Confiscation in Aden

This was one of those moments when something inside you withers away and dies. I was only just starting to toy with the idea of being a photographer, eighteen years of age and in the middle of a year off before going to Art College. I was on my way to Madagascar with a friend, Jessica, to spend a month travelling and experimenting with my camera. We flew via Moscow with Aeroflot and touched down in Aden, in what was then South Yemen – or the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen – to refuel.

As we landed there were aeroplane carcasses along the runway and the beautiful airport building appeared to have bullet holes in the glass. We entered the main part of the airport to wait for the plane to be made ready. I had my camera with me and started taking photographs. That is until I felt a tap on my shoulder and a heavily armed soldier beckoned for me to give him my camera. Needless to say I stopped what I was doing and did as I was told. Meekly.

The next hour was spent in agony. Had my career as a photographer stopped before it had even started? Would I have the courage to approach the guards and ask for my camera back? Would they have opened the back and exposed the film? Would I be able to enjoy my time in Madagascar without my camera? Knowing what an idiot I had been?

As we were herded back onto the plane I was taught an early lesson that even machine gun wielding guards in a Middle Eastern, bullet strewn airport are human beings. The same guard approached me again and handed my camera back, undamaged and unexposed, with a twinkle in his eye.

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