Jason Florio presents his photography at the Bronx Documentary Center, NY

A big thank you to Mike Kamber and Nina Robinson, for inviting us up to the Bronx Documentary Center, NY, last night, where Jason Florio presented his work as a photojournalist – to a group of photography students – and also showed images from our three Gambia-based projects, which we’ve worked on together: ‘Makasutu-mecca in the forest‘, ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘(+ the blog), and ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey(+ the blog).

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Ready to roll © Helen Jones-Florio

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Florio at work – Bronx Documentary Center, NY © Helen Jones-Florio

Afterwards, we were honored to see some of the students presenting current photography, and film, projects they are working on. To say that we were impressed would be an understatement. We saw thought provoking, professional, well-executed work. We could have sat there all night, happy to see all of the students present their work. However, I guess we had to let them go home at some time, and 11.30pm seemed about that time!

Hats off to Mike, and his team at the BDC, for opening their door and being so giving of their time, expertise and experience, for these free workshops. BDC also hold a free film workshop, on Tuesdays (I believe), and Mike said they are considering starting a writing workshop. Please do go and check the center out – they have many other events too, from photo exhibitions to screening nights.

HJF

To get an update of what we are up to as of today (Aug 2nd, 2013), please check out this link.

BBC News in Pictures: ‘From source to mouth, the River Gambia’

Most nights we would wild camp on the river bank, and on one occasion on a small sandbar in the middle of the river when the banks were too steep to scale,” Florio said. “At night we would we build a big fire, and keep it going all night, to ward off wildlife, especially hippos – just in case we had inadvertently pitched our tents on one of their pathways to and from the river.” Jason Florio – Read more and see more pics on the BBC website here

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Boy with his pet monkey – Fata Tenda, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

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Image © Jason Florio

River Gambia Expedition - route map

River Gambia Expedition – route map

Thanks to Phil Coomes, over at the Beeb, for taking an interest in our River Gambia Expedition story and – most importantly – for publishing it on the BBC website. We both (Helen & Florio) grew up with the BBC (and we are still growing up, tuned into it every day!) . So, we are honored to be featured with the BBC again, for this particular journey.  When we returned from our 2009 ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘ we were approached by John McCarthy’s producer to be interviewed on the – now much missed – ‘Excess Baggage‘ radio show.

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The Florios with 'Paddy' the donkey - A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush

The Florios with ‘Hadley’ the donkey – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’ 2009

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Click on the map, or here, to visit the ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’ blog. And, yes, we did walk every single km of it  : ‘bi tamala singolah’ (walking by foot, all the way)!

To find out what we’re up, as of today (1st Aug 2013) please visit this link

‘Great Things Come In The Mail’ – photo editor and creative consultant, Stella Kramer

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 4.54.29 PMLimited edition fine art prints by Jason Floro – ‘River Gambia‘ : ‘The Boy in the Mask’ and ‘Hawa‘ The Gambia, West Africa. Taken whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

Great to read that Stella Kramer is enjoying her Florio prints, which she wrote about in her recent blog post: ‘Photographer Jason Florio has been a favorite of mine for many years, and I am always so grateful when he offers me a print. These two are from his newest work, from the last expedition to the Gambia when Jason and his wife, Helen Jones-Florio, canoed down the Gambian River from end to end. The spirit of adventure lives, and I am so glad to see that. Jason‘s connection to the people he photographs is incredible, and what his subjects give back of themselves is really wonderful. A great example of connecting with your subjects.’

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 4.54.17 PMThanks, Stella, for always being such a huge support of Florio’s work and what we’ve been up to over the last few years; with our recent River Gambia Expedition and our 2009 expedition – ‘ A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey

For and update on where we’re at as of today, 30th July 2013, please check out this link

Photo of the Day: Kids walking to school in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Gunea

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© Jason Florio - Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa

Random shot of the day: Kids on their walk to school, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry. Taken whilst on our way to Labé and, eventually, to the source of the River Gambia – the true start of the ‘River Gambia Expedition

For an update on what’s happening – as of July 2013 – whilst we are back here in New York, please check out this post

Strength – a woman’s work…River Gambia, Kedougou, Senegal

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Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

Random photos of the day: A woman returns from her daily work of washing laundry and utensils in the River Gambia, Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa.

