Behind the scenes : Jason Florio’s portrait of ‘Samba Fishing’ – the River Gambia, West Africa

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Florio photographs young Gambian, Samba, fishing on the River Gambia, Kuntaur, The Gambia, West Africa, 10th  January 2013 © Helen Jones-Florio

During our time canoeing down the River Gambia, on our exploration of the people whose livelihoods depend on the river, we spent each night wild camping on a different river bank – whether it be camping on a sand bank in the middle of the river (burning a fire all night long to deter the hippos), on rocky outcrops miles from the nearest village, and other times, on the edge of a village, if it was next to the bank.

This particular day, we arrived mid-afternoon into the village of Kuntaur – where we had stayed previously, whilst on our 2009 ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush‘ – which is situated on the banks of the river. We set up our campsite in the grounds of a small riverbank lodge and, as had become the norm, instantly attracting hordes of local kids – shouting and screaming, all vying for our attention, fascinated with our tents and equipment – before the caretaker of the lodge shooed them away – “atchayah! atchayah!” (go away, get lost! A Mandinka word Gambians use to scatter mischievous kids and the scores of scavenging bush dogs alike!).

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Samba comes from school to pull his nets from the River Gambia © Jason Florio

As we were about to settle down for a well-deserved cup of tea , having paddled almost 33km that day – a tough, exhausting 10km of it against the tide – we noticed a young boy, out on the river, in a local pirogue that looked far too big for him to handle on his own. We called him over and he paddled towards us with such ease and dexterity, as if he was steering a small rubber dinghy and not a heavy wooden dug out canoe, carved from a tree trunk.

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Samba fishing © Jason Florio

His name was Samba and he was ‘11 or 12 years old‘ (usually, in this part of the world, only the actual birth date is celebrated, which results in most people not really knowing exactly how old they are). He had come straight from school, to pull in his families fishing nets from the river, to see what catch they had that day. He was also the one who had thrown the nets, on his way to school that morning – as he did every day. He told us that, depending on the size of the catch, he would take a little home to his family and the rest he would take to the equivalent of the local fish monger to sell, to make money for his family and also to buy his school books and other materials, which were essential for him  to study.

We met a number of remarkable people – adults and children alike – on our river journey. Samba will always stick out in our minds…an inspiring little boy, to say the least. In fact, I can think of a couple of our nieces and nephews who think it’s the end of the world if they don’t get the latest upgrade cell phone, who would benefit greatly from spending just one day in Samba’s company!

Thanks, as ever, for stopping by.

More river stories soon.

The Florios (H & Flo)

Jason Florio: ‘River Gambia‘ body of work

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Flo & H © Chris Bartlett

Behind the scenes : Jason Florio’s portrait of the chiefs son – ‘Ebrima in Fur’ – The Gambia, West Africa

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Dawn in the village of Diagabu Tenda, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

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Youtube: Jason Florio photograph’s Ebrima in his ‘fur’ coat, The Gambia, West Africa – filmed by Helen Jones-Florio. Click here or on above image to view footage

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The end result – Ebrima comes to bid us farewell at our campsite on the banks of the River Gambia © Jason Florio

The journey continues… ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey

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Youtube: ‘RIVER GAMBIA EXPEDITION – 1044km source-sea African odyssey’ Footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Click here or on above image to view footage

 

Thanks to SOL Laptops for supporting our next West Africa photography adventure: ‘When you need to share your adventure, just “plug” into the sun!’

