A Photographer Records her Day with a Schoolgirl in Ghana

Patience in her bedroom before school.

Patience in her bedroom before school.

Every morning before school, Patience sweeps the yard around her family's home.

Every morning before school, Patience sweeps the yard around her family’s home.

Lisa Weatherbee’s series, A Day with Patience, is a record of just that: one day spent with a twelve year old girl, Patience, in her village in Ghana. Having joined Photographers Without Borders, she arranged to spend a day with a young woman that the organisation put her in touch with, and the results are an open-hearted study of a day in the life of someone with whom, outwardly, the photographer had little in common.

Weatherbee uses natural light, and her palette is bright and fresh: at times, the images almost recall fashion photography in their easy movement and the clean lines of Patience’s school uniform. Throughout the series, Weatherbee’s gaze is unobtrusive; Patience meets the lens’s eye with steadiness and maturity, and it is her world that we find ourselves in. While meditative moments are duly recorded, however, the viewer cannot forget that Patience is still a child: in one image, she plays on a slide with abandon, a carefree moment that almost comes as a surprise after the seriousness and composure that is recorded in the rest of the series.

What originally brought you to the school in Ghana where you began photographing?
In 2015, I applied to be a photographer with Photographers Without Borders, an organization that matches photographers with NGOs that need imagery to help support and promote the work that they do. Together, we decided that Konadu Basic School, one of three different projects adopted by an organization called the Thaakat Foundation, would be a place that could benefit from and work well with my strengths and interests as a photographer.

Patience and a classmate on the bus to school.

Patience and a classmate on the bus to school.


What is your photographic process?

I shoot digital, primarily with my Canon 5DMKIII. the 24-70 L Series II is my workhorse, but I also love the 85″ and the 50″ prime. Other than that I keep things simple and prefer not to travel with a ton of gear. Most of my images are created using only natural and available light. While I do create a rough shot list and plan some of my more commercial shoots, in this case we shot spontaneously. I let Patience be my guide throughout her day. At most I might ask her to pause in her actions or immediately repeat something interesting she had just done that I wanted to make sure we captured.

Patience carries water back to the house from the well. It is a roughly 5 minute walk to the well from her house and she makes this journey 3-4 times every day after school.

Patience carries water back to the house from the well. It is a roughly 5 minute walk to the well from her house and she makes this journey 3-4 times every day after school.

How did you develop a relationship with Patience before spending a day with her? Have you kept in touch?
Before even arriving in Ghana, I expressed to PWB and Thaakat that I would like to document a “day in the life” of one of their female students. Patience was chosen because of her age (at 12 she is one of their oldest), her excellence as a student, and because of the particular hardships her family has recently overcome. She comes from a farming family. Her father recently lost use of his legs in an accident and so cannot currently work. Her mother recently had a baby, the fourth child in their family. Despite all of this, Patience continues to attend school every day.

She and I haven’t spoken since I left Ghana – it’s difficult, without email, without even a reliable postal system. I do keep contact with the founder of the school however. His name is Clement Opoku Boamah and he was my host for the two weeks I was there, so we became really good friends. I continue to keep up with the progress of the school, and recently had a gallery show in DUMBO, where 100% of the proceeds of print sales went towards the school.

What do you hope to achieve with the series? Is it simply documentary or are you transmitting a broader message?
In my work, I am always interested in the idea of one day in someone’s life. Not a big event or milestone, just an ordinary day. I think the beauty of our world can be found there. What does breakfast look like, how does a morning unfold, what makes a family, how do we show love? The day-to-day activities of Patience’s day are very different than other children I’ve photographed. Her home and her environment is nothing like my own. Patience makes that quarter mile trip to get water from the site four, five times in a row. But she is also a girl who loves to play on the playground with her classmates, she loves holding her baby sister, teasing her brothers. Her family, as little as they have, would not let me leave that afternoon without taking a chicken home, in gratitude for spending the day photographing their daughter and making her feel special. I will never, ever forget that. This series shows the obvious ways her life is very different, that’s true, but my hope is that it will also show the ways we are all the same. Kindness, when found, is universal. Being able to look at a life and recognize emotions and moments that mirror one’s own can inspire empathy and a desire to understand. That is my hope for this series.

Patience walks to the school bus.

Patience walks to the school bus.

Patience during her dance performance at the Konadu Basic School 5 year celebration.

Patience during her dance performance at the Konadu Basic School 5 year celebration.

Phone numbers written on the walls of Patience's home.

Phone numbers written on the walls of Patience’s home.

Patience gets dressed in her bedroom before school

Patience gets dressed in her bedroom before school

The kitchen in Patience's house.

The kitchen in Patience’s house.

Patience in the yard behind her house.

Patience in the yard behind her house.

Patience and a classmate wait for the bus before school.

Patience and a classmate wait for the bus before school.

Patience enjoys her morning porridge at school.


Patience enjoys her morning porridge at school.

Patience plays on the slide after school.

Patience plays on the slide after school.

Patience (on the right) plays games after school with her friends.

Patience (on the right) plays games after school with her friends.

Patience carries water back to the house from the well. It is a roughly 5 minute walk to the well from her house and she makes this journey 3-4 times every day after school.

Patience carries water back to the house from the well. It is a roughly 5 minute walk to the well from her house and she makes this journey 3-4 times every day after school.

All images © Lisa Weatherbee.

The post A Photographer Records her Day with a Schoolgirl in Ghana appeared first on Feature Shoot.

SHARE