When we returned to Kedougou – after paying homage to the source of the River Gambia in the Fouta Djallon Hghlands of Guinea – we spent a few days preparing ‘The Twins’ (our two Ally 811 canoes), ready to get them into the River. This also entailed going down to various sections of the River Gambia to find out where would be the best place for us to embark, with the canoes, on the next phase of the River Gambia Expedition.

It was near to the Relais de Kedougou hotel that we saw many of the local women washing clothes, pots, pans, and rice, in the river each day – in fact, it’s a common sight along the entire length of the the river, up until when the water becomes too salty (as it nears it’s end, in the Atlantic Ocean, The Gambia). The river bank was particularly steep by the Relais and the woman would hoist up the heavy loads, onto their heads, as if the large plastic buckets contained nothing other than the feathers of a fattened guinea fowl!

Despite many, many years of traveling to Africa, I will continue be amazed by how much women, and young girls, carry loads with such apparent ease.

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Ferry crossing on The River Gambia, Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

For an update on what we are working on right now (i.e. the book!) – July 2013 – please click here

Book update: River Gambia Expedition

A quick update – Wednesday 10th, July, 2013: We’re working hard on the book, about our recently completed River Gambia Expedition, sitting in the sticky humidity of New York  – alas, no ocean breeze or the coolness of the River Gambia to help makes things more bearable. Trawling through images – so many and so tough to choose  from! – and journal entries, to help tell our story. Here are just a couple of images we’ve shortlisted, for the book, which we will be telling the story behind – taken at the beginning of our journey,  in The Gambia, West Africa:

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Florio preparing to get ‘The Twins’ (Ally 811 foldable canoes) into a West African river for the first time – the Alahein River – which borders The Gambia & Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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We met many oyster collectors – predominantly women – in The Gambia and Senegal, when we were paddling over 1100km on the River Gambia. It’s a demanding job, which involves a lot of strength and determination. We’ll be talking about this in the book © Jason Florio

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A little girl gets ready for Tobaski prayers – one of the most important Islamic celebrations of the year. It also involves mass sacrificial slaughtering of rams, goats and cows – which we witnessed. More photos of that to come, in the book! © Jason Florio

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Waiting for the storm to pass. Catching the tail end of the rainy season, in The Gambia – trapped in a ‘pirates’ bar! More on that, in the book! © Helen Jones-Florio

Happy 4th July! Gambian style. West Africa

Stars n stripes bag_MG_6235Fula tribesman – Basse, The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio

River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

Looking back: The weight of waiting…Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa

Wednesday November 28th 2012

Internet Cafe, Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio 2012

Hurry up and wait…this should be the title of our book about the River Gambia Expedition so far.

The journey began on our departure from Gatwick Airport, UK on the 16th October. However, since we arrived in West Africa, all we seem to have done is wait, wait, and wait some more – whether it be for a box of expedition gear to arrive by boat in The Gambia (which we still don’t have a definite date for it’s arrival into Banjul Port), or waiting for the public transport that we need to take to get us to Labé, high up in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea, to fill up with enough passengers to depart Kedougou, Senegal. The next Land Cruiser in line to leave the bus station needs seventeen people before the driver will leave and head towards the capital of the Fouta Djallon. At the moment, ten people have paid to join the vehicle (including our team of four). So far, it has taken three days to fill those ten seats.

Helen – Breakfast in Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio 2012

After much debate amongst the team, and our time to complete the expedition running extremely short – we haven’t actually even started it yet (we don’t truly start it until we reach the source of the River Gambia, located somewhere in the Fouta Djallon Highlands)! So, we have decided to swallow the expense and buy up the extra seats in the Land Cruiser so that we can get moving. It will make a big dent in our already very tight budget – travel in West Africa can be extraordinarily expensive, often due to extortionately high gas prices in certain parts of the continent (this ride will cost us a staggering $250) – but we are now almost eight weeks behind schedule…due to…waiting.