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Image courtesy of the SOL Laptop website

Sometimes there is a need to have a techie blog post – particularly when it comes to the SOL Laptop! Read on…

On both our River Gambia Expedition and A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush expedition, powering our gear – particularly our laptops, essential for uploading Florios images and updating the blog – has always been a big hurdle to overcome and, despite having extensively researched before purchasing the latest gadgets using solar power technology, on both expeditions we ended up purchasing a car battery locally to charge our gear effectively and fully! Therefore, we are constantly on the look out for solar power technology that does in fact do exactly as it says it will do on the box. So, imagine our delight when we came across a recent review on the G-Layer blog – the Australian sister company to Yellowbrick, UK, who sponsored our recent River Gambia journey with the YB3 tracking device:

‘Cutting-edge sustainable technology is what we’re all about here at the G-Layer, and we’re always on the lookout for new exciting developments, so when we discovered the SOL solar laptop we were overwhelmed by the possibilities this tough little computer offers to our sun-drenched country!

The 10-hour laptop’s battery  is charged by a built-in solar panel (detachable).

SOL can be connected to the internet using the 4G network or an optional satellite module, opening up the world wide web to communities, schools and workers all over Australia. This revolutionary product will also feature a GPS, HD graphics and an integrated webcam. Using the latest in nanotechnology construction, and priced at a sum nearly anyone can afford, we believe this product will revolutionise life in the outback, which is why we had to bring it to our customers at the first opportunity!’ G Layer

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Image courtesy of the SOL Laptop website

And we were thrilled beyond belief when, after submitting to Sol Laptops, a Canadian based company, about our next West Africa venture, we won a place in their Expedition Sol‘ …choice of ‘professionals, researchers, adventurers and unique individuals‘ to get our very own SOL Laptop when it is officially launched later in the year!

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Expedition Sol – meet the explorers (click here or on image to view page). Image © Jason Florio , with Helen Jones-Florio and the village chief of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia, W Africa, 2009

And, as for our next West Africa venture? You’ll just have to stay tuned until we are ready to officially announce our plans! However, again, it will most definitely involve lots of great photography – and this time, we hope, not just from Florio – and neither should we have any of this nonsense…

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…Helen: “I haven’t got enough power – again!” Image © Jason Florio – Sila Kounda, Senegal. Camping on the roof of the village chiefs compound, 2012

Why? Because, we’ll have ‘The world’s first truly solar-powered laptop’. It never needs to be plugged in!’.

Immense thanks to the team at SOL Laptops (WeWi Corp)  for inviting us on board.

More news soon, about what we are planning next.

The Florios (H & Flo)

Interview with Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio: ‘River Gambia Expedition’ – Connected by Far

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 11.57.40 AMThanks to our East Africa friend, Yvette Pennacchia, for her recently posted interview, on ‘Connected by Far‘,  with us about the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey‘. Angry hippo’s, mutiny, and more !

Connected by Far: ‘What possesses a British couple to leave their apartment in New York City and decide to canoe 750km of the 1044km long River Gambia, in West Africa – one of Africa’s last major free-flowing rivers – in two Ally 811 Norwegian folding canoes, which they fondly named ‘The Twins’, and travel by motorcycles, local taxis, and a ancient, rusty 4×4 Land Cruiser to get to the source of the river and then back (one such ride took 24 hours over the rockiest of roads in the Fouta Djallon Highlands) to pick up their canoes from Kedougou, on the border of Senegal?‘…read more here

Looking back : the River Gambia Expedition team pay a visit to those people who will be displaced when the proposed dam is built

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The village of Runde Bara, Senegal – one of the villages which will be wiped out if the proposed dam on the River Gambia is built © Jason Florio

Tuesday 22nd October 2013: As Florio and I continue to carry on with the writing of our book about the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey‘ we’re revisiting the journey, we completed in January of this year, day by day. Following is an excerpt from just one day out of the two months we spent on the road and canoeing the River Gambia – documenting the lives of those people who live and work on one of Africa’s last major free-flowing rivers -  through three West African countries – Guinea-Conakry, Senegal, and The Republic of The Gambia 

