Women of the Desert


Santiago, the photographer, loved taking portraits of the traders and the families queuing at the market stalls. He first saw her, walking passed the bread and fresh fish stall’s. “What’s your name?” Santiago asked the young girl wearing a head scarf. She smiled a half embarrassed half confident smile, “Rosetta” she said. Her voice had a lyrical, melodic tone to it and Santiago forgot about the Bedouin tribesman that always ride into town at the other end of the market. They were the reason he was here. Once a year on summers last full moon they traded horses. A tradition that stretched back hundreds of years. Indeed, his main client, working for National Geographic had given him 50% of his commission saying “This is the last time I can front your money. Follow the money Santiago, not your heart! And don’t screw this up!”

“Who are you here with Rosetta? Your boyfriend?” She laughed nervously and turned slightly. Santiago held the shutter and took a series of shots. Her beauty had intelligence and innocence in equal measure. You wouldn’t see this woman taking a selfie, indeed, she probably didn’t have a phone or a camera. “I am here with my mother and sister. Do you always accost women and take their photographs?” Rosetta asked, obviously enjoying the attention but beginning to look for her mother. “Only the very beautiful ones. Or the very old. Or the very plain.” Replied Santiago, realising ‘the moment’ – whatever that meant, was coming to an end. Rosetta then said: “I must go,” and like a soft desert breeze that wakes you from a bad dream, she vanished, leaving just the heat of the day, the crowded market and the knowledge that he had missed the Bedouin.

The fact is, most photographers don’t sell their photographs. Had Santiago taken the photos of the Bedouin tribesman selling their horses, he would have kept his freelance job and received the rest of his commission. But Santiago was lucky. His photo of Rosetta won a Phoenix prize and a cover page position on National Geographic’s autumn publication: “Women of the Desert”. On the back of this, the magazine awarded him an annual commission. ‘Sometimes, following your heart pays.’ Santiago latter thought to himself. ©DMM

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