When I was in Tunis recently I saw an image that captivated me visually. It was a fruit market at night, all lit up from inside with glowing jewel colors against the black night surroundings. It was a neon Pop Art version of a stained glass window in a darkened cathedral---the colors were electrifying. People seemed to be clustering around the lighted storefront.
Unfortunately, we were already late for a dinner party and although I was crying out on the inside “Oh! Oh, oh” it was not the right moment to ask the car to stop for a picture. Several more times during the week we drove by these open fruit markets but one evening the garage doors were shut, another evening we were past the curfew and were racing home through the empty streets trying to attract as little notice as possible.
On the occasion of this first photo (below), our dinner host who had come to pick us up kindly slowed so I could get a picture of the fruit stand, and everyone laughed that on this particular day there were only oranges. Not quite the vision I was trying to recreate, particularly missing the black night. (A lesson I learned photographically is that you can never go back and find the same set of circumstances, but you can be very annoying to the ones you’re with when you try to capture the present ones.)
On another day a friend picked us up for dinner and I asked her to slow if we came to a fruit stand. We came to this scene below at a traffic stop and I took it even though it wasn’t the picture in my head, that Hopperesque glow from the taverna. [“Nighthawks”]
Then as we started to move forward I first noticed that the “store” was a pick-up truck,and then that the proprietor was watching me with the camera. I gestured to ask if I could take a picture (which I already had) and he nodded and struck a pose. I am very happy to have this picture because it transcends all the nervousness of the political climate in Tunisia. All week I had to be very careful not to upset or affront people by taking pictures. They had just gone through a coup d'état and the military, the police, and the secret police were everywhere. So I liked this nice man even though we didn’t speak words. It was just the touch of humanity, normal people meeting normal people, willing to be friendly, that encouraged my heart.
At the very next intersection we kept rolling past this scene below and I didn’t have time to ask anyone’s permission as we moved past. You can see the people are watching the woman with the camera in the car (me).
One great thing about this photo is the freedom it represents, a new freedom for the people since the coup, to sell without a government license. It seems the beginning of the rioting was when a young man, son of a farming family that couldn’t get the requisite license to sell their produce, took his wagon of foods to sell to the public. Because he didn’t have a license he was arrested and his goods were confiscated. In protest this young man set himself on fire and died. That was the beginning of the revolution as I understand it. So this picture represents free enterprise, although I don’t truly know if this man had been licensed previously or not.
I am joining up with Rebecca’s blog for “Foto Friday”. You will see more delicious edibles over there.