Part 2 of the story…Down The Line
Downloading the pictures of Kalk Bay Station and the passing train, I wondered if there had ever been a photographic reportage done on the The Southern Line, the train line that runs between Cape Town and Simonstown. Surfing the net and doing a bit of research I found nothing of major consequence on the subject. As I do sell photo-essays with text (800-1200 words) to numerous travel and lifestyle magazines, my initial idea was just to do a short photographic piece about the line with the possibility of adding text later on. Great, an adventurous and exciting idea had been born that shouldn’t be too difficult to pursue.
Camera in hand I raced down to Claremont station to see what I could get. As I took out my camera to take the first shot a security guard stepped in my way blocking all before me.
I was told in no uncertain terms that, due to security reasons, no photography was allowed on the stations. And this is where I encountered my first challenge.
Excited by the prospect of this potential reportage, and with the idea that I would quickly talk my way into being allowed to photograph this line, I made my first call to Metrorail Western Cape.
The first person I spoke to thought I was representing a Production company/Advertising agency, and even though they couldn’t authorize such a project they did mention that there would be a cost involved, R3600,00 per day to be exact. Upon explaining that I was neither part of a Prod Co or an Ad agency they passed me on to someone else, who in turn passed me on to someone else who also passed me on to another person. That person mentioned that I had to speak to someone at Prasa in Johannesburg. My dealings with Prasa was no easier with me being shunted from one person to the next. After countless calls and holding ons- left listening to elevator music, someone finally understood what I was wanting to do and they suggested that I email the the person that I’d originally contacted right at the beginning. They still couldn’t help me. So here I was dizzying myself on this bureaucratic round-about while no one at Prasas or Metrorail Western Cape could decide about who could make the decision. With my levels of exasperation now reaching space shuttle destination levels I sent out an email to everyone (and their assistants) that I’d communicated with,letting them know that I wasn’t happy, and, that their organisations were a few pegs beneath professional – to put it kindly. This seemed to work and finally a meeting was arranged with the marketing and safety departments of Metrorail Western Cape. (It only took 4 weeks of calls and emails)
Up to that point my idea was still to photograph a reportage with the hope of it being included in a magazine. The idea of a coffee-table book hadn’t yet been seeded, and this is how I pitched the project. Both the marketing and the safety departments were in agreement and permission was granted.
The one slight issue was that of maintenance. The train-line between Fish Hoek and Simonstown was being maintained and the line was closed past Fish Hoek.
Part of the deal allowing me to photograph the line was that I would document the maintenance work allowing Metrorail to use the images for their own promotional gain. In return I was given a 1 week permit to photograph Cape Town to Fish Hoek in November 2010, and when the maintenance was complete – March 2011, I would be issued with another permit to shoot the rest. Permit in hand I now needed to decide on how I wanted to photograph the line.