This is #11 in my series ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. I went to Cambodia in 2005. I'd wanted to go for a long time to photograph the temples there, but when I got there, it found myself more drawn to the people than the ancient ruins. In the picture below, we see a small child on the front of her father's moto. The whole Cambodian family can be seen 'living' on the back of motorcycles in Cambodia and in this picture, you can see her father and brother too.
So why did I take the picture? Well sometimes all I know is that I'm drawn to a subject without any clear conscious decision. But I think in this case I was definitely after a shot of a 'mobile Cambodian family'. I'd had weeks of seeing whole families - up to six people or more clinging onto the back of a motorcycle scooting along the Cambodian roads, dodging cattle and large farm vehicles.
But I didn't really quite get what I'd intended (as is often the way with Photography) and although at the time I felt I'd failed to get that 'mobility', I did however on reflection get a shot of daughter being soothed and calmed by her father. Just look at his gestures to her: I'd approached and he was very happy for me to take the photo of them, but when I raised the camera, she started to look afraid. I'm not one for making people feel uncomfortable so I often retreat and will immediately retract. It's just my way. I'd much rather everyone was happy than make a photo and feel I'd upset someone.
But it was a few years later, when reviewing some images from a trip to Cuba that I noticed a parallel photo. The image you see below was taken in Trinidad. This time I was still drawn by the 'mobile family' theme, but I was also taken by the timelessness of the Cuban people. Have you noticed for instance how most Cubans are always well dressed? Stylish, yet they don't have any money? The bike was ancient, and yet, the little girl (who looked distinctly Cuban) was wearing the most shiny shoes. 1950's shoes. They hark back to a time that Cuba is stuck in. Everything about Cuba's architecture and its people is glued firmly in the 50's at the time of the revolution.
But I digress slightly. The reason why I bring both these photos together under this single posting is that they show a common theme: the bonding of father and daughter. If you look at both of them, you can see the fathers hands are a soothing, calming influence on their daughter.
I didn't think this was what I was trying to achieve, and perhaps you feel the photos are about something else entirely. Perhaps they're really about families transporting their children around, but to me, a man with no children, I see a bonding between father and daughter. Perhaps some day if I ever have children of my own, I'll be able to feel and understand that bonding, but until then, these photos give me the closest thing to it.