Until 2014, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange was one of the last in the world to use a manual trading system, with stockbrokers calling out their trades while seated at a large oval table. A single typist recorded transactions that were then displayed on a wall monitor. The medium format images Zimbabwe-born photographer Lisa King (now based in South Africa) made within the low-ceilinged room that housed the exchange capture the intense focus of the brokers who, for a few hours each day, were connected to the world economy. She also documented the objects that show the room’s age and dilapidation: a tangle of wires dangling from the wall; the handbell used to open the session sitting next to an electronic calculator; a stack of bound ledgers under a portrait of President Robert Mugabe. Her compact series about this compact space won the inaugural Fourthwall Books Photobook Award, supporting work on contemporary Africa, and has now been published as a book, Sometimes I Make Money One Day of the Week.
The title comes from one of the brokers, whose portraits make up the heart of the series. The brokers gave King full access to their workspace and allowed her to photograph them closely as they went on with their work, apparently unconcerned by her presence. They appear unruffled by the shabbiness around them. In the book’s afterword, journalist Sean Christie notes that the office’s frayed wall-to-wall carpeting and unused cables are not symbols of neglect; they are the battle scars of a tough survivor. The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange weathered periods of intense hyperinflation, when the plummeting value of the Zimbabwean dollar required the government to issue new currency with increasing numbers of zeroes; the largest was a 100-trillion dollar note. At the time, equities trading made up a large part of the country’s economic activity, as companies wanted to move their shares to foreign markets and ordinary Zimbabweans were eager to exchange their stacks of dollars for anything of tangible value.
When it was announced in 2014 that the exchange in Harrare would be automated, the brokers exulted. Sometimes I Make Money One Day of the Week documents a slice of history, and its quiet images of unharried trading, vintage office furniture and quaint ledgers preserves these relics like objects in a museum.
—Holly Stuart Hughes
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