"There are lambs in my house, you can take photos of them too" was the first thing he said when he spotted me with my camera. It was only later that I found out that Kochumon helped around my uncle's house, doing odd jobs in order to support his mother and younger sister. He was now about seventeen years old, and having spent most of his childhood with my uncle and aunt, was practically a member of the family. Despite his relative poverty, and the rather unfortunate burden of being called Kochumon (meaning 'small boy') well into his teens, he had a wide smile which now grew even wider as I agreed to accompany him to his home.
It was a small house, dwarfed further by its proximity to the sprawling structure in which my uncle and aunt lived. Kochumon led me into the front yard, excitedly informing his sister that I was there to photograph the lambs. His mother hurried into the house, and emerged with a plate of biscuits. The two lambs were then promptly dragged out of their shed and lined up for the camera. They were followed by chickens, a pair of rabbits, and one very cute kitten. All the while Kochumon never stopped smiling, his eyes glowing with pride as little sections of his private universe were slowly committed to film.
I reached the end of the roll with the picture of the kitten, but Kochumon wasn't finished. He now led me inside his home, and began to re-arrange the furniture; dragging the two chairs, the little tv, his stereo system and his speakers (which he made himself, his mother proudly told me) all to the centre of the tiny room. He then called his mother and asked her to sit in one of the chairs while he knelt beside her with his arm across her shoulder. "'It's ok if you don't get me, but get my mother and the speakers", he said. I nodded, knowing I wouldn't get any of them but lacking the heart to tell him. I positioned the camera and pressed the Off button.
Days later, as I flipped through pictures of lambs, rabbits, and kittens, I realised that the picture I remembered most vividly was the one that I wasn't able to take. Kochumon, kneeling beside his mother, his little tv, and his hand-made speakers. And a smile that conveyed everything and nothing all at once.