Day 24 : Free day in Cape Town

I like Cape Town.

It is not Tokyo. It does not mean anything to me like Beirut or Portland does, but it was a place that welcomed me when I ‘was made’ to cover an England cricket tour back in 1996. I had never been to South Africa before. I had never photographed cricket before. I had never been to Africa before. Friends laughed at the thought of me going to Africa, let alone spending five days at a cricket test match.

Cape Town was a great place to first set foot in Africa – there are 101 worse places that could have welcomed me to this oh so different continent.

Randburg is as random as Coventry is in England. In the past 12 months I have now stayed in there for over two of those months. I know all the shops, all the motorway junctions but with respect to Randburg, I also know where the airport is!

This was the first day in a long while where we stayed in a 5 star hotel. Any rock star or travelling person will tell you that they hate living out of a suitcase. All they dream about is home-made food and an inspirational place to be in – certainly not four mundane walls with mundane art on them on the third floor of a hotel. Most people who have a 9-5 job think we are lucky to stay in such luxury. Most people who travel for a living find that luxury totally draining.

We are already missing the great house in Blaauwberg just North of Cape Town. Myself and Ito both sleep until midday. I am trying to behave and show my Japanese politeness to Ito and not act like an English tramp. Ito is also being equally polite in not wanting to wake me, but it is ME who decides at half past 12 that the day will be wasted if we do not get up!

We walk the short walk to The Waterfront. Totally different to the Simple Minds song – but the line “Get in, get out of the rain” could be relevant as rain is the forecast for the semi final. It is a harbour, a collection of bars and restaurants and a great shopping centre.

It is like being in our own movie, a Japanese and Englishman go shopping!

Today is a free day. Cameras are taken but only to undertake features on World Cup shopping and documenting the World Cup circus in town. These images still lie in the camera. They can wait there is no rush. There is a strange mix of people here. Argentinians, Dutch, Brazilians, English, Spanish and German. If it was not for the World Cup these people would not be here.

The odd person stares at the cameras myself and Ito have flung over our shoulder. One proud person actually takes out his Leica to I guess impress us.

Many people have written since I started this blog asking what cameras I use etc

I don’t answer.

(i) it is about what you see, not what you use. The only place I really take pictures for me, is in Tokyo. I like to play games and challenge myself. One day I only use a 14mm lens. The next only a 200mm lens. It makes you see and look differently.

(ii) I was only a gadget freak when I was a student and got my first Nikon F3HP. Now I do not care for cameras. They are not items to care and nurture. The current crop of bits of plastic junk will be door stops in 2-3 yrs time.

(iii) make up your own mind what is good and what is bad. I am not endorsing anything.

I get some new shoes and a new top. I came out here looking like a tramp. I expected to have more time to buy new things like shoes. It is today, day 24 since the World Cup began and I have nearly been here one month that I have actually had time to shop!

We have some food – some pasta for me. I want to do the Asia Cup in Qatar next year. Ito goes cold. Before he was up for hiring 5 English photographers. Instead he is more interested in my idea of publishing our own football cultural magazine. Over dinner we become millionaires in ideas. We just hope the advertising revenue is up to our ideals – probably not!

I go to get my hair cut, but the salon is fully booked until 7pm. It is not great loss to me. I am starting to look like an Argentinian defender. I keep looking in mirrors and seeing how much weight I have put on! I still feel like a thin 20-year-old.

Ito and myself edge into a book store. He goes for some strange art books. Following we stumble across a gigantic book about architecture. Neither of us have any interest in architecture but both wish we could buy this amazing book. Then we stumble across the football section. Many books have been published prior to the World Cup. Lots with my pictures in, but not that many that are ‘mine’ and I get paid for. The rest go to the company who purchased and then ruined in my opinion a way of life and a family for many – my old picture agency.

One book seems to rise up above the vast selection. I don’t know if it is the cover, the layout or the design. When I pick it up I become even more interested. The cover is nearly as flimsy as the inside pages. When I did my book I wanted it to be a coffee table book – heavy and weighty. I like this fresh approach.

