Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

A day against child soldiers

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

 

Today is the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, a United Nations sponsored campaign which aims at the universal ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

I spent a couple of years in the late 1990′s looking at the mental landscape of war amongst former child fighters in Africa in a series called The Lord of the Flies

Here are some images.

 

Liberia - Monrovia - Two former boy fighters from Charles Taylor's militia on the streets of Monrovia argue with and threaten another boy.

Liberia – Monrovia – Two former boy fighters from Charles Taylor’s militia on the streets of Monrovia argue with and threaten another boy.

 

Uganda - Gulu - 'Andrew', 17. A former kidnapped fighter with the Lords Resistance Army, he remembers killing at least twelve. "...but only two with a machete...". Gulu, Uganda, "We are the miracles that God made to taste the bitter fruits of Time..." Ben Okri from 'An African Elegy'

Uganda – Gulu – ‘Andrew’, 17. A former kidnapped fighter with the Lords Resistance Army, he remembers killing at least twelve. “…but only two with a machete…”.  “We are the miracles that God made to taste the bitter fruits of Time…” Ben Okri from ‘An African Elegy’

 

Uganda - Gulu - 'Edward', 16 sits alone at the World Vision Centre for child abductees in Gulu Northern Uganda. Forced to fight, he is deeply traumatised by his activities with the Lords Resistance Army that he is unable to mix with other children. At night like many of his contemporaries, he wets the bed and recounts his experiences as he sleeps. Gulu, Uganda

Uganda – Gulu – ‘Edward’, 16 sits alone at the World Vision Centre for child abductees in Gulu Northern Uganda. Forced to fight, he is deeply traumatised by his activities with the Lords Resistance Army and is unable to mix with other children. At night like many of his contemporaries, he wets the bed and recounts his experiences as he sleeps.

Martyr’s Day in São Tomé and Príncipe

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

 

Yesterday was Martyr’s Day in São Tomé and Príncipe, the island nation that I visited last year on assignment for Conde Nast Traveller Magazine. I’ve posted quite a few favourite images from that assignment before (here, here, here and here) but I thought I’d show a little set of images that didn’t make the magazine cut – but that I liked …

Sao Tome - Sao Tome - Boys sit on the wall of the Avenue Marginal 12 Julho

Sao Tome – Sao Tome – Boys sit on the wall of the Avenue Marginal 12 Julho

 

Sao Tome and Principe - Principe - A man poses with his child and his bike, having just ridden out of the jungle

Sao Tome and Principe – Principe – A man poses with his child and his bike, having just ridden out of the jungle

 

Sao Tome - Sao Tome - Young men swim towards the Isla Sebastao at dusk

Sao Tome – Sao Tome – Young men swim towards the Isla Sebastao at dusk

 

There’s a bigger selection on my website here

 

 

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day

Monday, January 27th, 2014

 

Rwanda - Ndera - Skulls on the alter of the church at Ndera, Rwanda that is now a national monument to those who were murdered inside by Hutu militias during the 1994 genocide

Rwanda – Kigali  – Skulls on the alter of the church at Ndera that is now a national monument to those who were murdered inside by Hutu militias during the 1994 genocide

Visa pour l’Image

Friday, August 30th, 2013

 

This year is the 25th anniversary of the photojournalism festival held every year in Perpignan: Visa pour l’Image. In 1998 I had a show there with a two-year body of work from Africa called The Lord of the Flies. Since then, some of my work has also been  projections but that first show was a really special moment and meant a great deal to me. I remember that I arrived in Paris to see the enigmatic founder of Visa, Jean Francois Leroy clutching a box of fibre prints under my arm. After he saw the first three images he stopped and said, “OK, you have the exhibition…” I was so shocked that I thought he was joking and I told him so. He assured me that he wasn’t and we signed a contract there and then. I walked around Paris that day at least a foot taller. It marked a turning point in my career and the first real recognition that I was on the right path professionally.

Subsequently, I’ve had an uneven relationship with Visa. I think it’s true to say that I find the whole networking aspect pretty uncomfortable and certainly it seems to bring out the worst in terms of ego in some people in the industry. Because of that, I haven’t been since the demise of Network. It might well be said that the exhibition selections also conform to a very rigid view of the world and of photojournalism. As I am writing this however, it occurs to me that although that certainly is problematic, I’m probably more on the side of Visa than I am of the narcissistic trend in what I’d call personal reportage about/within the world. I mean by that a self conscious style – a bleed from the art world that I see a good deal now. This is generally medium format, generally about close focus on objects and a melancholy that seems to me like a teenage angst. “Oh the world is so terrible/Oh, but it’s so beautiful/I’m so original and important” In a funny way, despite the protestations of ‘artists’ who photograph like this, stylistically it has more to do with them than what they purport to be photographing. I wouldn’t shoot The Lord of the Flies in the same way now (I probably wouldn’t shoot it in black and white for a start because of the connotations I think that has in terms of the West reporting Africa now) but serious stories that never get anywhere near a magazine do have a home at Visa and I hope that that continues. If nothing else and despite all its faults, Visa does stand for an engagement even if that is a little blunt and simplistic. The selection is purely down to Leroy and good luck to him. As he says in a very interesting interview with Time here, “You can like my taste or not, but at least you can see that there is a strong line”. He is also – absolutely correctly – critical of young photographers who have no idea of the heritage within the industry in which they are working. As Leroy points out “It’s very difficult to do a reportage about prostitutes in India, if you’re not familiar with the work of Mary Ellen Mark”. The internet generation may have more cameras and more opportunity to take pictures but they seem to have, according to Leroy, very little ability to tell stories. I agree. A random set of images are not a photo essay. This is worth quoting in full:

