He asked me for a rand to buy a ciggie. I shrugged to indicate that I didn’t have it. Ten seconds later, after he’d crossed over to the other side of the road, I whistled out to him. As he turned around, I mustered up the courage to string sentences of broken Zulu together; “I’ll give you ten rand if you let me take a couple of pictures”, I propositioned. He obliged. I whipped the camera out and started clicking the shutter, but the act felt awkward. So I asked about him and his friends’ backgrounds and how they make their living in this conundrum of a city called Johannesburg.
Thabo and Thabang are originally from Orange Farm, a township to the South-West of Johannesburg. They make their living here, roughly 50 kilometres away from home, by collecting scraps of metal and plastic and transporting them by hand or by hand-pushed carriages to a downtown dealership that pays R3 for a load. However degrading, it is an honest way to make a living. They walk back down the road until they disappear. I wait.