Back when I was a child before life removed all the innocence, I used to love the camera and, I think, the feeling was mutual.
I spent a lot of time in front of it, mostly early in the mornings, ahead of my 8am lectures. The air was cool. My face paint spot on. I had practiced my poses the previous night.
I even had a photographer, right in front of my faculty. Moses knew how to manipulate his machine to highlight my best angles and flatter those that weren’t. Effortlessly, he tweaked my poses to perfection.
Our relationship was mutually beneficial. In a time when filters or digital edits were yet to exist, I got great shots and displaying them by his stand (before I picked them up) attracted students, and more clients.
My four-year stay in Uniben began and ended in glossy, colourful images in between lectures and exams and socials. There were so many of them. Curtesy of a man and his machine and his eye. He stoked my vanity streak.
Between graduation and 2019, a camera and I have had a strained, almost unhealthy, relationship. In an age of camera phone, any time one appears in my line of sight, I’d either look away or shield my face.
My vanity level has become directly proportional to my weight gain (or rather the blunt refusal of the baby weight to budge).
Oh, there have been photos, loads of them, after Moses. But few have come close to the vibrancy displayed in that single and slim stage of my life. The fatter I became, the less compelled I felt to have it captured for posterity.
A few months ago, I ran into Moses at The Palms. By the food section in Shoprite, an unrecognisable, smallish, dark-skinned man with no hair on his scalp or face, approached me bearing a huge smile. Only someone confident of his knowledge of another could release a grin that enormous.
I didn’t return it. Who was this stranger? My mind rapidly rifling through the memory bank of faces stored therein and coming up blank. I pride myself in never forgetting a face but this one had me hitting a solid ice berg.
He didn’t stop smiling. He stopped walking, then started talking…Uniben…Lanre (a late friend of mine) …I was part of a quartet…Faculty…
“Keep talking.” I encouraged, and he trailed me to the bread section.
He should have led with photographer! The pieces of the puzzle fell into place the minute he uttered that word. “Moses!” I said suddenly, cutting him off.
His face lit up more with surprise. “You remember my name?”
That chance meeting made me embark on something I’ve seen countless individuals indulge in while walking on the streets, riding on a bike, on the aisle of a plane!, in church, in a carpark and just about every- and anywhere with a view.
Be honest now, you thought you’d see my entire face in that last photo, didn’t you?
I’m still that level of vain. Ha! My face is still chubby. And nowhere in the definition of a selfie did it stipulate my face must be in focus. It is one of several components of myself, and I chose to bring some of those others to pictorial fore.
For seven days straight I was on a selfie spree. I walked in Moses’ shoes, snapping away in reckless, relentless, sometimes frustrated, abandon. I understood his passion. I had fun too. But it is unlikely I’ll be doing this anytime soon.
The camera and I still have fences to mend.