It is a book by Jessica Hilltout. A girl who has travelled across Africa documenting football.

A close friend called Jim Lockwood , a book designer, would love this book, and the website design. I buy a copy to take back with me. My head runs around with inspired ideas again of doing more books. My house is still inhabitable with over 1,000 unsold books from my last project. I still want to shoot my home town of Shrewsbury for 24 hours and do some kind of book. It will be terribly difficult walking the streets of where I have lived all my life trying to find interesting subjects. Going to new places are easy to shoot.

Todays visual offering is from my iPhone. I have not really used it to its true capabilities – not for visuals anyway. I have just realised its amazing sound recording and filming ability. I have only started to use it for snapping for this blog and regret not using it more.

It is a short video of some South African buskers.

We later meet up with the Germans. They tell us about their day exploring in the car. We will definitely join them tomorrow. I have been to Cape Town before. It is time to go somewhere new. We all comment on how nice it has been without the internet. How nice it has been to relax without carrying cameras around. We see amazing things, but the last thing we want to do is take pictures.

We end the night in a “Scottish” pub  – well that is what it brands itself on. I have been in many Scottish pubs in my time. None have been like this! There is a transglobal gathering here of people who again would not normally mix. South Americans, Asians, Indians and Europeans all chatting about something. One very annoying drunk girl keeps blubbering on about it being July 4th. Tim deserves a beer for getting rid of her.

I get an email saying I have a ticket for the Holland v Uruguay game. I have no stress to overcome. I hate being on the waiting list! I get emails from Italy containing JPEGS of pictures published in Italy. I feel that in this World Cup I am a big star in Italy, yet no one knows me back home! I don’t mind, I’m not on an ego trip, even it it sounds like it sometime. It just fuels more frustration that on my accreditation pass it says my name and then ENG for England. I don’t represent England. I am more of an international travelling man. I don’t like to be pigeon-holed.  I am earning my money from many countries.

These past two days have really recharged my batteries. This World Cup has been hard. Very hard. Especially hard for taking pictures in the way I like to document things. I don’t like big fences. I don’t like men with guns telling me where I can and can not go.

I have tried many times over the past 24 days to get something out of nothing but have failed time and time again.

I prefer freedom. I think books containing images from photographers from the past, and indeed this new gem that I have found by Jessica Hilltout is all about freedom. My book was all about a freedom on being able to wonder around a football stadium with a camera and not have an army of stewards in yellow jackets where I can and can not go.

Doing the World Cups in France, Japan and Germany I certainly felt more free. It has taken me nearly three weeks to make this conclusion. I am happy with my discovery and go to bed.

…. still secretly hoping that the volcano in Iceland will erupt meaning that we can not fly home.

I am not yet ready to go home. I never am. The longest I have ever been away from home is only for a surprising 9 weeks. However, when it is time to depart, I still want to drive home!

5 responses to “Day 24 : Free day in Cape Town

  1. Photographers owning and running a football culture magazine…..nice idea/dream

    Why not – you have already started with the blog.

    Continue when you get back to England.
    My view is it works best anyway as a webzine – forget the print option

    Might drive over to Shrewsbury and take a shot of people watching the final on the big screen in the city centre !


  2. Ronald R. Egan

    What cameras do you use? One day I dream of photographing the latter stages of a World Cup, do you have any tips?

    • Try and join a big agency like Action Images or Getty. If you are good enough or well thought of you should have a safe passage through to any final. IF not, do it alone and make up your own story.

  3. Have been reading your blog, after seeing it mentioned on B&A before the start of the tournement. It has been a great insight into how the pictures that document such a tournement get to us. Along with good stories about SA itself.

    Look forward to reading your remaining enteries.

  4. Jim Lockwood

    Wow, you’re right, I really love the flash version of “Roadbook” Matt and it looks to me like something similar would be a fabulous way to capture you’re journey – just the small matter of building it. Look forward to seeing the book version when you come back down to earth!

    Have a safe journey “home”


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