawale & you can call me the Soldier Photographer