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Another lockdown activity: revisiting books in the library. Like many photographers of my age, I have hundreds of photography books. I don't have as many as Peter Adams or Bill Bachman, but I reckon I come a close third! Okay, in the top 5% of photo book collectors... I'm just thinking of a lot of other photographers with lots of books! It's an occupational hazard!

One of the books I rediscovered is People of Kau by German film director and photographer Leni Riefenstahl. I can't remember the inspiration to purchase the book, but it was around the time I was shooting in Papua New Guinea (10 years ago) and someone mentioned this amazing body of work recording the life of a remote tribe in Africa, the people of Kau.

Shot on Kodachrome film, super grainy, lots of blur, the photographs are sensational. The subject matter is equally amazing, but what I enjoyed equally was reading Leni's story about her time in Kau. I particularly remember a comment she made when a group of tourists turned up and she was aghast at the impact they might have on a pristine experience. This was in the 1970s and, having visited Africa and other 'remote' villages with photo tours, I can understand her angst. On the other hand, thank heavens for photo tours because there's no way I'd get access to remote location without assistance of some kind.

Leni and her cameraman partner, on the other hand, were on their own for 16 weeks, gradually building the trust they needed before their subjects would be photographed or filmed. It is a fascinating story and a Google search will find the book for $50 to $100.

My takeaway? Despite the limited technology with which Leni was working, it's capturing the emotion of the subject that matters. 

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