Jinja FD - Tommy Hatwell

A fire truck with Uganda Police printed on the side was enough to intrigue me, It led me into the compound and a meeting with Rhona. After initial greetings and introducing myself and my idea, Rhona took my details and asked me to come back in two days and meet the fire chief. A positive first encounter.

ABEL - RONALD - JUMA - ALEX - RONALD

Two days later I dropped by the same compound, Rhona wasn’t there and nobody really knew anything about the earlier conversation. Undeterred I came back after a few more days and Rhona was back at work, she made a quick phone call and asked David and me to wait for Colin the fire chief to arrive.


Efficient and direct Colin was straight to the questions about my idea, within ten minutes he was down with the plan and said the crew would be at the office for 10 am the following day ready for the shoot. This was great news, after a week we were set to shoot, now all I had to do was be as efficient as Colin.

That evening I worked through the plan with David, essentially the main aim was the group portrait, this would be a composite image, I only have a single light so it’s the only way to create the shot. I needed to think and work backward from the final image considering where I wanted to shoot from, how the fire crew would stand and the position of the truck in relation to space and the morning sunshine in the yard, then piece it all together.


At 9 am we left the village for the twenty-minute Boda bike-taxi ride to Jinja fire station. I took one bike loaded with my LowePro Whistler Camera bag and all the camera kit, David took the lighting Kit, reflector, light-stand, and tripod all no doubt whilst trying to film what was happening.


Arriving way ahead of Africa time, some of the crew were already around, the first mission was to get the truck moved into position, there really was only one place for it to go that would give me the right camera to subject distance to make the shot I had in mind. Whilst that was going on I set about getting where I needed to be, and David set up the lighting.

From here it was about getting the crew comfortable with me and the plan. This type of image isn’t straightforward and doesn’t have a final result in camera so it is difficult for me to visualize let alone someone who doesn’t understand the process. My job in these situations is to be a Cool as possible calmly and confidently showing and acting out what I need from the crew and explaining Davids role… the rest is communication between David and me.


Once the crew was in position I can see the natural light from the sun shining across them and from here I know where I want David to position the light, we then light each firefighter individually along the line, repeating a few times with different poses and tools in hand. This shoot had to be swift as the heat was ridiculous even for the fireman, perhaps 20 minutes and the shots were done.


It would be up to me to create the image in post-production,  I just hoped I had all the shots I needed to make it happen. [update...I did]

Following this I asked the crew for some individual portraits out at the front of the fire station, I just loved the big red doors and wanted to get them involved. This is where the character of the individuals come out and I had a short time with each of them to create some portraits.

The final shots were with the first person I’d met at the station, Rhona. Rhona at 37 years old has 15 years of service in the brigade but at this moment she was heavily pregnant. Squeezing herself into her kit we made some really wonderful portraits inside the firehouse.

The crew all have their digital images and David will be taking small prints to them but I look forward to revisiting the crew of Jinja Fire Department with larger printed images on my next trip.


Thank You

Collin - Abel - Ronald - Juma - Alex - Ronald - Rhona

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