Waiting…for the ferry to cross the River Gambia, Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio

Despite the waiting game, we’ve really enjoyed our time in Kedougou. With great gratitude and respect, we’ve been staying in the peaceful, spacious, compound of Peter Stirling – a Canadian we met on line whilst researching our trip – run by the trés belle Bébé (who also happens to be a great cook!) and her husband, Kali (who, unfortunately, we won’t get to meet this time around, as he is working out in the bush on a chimpanzee rehabilitation project). Visited by scavenging chickens and cockerels in the morning, thirsty donkeys mid-afternoon (to drink water from the well  in the compound), goats chomping the sparse grass late afternoon, and the odd dog cocking it’s leg around the place – the compound is alive. At night, we have lizards and god know what else scuttling around in the eves of our hut. We’ve also been discovering the sprawling, vibrant, dusty town of Kedougou and the nearby River Gambia – from whose banks we’ll be setting off from, once we return from paying homage to the source of the river, in the Fouta Djallon.

Farmers – the banks of the River Gambia, kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio 2012

“Insh’Allah’ – It is in the hands of God” Ebu tells us, as he hangs up from the umpteenth phone call to the driver at the bus station, to see how many seats have been sold so far. How far is Labé, we ask? “A day and a night” – in local terms, is the answer…and the roads are ‘very bad’. I have a suspicion that might be a slight understatement. But, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

We hope to be in Labé by Friday morning…’Insh’Allah’.

More updates whenever possible so please stick with us.

The Florios (H & Flo), Abdou and Ebu

The River Gambia Expedition Team

Follow our trail on YellowBrick Tracking

To find out how we eventually got the Labé, please check out ‘The long and winding road…Kedougou, Senegal-Labé, Guinea-Conarkry-and back again

PRESS: ‘Jason Florio’s Stories’ – Life Force Magazine

Life force Magazine2The July, 2013, edition of Life Force Magazine features ‘Jason Florio’s Stories‘ – images of his work from past-present. Including a few from our very recent ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey‘ (as in the one above – ‘Boys with Painted Faces‘ playing by the River Gambia, Senegal © Jason Florio).

The magazine have also linked our fine art photography gallery on their website - limited edition prints by Jason Florio.

Thanks to Damien Bird and all at Life Force Magazine!

‘Silafanda – a gift to you on behalf of my journey’ Labé, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea

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Kola nut vendor, Labé market © Jason Florio - Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

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Kola nut vendor, Labé market © Jason Florio - Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

Random post of the day:

Silafando: is the traditional way to greet village chiefs in The Gambia and Senegal. In Guinea-Conakry, on our most recent expedition, we found out that the tradition was exactly the same there but they used the word ‘Silafanda’.

During both the ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey’ and the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey‘, despite turning up unannounced, each village chief (the ‘Alkalo‘) that we met would kindly permit our raggle-taggle, road or river-weary, team to pitch our small camp every evening.

This was because we showed due respect, as strangers, when approaching the alkalo, by using the age-old tradition and protocol called ‘silafando’ – which roughly translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey’. This gift is often a handful of the bitter kola nuts. These walnut-sized nuts play an important role in West African culture and traditional social life. Once accepted, the chief would then share the nuts with his most important village elders. They break open and chew the nuts – valued for their pharmacological properties – which act as a natural stimulant and, apparently, an aphrodisiac.

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© Jason Florio – The Gambia, West Africa. ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush

We were then warmly welcomed into the village and, from that point on, everyone knows that you are there as guests of the alkalo -  ensuring that you are treated with respect, as strangers, for the duration of your stay in the village. And, if any of the villagers dare to disrespect his guests, they would have the chief to answer to – along with the shame it would bring to their family.

Helen presents the ‘Silafando’ to the village chief in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry. As you will see, it is often a lengthy process – particularly in this case, because we had to explain to the chief (and get permission) why we wanted to visit the source of the River Gambia – a sacred site, very near to his village

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Youtube: Helen presents kola nuts to the village chief, Fouta Djallon Highlands. Film © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Click here or on above image to view footage