Two years ago, a group of boys came running up to me asking for their photos to be taken. They happily struck different poses, without direction from me. Incredibly, the episode repeated itself, this time with girls.
It was Spring and I was at it again in Körner Park, aiming my zoom lens at Ver the statue. Suddenly, I spotted pony-tailed girls plucking daisies from the green lawn that no one was supposed to be on but which everyone was.
I tried to surreptitiously photograph the children, but two of them looked up sharply and I was caught red-handed. Wary of their mothers sitting on a bench nearby, I turned my camera back to the statue.
Suddenly, a pair of them appeared next to me and asked me what I was photographing. I answered warily, “Die Statue”.
To my surprise, they asked if they could see what it was I had photographed. I was delighted to be engaged. I could not believe how this had become a repeat of my Winter experience with the boys two years ago.
What is it about the attraction of an SLR camera? Did the fact that I was female help encourage kids to come up to me?
What’s more, these two wanted to try taking pictures as well! I looked at them. They were slender, coming up to my heart, and with slight hands. My camera body itself weighed enough without the heavy 300mm lens on.
Then I thought, what the heck, let them have a go. And so, one after the other, I looped the camera strap around the girls’ necks, helped support the lens and point it at the statues, focussing the shots.
And away they went! Like all kids, they took unflinchingly to technology.
The girls were sisters: Raluka, 10 years old, and Anamaria, 11. I reviewed the shots. Some of them weren’t bad at all, especially Anamaria’s. Having had enough of the statue, she had turned to her mother and the other women sitting on bench and came up with pretty good shots.
When it was Raluka’s turn, Anamaria suddenly came up to me holding her baby brother. Her mother had asked if I could take a shot of him. I was thrilled. After a few snaps, Raluka was keen to herself take a shot of her siblings, so I let her. When I reviewed the pictures, she actually did a better job than I!
The two girls then started fighting for the camera and I had to play referee. Like professional news photographers, they kept the shutter depressed for multiple shots and focussed on their siblings and friends. In fact, I had so much faith in Anamaria, I stood away and asked her to take a shot of me with her siblings. She instinctively angled the camera to take a vertical shot and came up with a well-composed photo.
As with the boys two years ago, I asked the girls for their address, offering to print out pictures that I could drop in their letterbox. Anamaria gave her address willingly and it was actually on the same street as the boys’. The sisters were the oldest of the Uzaro family, which also included Eliza, 5 and Manuel, 3. The other little girl in the group was Claudia, 4, who was a friend.
As I wrote down the details, I spotted from the corner of my eye, Raluka unzipping my handbag to look through it. She removed my lipstick, asking me what that was. When her itchy fingers touched my wallet, her older sister chastised her, but because I said nothing, she carried on exploring but took nothing.
I decided that since the mums were there, it would be polite to go down and tell them I had asked their kids for their address. However, the mums couldn’t speak German and asked Anamaria to translate. This was followed by a lot of smiling and nodding after which I asked permission to take a group portrait, a proposition that pleased everyone.
I asked Anamaria where they came from, and it worked out the family were Roma from Romania. It suddenly clicked. The mothers’ outfits. The fact that it was a weekday morning and none of the children was in school. The family had come to Germany only a year ago. The two little photographers had spoken good enough German to fool me that they had been here for awhile.
A few days later, prints in hand, I tracked the family home down. It was a lovely evening and congregated outside the rundown apartment block were lots of people, mainly women and children but a few men too. All Roma, very likely. They stared at me as I approached.
Among them, I recognised the children and the mother and when I took out the photos and showed them to the latter, everyone started pressing against us to look too. I took pains to ensure the mother knew that most of the photos had been taken by her daughters. She looked very pleased: “Danke”. As I left the group, the men smiled their goodbye to me too, and the final image I had was of them closing excitedly around the gift. ω
All the following unedited images are by Raluka Uzaro, 10, and Anamaria Uzaro, 11