[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  Field Notes From

<< Back to Feature Page

Zimbabwe On AssignmentArrows

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Gideon Mendel

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Brian Strauss



Field Notes From Photographer
Gideon Mendel
Best Worst Quirkiest
    I was in southern Zimbabwe photographing a sugar farmer in the early morning light. Farmers burn the cane to make it easier to cut. When they set the controlled burn, there's a sudden whoosh when the flames flare up. It's amazing to see the sudden jet of flames shooting up from the cane. It just took about 30 seconds for a small section of cane to burn, but it was very exhilarating.

    Zimbabwe is suffering through a huge fuel crisis. When I was in Harare, there were just three gas stations with available gas in the whole town. People waited for hours in long queues. Fights broke out when some jumped ahead in the line. People were desperate to get gas, and there was a lot of anger and frustration.
    I was inside a hotel that looked down on a gas station, so I decided to photograph the situation. But some of the people saw me and got very aggressive. I'm not sure why. Some threw stones at me. Then a mob of about 20 or 30 people started looking for me. I had permission to photograph, but the mob looked so aggressive that I didn't want to hang around and try to explain myself. I had to make a very quick getaway.

    We needed to travel long distances, and getting gas was a huge problem. My assistant would often go out at night to try and find black market gas. He succeeded on some occasions, but on others even the black market ran dry. So we often had to curtail our plans because we just didn't have gas to get where we wanted to go. I had to take rides with other people and be at their beck and call. So the logistics of arranging gas for our transport was often a major headache. On one occasion, my assistant spent the whole night in a petrol queue.

© 2003 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe