A Face I Cannot Forget

I first set eyes on Hirena at the Festival Of The Taureg in southern Algeria in January 2010. She had just finished one of her five daily prayers where she gently touched her forehead to the warm desert sand several times. I approached her and knelt and partially raised my camera to request a photograph. She apprehensively motioned no. Later in the day, I ran into a local amateur photographer named Yassan and told him of a woman with captivating features and how much I would like to take her portrait but felt limited due to not knowing the local language. He smiled and asked that we revisit her. When we arrived at her tent, Yassan spoke in the indigenous Taureg language, Tamasheq, and politely conveyed my request. She smiled and said she would be delighted and that she had been waiting for such an opportunity for a long time. I made three frames and bowed my head and smiled. I knew in my heart the situation was forced and that she exhibited good manners to a visitor, but was genuinely uncomfortable. Hirena was a humble Muslim woman who made sure her prayer beads were between she and my lens. The rigid lines on her face speak of hardship and undiluted faith. Some photographs are not meant to be, though my brief interaction with her left an indelible imprint on my mind and a slow burning curiosity to return to the Sahara desert to learn more about her culture and way of life.

I first set eyes on Hirena at the Festival Of The Taureg in southern Algeria in January 2010. She had just finished one of her five daily prayers where she gently touched her forehead to the warm desert sand several times. I approached her and knelt and partially raised my camera to request a photograph. She apprehensively motioned no. Later in the day, I ran into a local amateur photographer named Yassan and told him of a woman with captivating features and how much I would like to take her portrait but felt limited due to not knowing the local language. He smiled and asked that we revisit her. When we arrived at her tent, Yassan spoke in the indigenous Taureg language, Tamasheq, and politely conveyed my request. She smiled and said she would be delighted and that she had been waiting for such an opportunity for a long time. I made three frames and bowed my head and smiled. I knew in my heart the situation was forced and that she exhibited good manners to a visitor, but was genuinely uncomfortable. Hirena was a humble Muslim woman who made sure her prayer beads were between she and my lens. The rigid lines on her face speak of hardship and undiluted faith. Some photographs are not meant to be, though my brief interaction with her left an indelible imprint on my mind and a slow burning curiosity to return to the Sahara desert to learn more about her culture and way of life.