My Grandfather, Charles Seth Ofori, never could fully comprehend the narcissistic tendencies of the female mind. But that didn’t bother him much when he was a teen in Achimota School.
Charles was too poor to own shoes, so he went around barefoot. Going barefoot didn’t really bother him much — but being broke did. It meant that as his friends bought peanuts from the seller outside, he’d have to sit and watch enviously. But when he did get money…who cared about shoes? He bought his groundnuts.
And on one fateful day, a flash of wisdom came upon him and he decided, “You know what? Today, I’m not going to spend all my money on groundnuts, I’m going to use my money to make more money so I can buy more groundnuts!”
So, do you know what he did? He took his money and he went off to buy a simple camera for fifteen shillings, and he joined his school’s photography club.
It shouldn’t be very hard to imagine girls swooning over a guy who knows how to work a camera (S/O to Nana’Shutter, who will probably never read this, but whatever.) It wouldn’t be very difficult, either to imagine a gaggle of giggling Ghanaian girls stuck in JHS, desperate to feel like models for a few minutes. And this part, Charles was totally fine with.
During the weekends, the girls would ask him to take photographs of them, a nd later, he’d go and develop them and collect money in exchange for their portraits being delivered to them. It was an efficient system. The hardest part about the job was keeping his mouth shut as he went on with his photoshoots; constantly battling the voice in his head that never ceased to comment on the pointless vanity displayed by the girls.
Charles would take one full-frontal picture. He would be satisfied. The girl would not.
She would proceed to turn to the side. Charles would take the picture and be satisfied. The girl would not.
To amend the dissatisfaction, she would then place a hand on her hip. And still, Charles would take the picture. He would think, “This must be it, now.” The girl would not.
She would turn her back to the camera and twist her head in a futile attempt to make her gaze meet the lens, and tell Charles, who would be staring in baffled wonder, that she could not hold this pose all day, and that he should take the picture.
What Charles thought, but didn’t ever say: “But you paa, how many pictures do you even want to get? And next week too, you’ll be back because you don’t have a picture of yourself in that particular dress? But with the pose you’re holding, can anybody even see your face? Even me, the photographer, I wouldn’t recognize you. Ei! Another one again? And you want me to print every single picture? Why, are you building a shrine?”
[Author’s Note: Okay, fine, I added the shrine part myself, but that’s what I would have thought.]
But for every photo he developed, the more money he would get and so he never complained. It was all business, after all.
And in Grandpa’s own words, as he told me the story a month ago, “I gave them the pictures, and I bought my groundnuts!”