dry cleaning...

Another fine image from the streets of Lomé by the incomparable Teshka and her Hawkeye.

I am so happy to finally have these images that were otherwise so long latent. It is a reminder of a place and time in our lives, with fresh compositions and viewpoints not represented in our other photographs from Togo. Seeing these photos makes me wish we took even more!

As for the scene itself, it is actually something of a rarity to see hanging laundry in Africa. In fact, clothes-lines are quite uncommon. What one usually sees instead are the freshly washed clothes laid out flat on the ground.

The custom comes from a time when the women of the village did all their washing together in the river, scrubbing the clothes against the rocks, then laying them out to dry in the sun, flat on the ground at the river's edge.

The rural custom remained mostly unmodified with the transition to urban life. Except that women now do all their washing in metal basins, the wet laundry is still set out to dry flat on the ground.

But space is at a premium in the urban dwelling, so the clothes are usually laid out wherever one can find a flat patch of ground nearby. Usually this means that laundry is put to dry right on the edge of the sandy roads and streets running in front of their homes. And so -- incredibly -- the clean and drying laundry shares the very same dirty thoroughfare as cars and motos, people and goats.

I have no idea how this works out. But it does: African clothing is almost always spotlessly clean, immaculate and sharply pressed.

Here's something funny. After you live in a place for awhile, you get so used to what is ordinary and commonplace, you don't even really see it any more. Meaning, you also don't "see" it as a possible photograph. So Teshka has this photo of hanging laundry, possibly because it was something unusual.

But I don't think we have a single photograph in our entire combined archive -- years and years in Africa -- of the more ordinary scene: clean laundry left out drying, flat on the dirt of the road.

Lomé, Togo, West Africa.

Photo by Teshka, early 2009.

Kodak, Brownie Hawkeye Flash, Neopan 400.