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Prized Possession

Prized Possession

It’s my belief it’s best to see — and hold, if you can — a photographic print up close to really connect with it. It just feels more personal.

Every now and then Magnum Photos will have a $100 print sale from their archives. And every now and then I look through the selection, hold my breath and purchase one. With the currency exchange between US and Canadian dollars, shipping and customs charges it’s not inexpensive but it still feels special to hold one of these beautiful prints in my hands.

I picked this photo, titled Prized Possession (#2), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa 2008 by Jim Goldberg because of the story behind it. The man in the photo is named Wembe and when he fled his village the only possession he was able to keep was his radio. He climbed the hill behind the refugee camp every day to listen for good news.

The way he is clutching his radio and the look in his eyes is astonishingly powerful to me. I have a soft spot for radio — I continue to tinker with a shortwave radio at home — and its simple, low tech ability to broadcast news over great distances, many times to people who are desperate for good news, any news.

We take the ability to log on to the internet and social media from any number of devices for granted. We take the access to information from any source we choose at any time we choose for granted. And yet there are millions of people who don’t have this luxury. This photo reminds me of that. It reminds me that although we complain when our internet access at home or work slows to a crawl and twitter isn’t updating fast enough or Netflix is lagging that there is this simple, low-cost technology that is desperately important for so many people.

Look at the way he holds that radio. He’s waiting on a far more important status update.