Dancing Through Fire - Tinariwen in Concert


This past week, I had reason to think about equivalents, particularly what that means to photography, but also what it means to music, to poetry, to painting, and drawing. Minor White wrote that, in a photograph, “that which seems to be matter becomes what seems to be spirit.” The idea of the expression of “spirit”, combined with my role as an interpreter of the art of other artists, was front and centre as I edited my images of the November 13th concert by Tinariwen in Kuala Lumpur.

I thought I was shooting a concert by musicians from the Sahara. I thought that when I looked at my images that I would see the concert. But upon consideration, I saw something that was equivalent to a concert. I saw what “seems to be the spirit” of the musicians. This happened through non-verbal communication, in as much as the words were sounds to me, in a language that I could not translate. But the poetics of the music existed in a truth that found a language in the images. I understood the music of Tinariwen to be expressive, to be imbued with their attachment to the desert and their nomadic roots. That gift from the performers is what flowed into my images, and what now exists as the spirit of matter.


In my images, there are reminders that it was a concert, that it was not a desert campfire, but in my mind, we could have been anywhere. There are reminders that I am not of them, in cultural specifics, an awkwardness in that. There is a huge space between us, that is sensed, acknowledged, and then bridged by the music of the human heart and a camera in my hands.

Dancing Through Fire is a translation of a line from the Tinariwen song “Toumast Tincha” released in 2007. I don’t know what they really mean by that. I can only feel it.