Just head on over there once you’re done eating!
We are on a blue planet. The only one we have.
It may seem odd to some that I speak of “zen” in the context of Africa, but why not? To me it’s not a place, but a mood, a flow and a recognition of that “is-ness” – a moment by moment happening within the eternal flux of creation. A photograph can be a tool to capture that moment with an understanding that the moment has passed and is no more or less real than when it was made. This photo was made at Diani Beach, today, on this long, languorous weekend holiday in Kenya.
One of the many wildlife denizens of Meru National Park – the Blackbacked Jackal on the hunt.
Meru National Park in Kenya is about an eight hour hard drive north of Nairobi. It’s at the end of a roller coaster ribbon of tarmac that dribbles out into a ragged length of potholes at the entrance to this magnificent park. Needless to say, not a lot of people drive there – they tend to fly in. Home to the Born Free legend it’s breathtaking in its vastness, which unrolls northward into wild savannahal plains.
“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
Every year St. Louis, Senegal hosts an international jazz festival, which is appropriate for a town that seems like an African counterpart to New Orleans. Even the slang terms used by long ago American jazz hipsters may have had its roots in the Wolof language of Senegal.
For example, the word “hip”, as, “Are you hip, man?” or “He’s a hep cat!” may have come from the Wolof word, “xipkat” meaning “one whose eyes are open”. Or the term, “dig”, as in “Can you dig it?, may have its antecedent in the Wolof word, “degg”, meaning “understand”.
The above St. Louis street scene tries to capture some of that honky-tonk swing flowing between Africa and America. Can you dig it, man?
A visit to the Casamance this last week was a rich buffet for my senses, which were starved for color and fragrance in the dry northern regions of Senegal. While walking on the beaches of Cap Skirring, I was approached by these bathing belles who spotted my iPhone 6 Plus and asked whether I would take their photo. Delighted, I snapped off this one pic, and they fled before I could get their names.
I just returned from a wonderful tour of the Casamance region of southern Senegal. It’s a beautiful and lush area, and the people we met were universally friendly. One of them was El Hajj Tamba, the proprietor of the “Da Felice Della Vita” juice bar on the beach at Cap Skirring. The downturn in tourism in Senegal affects many businesses, but El Hajj has a 1000 watt smile that attracts tourists like moths. Positivity radiates from him like an aura, and I think it shows in this portrait.
In these days of too much information and too little wisdom, it’s sometimes necessary to go that island (figuratively or literally) to watch the fishermen needle their way up and down the river.
Anyone who has ever lived or traveled in the drylands of Africa will recognize elements of this scene: orange light filtered through fine dust and a shimmering late afternoon heat. The town of Mandera, Kenya is where the country joins Ethiopia and Somalia in a volatile mix of ethnic, nationalist and Islamist aspirations. This particular visit was especially memorable for me because I got heat stroke. Despite it’s physical remoteness, I never felt alone. I traveled with a team of water technicians who were rehabilitating boreholes servicing largely Somali communities. We traveled widely and slept in tents close to camels and other livestock, so I always felt close to the lifeblood of these tough and resourceful people.
Over the course of several days last week, I watched this Senegalese fisherman push his canoe out into the ocean to try his luck with his fishing net. He must have made dozens of casts each morning resulting in only a handful of small fish. I admired his calm, zen-like perseverance despite it all.
For years, giant Asian and European factory fishing trawlers plundered Senegal’s coastline. This had a devastating effect on the coastal fisheries, which is still being felt today. Unfortunately, it’s because of exploitation like this in the “developing world” that the little guys suffers.
This was the last week of the Dak’Art 11th African Contemporary Art Biennial in Dakar, Senegal. It was a fabulous showcase of artists from all over Africa and African artists in Europe. With over 280 sites around the city, we were kept busy for two weeks running from venue to venue. Dakar is truly cosmopolitan when it comes to the visual, fashion and musical arts.
Sometimes wandering the hills in Africa can seem like a hot, dusty and tiring proposition. But shift the perspective away from yourself and you may see something different. This photograph of myself was made at Les Collines de Niassam, Sine Saloum, Senegal.
Not everyone wants their photograph taken and I respect that. This photo was made on the coast of Senegal near Palmarin in the Sine Saloum area.
Everyday life in the rural areas of Senegal can be magical – especially if you live in a forest of baobabs! I made this photograph on the way to a coastal bird sanctuary outside of Joal Fadiouth.
I first met Lupita when she was fresh out of high school in Kenya some years ago. At that time, I was asked to do some fashion shots for my friend, Ann McGreath, who owns the Kenyan fashion house, KikoRomeo. We were scouting for models and I remember meeting Lupita who, at first, seemed a bit quiet and shy.
Well, that sure changed when our production team began traveling around Kenya shooting scenes in Tsavo West National Park and Mombasa. Over the days, she opened up and spread her wings. She revealed herself to be intelligent, vivacious and a natural in front of the lens. I was watching the first glimmer of early stardom that she would attain with her Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for “12 Years A Slave”. Good luck to her!
I met Peter Beard some years ago in Kenya when he was gracious enough to autograph some of his iconic photo books that I brought to him. We were at his “Hog Ranch” among the giraffes, wart hogs, a hyperactive mongoose and one supermodel. Here’s a nice little video of him, his art and his views.
One of the nicest things about taking portraits is establishing a rapport with the subject (even if it is only based upon them selling you something). Here, Mariamo Diallo, sells fabrics on the Popenguine beach and agreed to a photo session after selling some tie-dyed cloth to us.
I spent my holiday on the coast of Senegal at a place called, Popenguine. Here, the Atlantic Ocean crashes into the sleepy hillside villas, while small time merchants on the beach ply their souvenir trade with the tourists. Abdou, a Mauritanian, sold us some silver bracelets and in return I got this rather jaunty portrait.
This past week, I attended the Jazz and Arts Festival in St. Louis, Senegal. It was a raucous celebration of fusion, funk, and classical jazz forms with an African twist. The days were spent exploring the island of Ndar and its 19th century (UNESCO protected) colonial buildings in various states of genteel decay. Along the way, we dropped in at the various galleries catering to the hip crowd. We discovered a small artist’s studio tucked into a side street next to our hotel and discovered a wonder. This is the atelier of Meissa Fall, who describes himself as an “Artiste Artisan” and repairer of mechanical and electrical things. He is chiefly a soft spoken imp who makes witty sculptures out of recycled motor parts.