HIPUganda weekly, September 5-11 2016, is it the dancing or is it the president?

A president, not participating in a photogenic traditional dance, but engaged in a ball room dance. The pair may have been performing the opening dance. No other dancing couple can be seen, but behind the president there is another photographer in the picture. Even further in the background there are spectators who seem to be amused and a table with bottle on it.

There are two things I find myself thinking of. The first is, as every week, why is this one liked? I can think of two reasons. The president. And the dancing. Presidents are known. People have opinions about them. They are like or hated. The longer they stay in power, the stronger the opinions. Binaisa was a president for barely a year. And he was put in that position by others with ambitions. Or so some of the stories go. It must have been a hard year. But luckily, there were, as this photo seems to show, also pleasant obligations attached to his position.

People having fun, and particularly dancing, in a past that has mostly been visualised in the international public sphere in relation to war seem to have a big attraction on various audiences. An observation based on the popularity of both Malick Sidibé’s famous photographs and for instance, the one below of Ugandan high school kids. Or is it here the encounter between two famous schoolsthat should be taken into account?

The second thing I find myself thinking about is how the photograph was made.

Both Elly Rwakoma, who made it, as well as the cameraman behind Binaïsa used a flash. While the flash of the other photographer seems to be positioned above the lens of the camera, Elly’s was to its left. We can tell, without asking him, by the shadow causing a black line to the right of the president’s back.

In Elly’s collection there are several photographs of his equipment, mostly held by him. Here’s four examples:

I imagine that Elly made photographs with equipment when there was an addition to it, a novelty. But I’ll have to ask him to be sure.

The second and the fourth photograph in the slideshow are scans from negatives. The first and the third are photographed prints. The cameras in the third and fourth picture have a flash that is positioned immediately above the lens. In the first and second it is positioned to the left of the camera eye. But the first photograph has a calendar hanging in the upper left of the circle. It dates the image to post 1984. Binaisa was president until May 1980, and the sleeves the negatives of the dance photo are dated Februari 9th 1980. That leaves us with the Canon, and the flash that the two eye Lubitel 2 camera is leaning agains, in such a way that seems to be revealing a certain intimacy between the apparatuses.

Is this important? Is it even relevant? I am not sure. But it does make me look at these photographs with fresh eyes. It makes me consciously see more and other things than before. And that in itself is a benefit. It increases the photograph’s potential. And the stories I, and others, can tell with them.

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