Blog post:December 12th, 2012

Back in Kedougou, Senegal – prepping to get ‘The Twins’ – Ally 811 canoes – onto the River Gambia + negotiations, Senegalese style.
Florio and Ebou return late afternoon, from the proposed site of the dam – which will result in the entire population of three villages being ‘relocated’ – on the Senegal side of the river and four to five on the Guinea-Conakry side. Florio had spoken with some of the local villagers in the area who had been told by the government, in 2011, that they were to stay where they were, for now. The reason being was that the dam construction workers would need to be fed and housed. However, the villagers would be ‘compensated for everything’. ‘Hey people, stick around for a bit longer, before we shove you off the land that you have lived on for hundreds of years – to a undetermined location – so that you can cook, launder and take care of the very people who are going to wipe your history right off the map!Read more here
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Sightseeing on route to Runde Barra – Dindefalo waterfall, Senegal © Jason Florio
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We also filmed during the entire expedition and recently, when we were invited to exhibit Florio’s ‘River Gambia‘ body of work at Photoville, New York, 2013, we put together a short piece of film for the event. Please click here or on the below images to view. ‘River Gambia’ © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio
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More updates coming soon – particularly about the photography workshop we are prepping to teach, to young Gambian students, come December. Stay tuned!
Thanks, as ever, for checking in.
The Florios (H & Flo)

Female rice harvesters, Kaur, The Gambia – ‘River Gambia’ mages by Jason Florio

Members of the Santa Yalla kaffo (group) take a moment between harvesting rice from fields irrigated by the River Gambia. They are paid thirty Gambian Dalasis a day (80 US cents). Taken whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea Africa odyssey

Footage from the journey © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio : Youtube

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Click here or on the image to go to Youtube

‘River Gambia’ – images by Jason Florio from a 1044km source-sea African odyssey

‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey‘. Take a journey with Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio - over landing from the source of the River Gambia in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, canoeing through the gold-bearing lands of South East Senegal, and on into The Republic of The Gambia, where one of Africa’s last major free-flowing rivers meets the Atlantic Ocean.

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© Helen Jones-Florio

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Youtube: Too close encounter with a hippo © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

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© Jason Florio

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© Jason Florio

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Youtube: A ten-minute journey along the River Gambia © Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio

More about our journey in the forth coming book…more about that soon…

The Florios

Read about our 2009 expedition : ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush-a 930km source-sea African odyssey

 

 

Youtube: ‘River Gambia’ footage from a 1044km African odyssey – and other African journeys by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

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Youtube: River Gambia © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

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‘Boys with Painted Faces‘ River Gambia © Jason Florio

River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey‘ with photographer/writer, Jason Florio, and, producer/writer, Helen Jones-Florio. A journey, spanning three West African countries, to find the source of the River Gambia and to document the lives of those people who live, work, and rely on this mighty African river.

Interview with Outside Magazine – ‘Expedition Improv‘  HelenWe actually offered him (Yousef, our Malian fisherman/guide/hippo expert) more money to come further along the river with us but he had a family to get back to in Kédougou. We were sad to see him go. In that short week, he became a member of our little team, albeit a slightly bonkers one

Jason: “At one point, he was guiding us through these sections of rock and fast-moving water, and about 20 feet in front of us, a hippo just comes rearing out of the water. It had been submerged. We had startled it. We could have gone over the back of this thing, but instead we scrambled very quickly over onto the bank and climbed up on some rocks. For the next hour, he spent time shooting rocks at it from a homemade catapult. The thing wouldn’t move. We were back there clinging to the bushes and the rocks for an hour and a half. The hippo just didn’t want to let us get by—watching us, watching it, watching us. Eventually, we just kind of clung to the undergrowth and just pulled the canoe through really slowly. Finally, we got past him. That was a serious crash course in hippo etiquette” Read full interview here

To read about our first West African journey – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey – please click here. Images of the village chiefs (Alkalos) and elders, ‘Silafando’, which were taken along the way, by Jason Florio.

