Jay Maizel says ‘Always carry a camera … it’s easier to take pictures that way.’
He’s right, of course, but I don’t drive about with my camera on the passenger seat as often as I used to. Mostly I’m concerned about it being reappropriated by a zealous passer-by (when you live in Africa, you take certain precautions), but mostly it’s because I’ve realised that you simply can’t shoot everything you see. Sometimes it’s okay to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, a spectacular vista or the cuteness of your kid without seeing it through a viewfinder.
This Saturday, though, I happened to have my camera with me as I was driving through town. The streets were empty and quiet, except for a commotion on Bree Street: emergency vehicles, traffic officers, small crowd of people and … a plume of smoke:
Touchstone Building, one of the few buildings in Cape Town still decked in its original wooden finery, was on fire. The fire had started in a nearby cafe, apparently, and had been put out, or so they thought. In fact, it had lurked in a duct somewhere inside the building, and emerged on the other side, to feed on the wooden doors, floors and staircases, as well as the architects’ plans, office paper and a photographer’s studio.
Greedy for more, the one smoky window turned into two …
Then the windows down the side of the building begin oozing smoke, and soon it looks as if the battle is about to be lost.
The fire grows more intense, and spreads throughout the building. Black smoke pours from all the windows.
It would seem that things must always get worse before they get better.
And, finally, it’s pretty much over. The beautiful building is gutted. The businesses inside ruined. All that stands is a blackened shell.
Time to start over.