I travelled to St Helena Island – off the coast of, well, nowhere, in December 2018 for Smithsonian Magazine, to photograph a story on Napoleon. He famously saw out his last years there in exile, banished from his beloved France. While the island, because of its complete remoteness (it gained its first runway and subsequent air service in 2018 allowing a plane from Johannesburg, via Windhoek, to make a weekly – controversial – flight) saw other exiles and famous people (Zulu kings, Anglo Boer war prisoners, Halley of Halley’s Comet fame to name a few) it was the famed French general that put the island on the map.
Starting the year off looking back…at Mongolia. Just loaded a HUGE edit on my website (www.samreinders.com) from the last two years trips to North Western Mongolia. Join me in October this year on a photo tour to the 2019 Eagle Festival. Mail me for details.
Oom Koot: While I sit here teary, I know that this morning, for the first time in almost 3 years (You’d be able to tell me exactly how many days and hours) you are the happiest you’ve ever been. Reunited, finally, with the love of your life. I hope the reunion was everything you thought it would be, and more. One of the last memories I have of you is etched in my head: squiggles, hundreds of them, snaking from the front gate of the farm house to Laetzie’s grave. You wheeled yourself there in your wheelchair everyday to spend time with her. I tried to photograph it. But somethings are just never meant to be on film.
You’ve taught me an incredible amount over the past few years. Most of those lessons revolve around love, hard work, and jackals, of course…. You taught me something that has taken a few years for me to understand…I don’t think I got it at the time…but I said it out aloud to someone last night and all of a sudden it felt like a pin dropped. You taught me that sometimes there are connections between people that simply can’t be explained. Some call it soul mates – but I’ve always had a problem with that term. I understand it more clearly now. Those connections are the strongest ones you’ll have in life and are the ones worth cherishing the most. You don’t necessarily get to choose who those people are. Those people happen. They just happen. They might rock up at your house, in the middle of a night in a Landrover, lost, looking a little disheveled (and filthy), and in need of a place to pitch a tent. The rest, as they say, is history….
When it comes to love – you set some incredibly high standards. Your and Laetzie’s love for each other, and the obstacles you overcame together, will remain what I set my relationship standards against. Probably to my peril… 😉
If you feel something, feel it deeply. Love undeniably, laugh hard, smoke like all the worlds cigarettes will soon disappear, work because your life depends on it, respect people. But not jackals. Never jackals.
I made this video when I was on the farm last. And I took hours and hours of video footage. Its been sitting on my harddrives….think its time to press play…
Rest in peace. Hope some of those red Kalahari dunes that you cherished are also up in the heaven that I know you believed so much in.
Send my love to Laetzie.
I spent the past 10 days in the kalahari with my parents – on what was for me one of the best holidays of my life. I feel so privileged, at this age, to be able to spend quality time with my parents who I respect, love and can call friends. The slideshow and text below are fragments of those few days. I edited quickly without too much consideration, just initial emotion and feeling and jotted down these words on the last night of the trip in front of the campfire at Verneukpan. The music – a track called Paper Airplanes – is care of Alison Krauss and Union Station – which was on repeat in the car stereo…
Light – grey like discarded fire coals in the morning, luminous in the evening. Hair falling in front of my face, highlighted, landscape moving past the Landrover window as I lie, watching. It passes. Reminiscing, memories, reflections. In windows. And along with the whistling. Age and time past. Loved ones with us, and without. Wheelchair spore in the gravel. And those of a dung beetle, a scorpion and a lynx. Skinned and for the dogs. Life in the Kalahari. Survival of the fittest. Bibles and bullets. The campfire splutters. Coffee and rusks in bed. Hot water bottles and hearing campfire talk as I fall asleep. Misted morning windows and vistas out of the back window. Caked with mud. Sand between toes, wind in my hair, roof racking. Sunshine. Sunshine. Happiness without a shower. Is it possible? Yes. 10-day-old jeans. Smile. Bent over searching the sand for evidence of people who came before us. Clouds that appear from nowhere. Rising without yeast from nowhere. The silence is deafening. The blackened kettle whistles. And spits water into the unsuspecting fire. It’s angry. Tinfoil, bellows, puffs of a pipe. The moon is as orange as the sand. Perfection. Almost too much.
From the Cape Town promenade, as promised. I love the beginnings of a personal project: when you’re not really sure where you’re going with it, or how it will eventually become a whole. Leaving this one to the wind and going to see where it takes me…For now I’m just happy to be spending time in the space that I love so much.