Photo Editor, Stella Kramer’s Interview with Helen Jones-Florio – for Stellazine – about her 2009 Expedition


When we returned to New York, from our ‘Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘, Stella approached me about interviewing me for her blog. She wanted her readers to know how I felt, for example, about travelling as the only woman, with four men and two donkeys – all male.

To quote Stella’s opening:

‘There’s something inherently romantic about an expedition to a foreign country. It’s in doing something new, seeing a world unlike your own and testing your own abilities. For Helen Jones, walking the length of The Gambia was familiar in that she has visited one part of the country many times, but totally new in experience, and what she learned about herself, about traveling with donkeys, and about where home really is.’

Jason Florio's Award-Winning Portraits of Village Chiefs & Elders, The Gambia

Jason Florio’s Award-Winning Portraits of Village Chiefs & Elders, The Gambia – take whilst on a 930km walk around the small West African country.

I loved being interviewed by Stella because, like any smart journalist, she asked challenging questions…questions that really made me have to think about the answers to.

During the interview, I talk in-depth about how we, photographer Jason Florio and I, came up with the idea for the 2009 Gambia expedition (over a couple of beers at a dinner party in Brooklyn!), how we went about it, how we raised funds, and how it was, walking into villages, out in the middle of the West African bush.

Blog entry from 7th November – Kalaji village, The Gambia:
‘In this particular compound, there were around 30 kids who were our chaperones right up until torch lights out in our campsite. Nothing was going to get past these kids. Every little thing seemed to interest them – even if it was just me washing my smalls!! Our team was like a mini theatre to them, in that they brought out chairs and wooden benches and placed them right up close in front of our tents. One woman even brought her embroidery! The villagers are fascinated by everything us two ‘toubabs’ (or ‘toubabo’s’ ) in our group do and that’s quite something to get used to. Not a lot of choice really. Personal space isn’t even in their vocabulary!’

One of the main questions people asked on our return was what did we eat? We were very fortunate to have been there through the harvesting season, just after the rains. So, we ate like kings – munching our way through The Gambia, on peanuts, banana’s, and melon… – ‘Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

Gambian Kids

Gambian kids love to play up to the camera – image © Helen Jones-Florio 2009

Stella: What was the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself?

‘That I managed to come out of walking around a small Gambian country for 6 weeks with 4 guys and 2 donkeys – all of them male (imagine all testosterone!) – without pulling my hair out!’

Stella Kramer - Stellazine

About Stella Kramer: ‘I am a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor who works as a consultant to photographers, helping them to strengthen their creative eye, put together the strongest portfolios and websites that reflect their work, and set a course to reach their professional goals… For many years I worked with such top publications as The New York Times, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and People magazine, and won numerous awards as a photo editor’ Stellazine blog

We are now guest bloggers for Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine!

We’re excited to have been invited to be guest bloggers, on Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine - all things Africa and a great way for us to reach a wider audience.

Here’s their introduction, and first posting, from them to the River Gambia 2012 Expedition – featuring Florios award-winning portraits of village chief and elders from our 2009 expedition – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine-River Gambia Expedition 2012

‘Safari is a hot new travel magazine from the award winning Africa Geographic publishing stable. Safari is all about evocative digital story telling, with rich multi-media content and travel features packed full of videos, sound effects, music and photography. Our team of Africa-trotting travel journos bring you spellbinding stories featuring sunsets over the Serengeti, gorilla trekking in the jungles of Uganda, foodie finds from the souqs of Marrakech, and much much more. If your wanderlust yearns for Africa, feed it with Safari.’

Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine

Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine

Jason Florio’s Award-winning Portraits of Village Chiefs and Elders – Limited Edition Prints from the 2009 Expedition Donors

June 13th 2012

The series of portraits that Florio took on our 2009 expedition, of village chiefs/Alkalo’s and elders became an award-winning body of work and featured in Resource Magazine, cover of PDN (Photo District News) etc…

2010 NY Photo Festival, Honorary Mention – fine art/personal series

2010 Lucie’s/International Photography Awards – over all winner ‘People’ category

2010 Lucie’s/ International Photography Awards – 1st place ‘People : ‘Culture’

The portraits were also available for those donors, who donated for limited edition expedition prints in 2009, to make their choices from.

Limited Edition Expedition 2012 Prints: If you make a donation of $100/£65 or over, you will be offered a selection of fine art photography Limited Edition Prints to choose from, from the expedition – how much you donate will determine the size of print you will receive. Please see our ‘How to Donate’ page – the in’s and out’s.

'Silafando' © Jason FlorioL-R: Umbi Salla Touray (Alkalo’s mother) & Kanifana Touray (Alkalo’s sister-in-law)
Balanghar Bental, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009 © Jason Florio

'Silafando' © Jason Florio

Herouan Tonkara, with his horse, Suduwole, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009 © Jason Florio

'Silafando' © Jason FlorioL-R: Lamin Sanneh – Alkalo’s messenger & farmer and Demba Sanneh – farmer, Genieri
The Gambia, West Africa, 2009 © Jason Florio

PDN - Photo District News  - Cover ShotAlkalo Messaneh Cham,The Gambia West Africa

Please see Florio’s website for the series of portraits:

Thanks for jumping on board!

The Florios (H & Flo)

Links: Crowd Funding – including our 2009 expedition

B&H Photo NYC – Interview with Jason Florio – all things photography and our 2009 ‘Short Walk in the Gambian Bush…’

When we returned from our last West Africa expedition ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey Jennifer Diamond, at B&H Photo NYC, interviewed Florio about his 15 year career as a photojournalist. She also asked him about the process behind the portraits that he took, of the village chiefs and elders, whilst on the 930km walk – which resulted in an award-winning body of work ‘Silafando’

Watch the interview here:

B&H Photo, NYC - Interview Jason Florio

'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey' on the road shots - image © Jason Florio, 2009The Short Walk Team are overtaken, and saluted, by Gambian government troops – On-the road-shots © Jason Florio, 2009

'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey' - on the road shotsA Young Gambian boy collects wah grass in the village of Tuba Dabbo – On-the road-shots © Jason Florio, 2009

'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey' - on the road shots - image © Jason FlorioGambian women waiting for the ferry at Kuntaur Wharf, to cross over the River Gambia. This image was also one the favourite’s for our donators, when they came to choosing their 2009 expedition prints – On-the road-shots © Jason Florio, 2009

'Makasutu - mecca in the forest' - image © Jason Florio‘Kujabi’ – Gambian Farmer – one of the ‘Makasutu’ series of portraits which Florio took whilst we were visiting the circumcision ceremonies in Gambian villages in 2008 Image © Jason Florio, 2008

'Silafando - a gift to you on behalf on my journey' The Gambia, West Africa 2009 - image © Jason Florio Photo District News – PDN – featured one of Florio’s village chief’s – Massaneh Cham – on the cover of their magazine, August 2010

Jason Florio with Jennifer Diamond, B&H Photo NYCThe Interview: Florio & B&H Photo’s Jennifer Diamond

Florio’s award-winning series of portraits of village chiefs ‘Silafando’ can be seen on his website:

2009 Expedition: A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’ – 2009. Jason and Helen made the first recorded circumnavigation of The Gambia, West Africa, on foot, with two donkeys and a cart. The expedition resulted in an award-winning body of work, which received international press attention and exhibitions – of village chiefs and elders

Portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders © Jason Florio

Logo Design: Lawrence Williams, Makasutu Culture Forest, The Gambia