“It’s not because I have a pencil that I’m Victor Hugo or Shakespeare. It’s not because you have a camera, that you are a photographer. There is currently a trend in photography to cover specific communities, like poor people in Ohio, or very poor people in Connecticut, or really, really poor people in Arkansas etc. Where is the story? The other favorites are: my mother has breast cancer, my father has Alzheimer’s, my brother is a schizophrenic. I know these kind of stories. It’s personal, yes, but I’m not sure it makes good work”

Crucially for me, when Leroy is asked about advice for young photographers, he says “Work, work, work. Read everything done before you”. I couldn’t agree more. One’s work, although unique, is in a continuity; a flow of humanity and journalism gone before that is bigger than each of us but one that by adherence to an ethical framework, should be there to bear witness not simply to suffering but a better world. That multi-faceted, outward-looking storytelling is what is sorely lacking in much of visual journalism today and what Visa – with all it’s problems, it’s cliches and idiosyncrasies  – is still largely about. Personally, I can’t stand the ‘Scarf and Leica brigade’ with their egos and delusions about being heroes but at least that tradition (although I’m the first to admit it needs a re-invigoration) is about reporting and not about photographing dying flowers as metaphor. In a world where print media and funding have almost disappeared, at least Visa is still there.

 

Here are a couple of images from my show at the Couvert des Minimes, Visa Pour L’Image all those years ago.

 

 

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Tearsheet – The Ahwas of Cairo

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

 

Here is a recent tearsheet from the wonderful Effilee Magazine for whom I wrote and photographed a really unusual piece about the Ahwas (coffeehouses) of Cairo. I wanted to write about the situation in Egypt without watching people fighting and using the prism of the Ahwas allowed me to examine protest and the way that the Revolution has evolved through them. The piece is an historical look at the heritage of the coffee houses and their resurgence after years of political repression. Under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, dissent and free thought were controlled. Networks of informers and secret policemen used cafes as an access point to the Arab Street. Novelists and poets like Naguib Mafouz still patronised them but had to write and speak in metaphor. Despite this coffeehouses had and continue to hold a significant rôle in Arab (and specifically) Egyptian literature and culture.
The Revolution of 2011 was sparked at least in part by the killing of a young man by the security forces outside an Ahwa that was used as an internet cafe. The cafes have become political again and, in this work, I’ve tried to explore the downtown splendour of the Art Nouveau, Cafe Riche that is home to a new generation of political activists, the street cafes of the Bourse (Cairo’s Left Bank during the Revolution) as well as a survey of Ahwas less well known – simple backstreet cafes and those of the Zaballeen (the Christian minority). Interviews include (amongst others) political commentator and Booker Prize nominated novelist Ahdaf Soueif, Arab Booker nominee (also head of Al-Dar publishing house) and flâneur Makkawi Said and Max Rodenbeck, the Economist’s correspondent and author of the encyclopaedic, ‘Cairo, the City Victorious’. Currently, a new Egyptian soap opera called Coffee Shop is attracting very negative attention from Egypt’s secularists about the way women are (or actually not) portrayed within the programme. The debate goes to the heart of what society was being created under the Morsi government.

Here’s the tearsheet:

 

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The red chair

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

 

A chair in the sun overlooking the bay, the Roca Bello Monte, Principe, Sao Tome and Principe

A chair in the sun overlooking the bay, the Roca Bello Monte, Principe, Sao Tome and Principe

 

Another image from the recent Conde Nast Traveller assignment to Sao Tome and Principe that didn’t make the final edit.

São Tomé portrait

Monday, July 29th, 2013
São Tomé and Principe - São Tomé - A boy with a sand covered back on the Marginal 12 Julho, Sao Tome

São Tomé and Principe – São Tomé – A boy with a sand covered back on the Marginal 12 Julho,

 

 

 

Another image from the recent Conde Nast Traveller assignment to Sao Tome and Principe that didn’t make the final edit.

 

Principe Portrait

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

 

Here’s another image from the recent Conde Nast Traveller assignment to Sao Tome and Principe that didn’t make the final edit.

 

Sao Tome and Principe - San Antonio - A portrait of Nalito, 18, a schoolboy

Sao Tome and Principe – San Antonio – A portrait of Nalito, 18, a schoolboy

Music on a rainy afternoon

Friday, July 19th, 2013

 

Here’s another image from a recent Conde Nast Traveller story in Sao Tome and Principe. It shows singer Guilherme de Caravlho playing at home in Sao Tome. Outside the heavens had just opened and a rain storm was passing overhead. Behind the curtain his daughter danced to the music.

I’ve written before about music from former Portuguese colonies: the melancholy, the saudade. Here was a perfect moment to illustrate it. I hope that I did his song justice…

 

 

Sao Tome and Principe - Sao Tome - Singer Guilherme de Caravalho plays guitar at home

Sao Tome and Principe – Sao Tome – Singer Guilherme de Caravalho plays guitar at home

You dancin’?

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

 

Here’s the first in an occasional series of unpublished images from a recent Conde Nast Traveller piece on Sao Tome and Principe.

I’d just finished a portrait down the road when I heard some music and drifted into a bar (as you do). I found a sound system and a few people swaying to the music between the tables. This elegant woman was dancing the afternoon away.

A thousand stories.

 

 

Sao Tome and Principe - Airport - Paula, a local woman dances at the White House bar near the airport, Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe – Airport – Paula, a local woman dances at the White House bar