Florio – interview with FlakPhoto – Making Pictures of People  “I had been working yearly in The Gambia since 1996 making portraits of people who live around a sacred forest. My wife Helen came up with the idea of making the first recorded circumnavigation of The Gambia by foot. So with three Gambians and two donkeys we headed off around the country in November 2009. I decided to work in the same style as with the forest portraits, using a 70-year old cloth to formalize the setting.” full interview and images here

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Youtube – Florio makes a portrait of Alkalo Landing Jammeh, Kalaji, The Gambia – footage by Helen Jones-Florio

We’ll be updating soon about our next African journey…please stay with us

The Florios

 

Press: ‘A River Runs Through It’ – Arik Airlines ‘Wings’ Magazine – images by Jason Florio

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Photography Jason Florio – Words Jason Florio with Helen Jones-Florio

JF: “In 2009 my wife Helen and I escaped our New York home and took off on a 930km circumnavigation of The Republic of The Gambia by foot, along with three Gambian friends and two donkeys.

Seven days into our 42 day walk, we both decided that this journey would be a warm-up for something bigger. We had no idea at that exact moment what the ‘something bigger’ might be, but as Picasso once said: ‘“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Well, in this case, it was to find us walking…” read the whole article here

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Jason Florio at Bonto Pier, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

Excerpts taken from the forthcoming book about the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

Until next year, Photoville – thanks for hosting the ‘River Gambia’ exhibition

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Day 8 – ‘action stations, everyone, we’re about to open the gates!’ – the lovely Laura Roumanos, United Photo Industries © Helen Jones-Florio

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Florio gets down to the business of filming our time at Photoville 2013 © Helen Jones-Florio

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The Girl in the Hat photographs The Boy in the Fur Coat – budding photographer and our neighbors daughter, Florie © Helen Jones-Florio 

Sunday 26th September – the last day of Photoville 2013

Big thanks to the supremely efficient Photoville organizers: Laura Roumanos, Sam Barzilay, and Dave Shelly, of United Photo Industries - and all their staff and volunteers – who helped make the photo destination village an immense event, of some phenomenal photography, workshops, and talks. Thanks to these guys, our ‘River Gambia’ journey was viewed by 1000′s of people over two four day weekends. As they trekked in and out of our shipping container, we took them on our epic journey – ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey‘ – images by Jason Florio, curated by yours truly, River Gambia video footage by both of us, and presented by the Virginia Quarterly Review. And, an even bigger thanks to VQR for making the exhibit at PV 2013 possible! Thanks also to Pascal Prince of ‘A Small Light Room‘ for the sublime large format print of ‘Ebrima in Fur‘ – who was there with Mandinka greetings of ‘nimbara, nimbara’, from his vantage point on our container door, to all who passed through.

Last but definitely not least, thanks to every single person who came to view the fruits of our labor:  from the River Gambia’s humble source in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, paddling through the gold bearing lands of Senegal and along the length of The Republic of The Gambia to the Atlantic ocean. We traveled 300km by motorcycle/4×4 and 744km by canoe – creating a photographic and written account along the way, of the tribes and communities whose traditional lifestyle and livelihood depend upon this mighty African waterway.

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‘Malian Fisherwoman‘ River Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio – one of the most popular prints we sold at PV

And for all of those people who purchased Florio’s prints at Photoville, we truly hope you enjoy having a small slice of the enchanting River Gambia in your homes. For anyone who missed out and would like to check out Florio’s fine art photography prints, please visit our on-line galleries – Black and White Collection and Color Collection.

And the day turned into the night…

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 …and the crowds are thinning out. Time to go home… © Jason Florio

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What ‘River Gambia’?! © Jason Florio

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And it’s good night from him and goodnight from her – The Florios are leaving the building – photo courtesy of Kisha Bari

It was great to be part of a community of like-minded people. We hope to see you all again next year.

The Florio’s (H & Flo)

P.S. we’ll be posting a gallery of Photoville images over the coming days, with links to some of the great exhibits at PV 2013 -  keep an eye out!

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‘River Gambia’ at Photoville 2013 was sponsered by the Virginia Quarterly Review