As I ventured out to take pictures on my first day in Maputo, Mozambique, I wondered how people here would respond to my camera. My trepidation was soon eased as my subjects consistently looked gracefully into my lens with easy smiles. Frequent travelers know that each country has a "photographic profile" in terms of how its citizens respond to a stranger's camera. Mozambique was a pleasure. I photographed mothers with babies, a watch repairman, a female traffic cop, men playing a board game with bottle tops....
Suddenly, a car pulled over on the main boulevard. A man leaned out the window and spoke to me. He was worried to see me alone with such expensive cameras. I might be robbed, he said. I explained that it was my job to take photographs and thanked him for his concern. Thinking his warning was overstated, I continued on. Two women selling produce caught my eye, their plastic bins surrounding them with color. I stopped to make an image. Immediately, I was aware of a man standing right beside me.
"Miss!" he said urgently. "Do you know that you are being followed?" No, I didn't.
"You are being followed by six men," my guardian continued. His name was Marcos. "I know these men. These are bad men, and they want to rob you. I will walk with you wherever you are going and see that you are safe." And he did.
As I travel the world, I am constantly aware of the kindness of strangers - both for their allowing me to record their lives and for their concern for me.
In my heart, Mozambique will always be the country of beautiful smiles and a kind man who saw me safely home.