Southern Mail Reporter, Raphael Wolf, and his digital pocket camera

There is only one newspaper journalist that I have seen using a pocket digital camera when he takes pictures for his articles. This is reporter, Raphael Wolf, a seasoned writer for the community newspaper, The Southern Mail.Raphael, also affectionately called Ray, is almost inconspicuous without his pocket camera. Most of Ray's articles appear on the main pages of this Cape Flats community newspaper that covers events happening in the Southern Suburbs. You will see the 15 cm camera before you see the owner at events.


A typical scene would be when a keynote speaker takes his(her) place at the podium, ready to make a speech. Out of the blue, you will see a man with camera moving almost within one metre of the speaker. As the speaker pretends not to see Ray and his moving photographic missile.Ray would be oblivious of the surroundings. It is just him, his camera and his target.


As the speaker tilts his(her) head to avoid direct eye contact, Ray too would shift his pose, the miniature camera clasped tightly with all ten fingers and then he would wait patiently for the perfect shot. Sometimes a hypnotic dance begins as object and camera sway to make that elusive contact. If the vertical position is a challenge, Ray has no qualms about squatting on the floor or even lying semi-prostate to get his picture.Sometimes the person would object ever so mildly to all this fuss, but Ray remains non-plussed. He just emits a giggle that escapes from his pursed lips and the smile and twinkling eyes tell you he is enjoying this banter.


I suppose Raphael is used to bucking the trend, being alternative and persistent. After all, it took him 17 years - yes, from 1983 to 2000 - before the Independent newspaper company would offer him the position as reporter/journalist. Ray tells how he as a messenger for the Cape Argus years ago, used to apply for the job as newspaper reporter, but he would be turned down countless times. Yet, he stayed the course. He always believed he too could write a newspaper article. One day, he wrote and article and gave it to the editor. The rest is history, as we say.


Now, whenever there is a community event taking place on the Southern suburbs, especially at schools, Raphael is there to capture the moment. He is well known and very approachable. I must say I admire Ray's style now that I have come to terms with the camera-ritual. And every time, no matter how close that 15cm digital camera comes to the nose of the subject being pursued, Ray always wins with his disarming smile and the twinkle in his eyes.After all, waiting for a picture and rearranging the pose a few times have nothing on the 17 years our community newspaper reporter, Raphael Wolf, had to wait to do exactly that which he is doing now.


This amazing story of how Ray has used his human agency to create possibilities for himself, is only one lens of Raphael, the community news reporter.


The other equally powerful story about Ray is his active role as a nation-builder. Ray's mission is to write those narratives about the inspirational and empowering events that take place in those challenging spaces like schools. Ray would help us celebrate as a community by highlighting the achievements and the strides that we are making to build healthy, happy communities. He seldom dwells on those destructive, soul-destroying activities that will render us helpless. Instead,Ray has always used his talent of writing and taking pictures to amplify the vibrancy and celebration of life. To fight hopelessness, we are reminded of hope. To counteract the violence and the face lawlessness in all forms, Ray directs our attention to the persistent push back strategies of community builders at grassroots.


In a profound,yet unassuming way, Raphael Wolf is testimony of the resilience of the human spirit and the reponsibility we have to become active citizens in the spaces which we occupy.


Thanks, Ray, for impacting on our lives - digital camera antics and all.



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