I am in Kashgar’s thrall. Its people, its buildings, its colours, its smells. Its efficient simplicity, driven by foot and hoof on these back alleys and lanes. The smiles; the furrowed brows; the twinkling eyes, the hard glares: of shopkeepers and shoppers.
And the children. Everywhere, the children throng, and laugh, and giggle, following me. In twos, and threes and fives, and more.
“Take our picture!
Take our picture!”
How can I refuse? The two girls, in their haphazard patterns and colours and fabrics. They pose, all serious and mannered. Smile! I gesture. Smile!
One is more shy, takes courage from her friend’s hand, standing close behind. The other relaxes. There she is. A photographer knows the difference between a pose, and a presence.
Here I am. With no words, she says. Take my picture. Remember me.
In the low light, I casually frame them, check the meter. In the sullen light, with the wrong film, I hope for the best.
I remember them. Time and again, I come back to this image. My skills improve each time, so I tease a little more out. More of their textures, more of their colours, more of their smiles, more of their eyes. More of the memory of them. Their giggles. Their effervescent youth. More of that presence. A deep-seated beauty resonating with innocence and confidence.
I remember them.
I remember them, walking away, giggles and swagger, and looks over their shoulder.
A moment, without the photograph, I would have long forgotten.
Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China
Taken during travels, 1998