Always carry a camera

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:

Smoke pouring from the top floor of Touchstone Building

Smoke pouring from the top floor of Touchstone Building

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 …

The fire moves to the other side of the building, on the floor below.

The fire moves to the other side of the building, on the floor below.

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 firemen shift their efforts to another window

Soon the smoke becomes almost impenetrable

Soon the smoke becomes almost impenetrable

 The fire grows more intense, and spreads throughout the building. Black smoke pours from all the windows.

The firemen seem to be fighting a losing battle

The firemen seem to be fighting a losing battle

Smoke billows from every window. The fire has spread throughout the building.

Smoke billows from every window. The fire has spread throughout the building.

It would seem that things must always get worse before they get better.  

The mass of smoke blocks out the sky

The mass of smoke blocks out the sky

And, finally, it’s pretty much over. The beautiful building is gutted. The businesses inside ruined. All that stands is a blackened shell.

Its hunger stilled, the fire has burnt itself out. Not much of the beautiful woodwork inside remains.

Its hunger stilled, the fire has burnt itself out. Not much of the beautiful woodwork inside remains.

Time to start over.

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4 Comments

Filed under Cape Town, Photography

4 responses to “Always carry a camera

  1. Cindy Stiles

    Awesome pics – and I happen to work in that building for two company’s on the first floor … and we lost everything!!!!!!!

    • How terrible! I went for bellydancing classes on the top floor of the building a few years ago, and remember it was so beautiful inside. Very sad for businesses to suffer a fire at a time when we all need all the business – and productive working days – we can get. Very glad no one got hurt, though. And good luck with moving/restoring offices and getting back on track.

  2. santa

    Hi Cindy, so sorry about the fire, glad nobody was hurt!!

  3. Pingback: Fire in Loop Street « Baldric’s Blog

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