Press: Sidetracked Magazine feature ‘River Gambia Expedition’

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 9.07.05 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-18 at 8.54.20 AM‘In 1818, Gaspard Mollien, a young French explorer, knelt and drank from a tiny pool of water enveloped by a dense thicket in the remote Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea. His discovery by locals at this sacred spot would have surely meant his death. This seemingly inconsequential puddle, filled from giant underground cisterns in the belly of the ferruginous Fouta plateau, was the end to his epic quest – the source of River Gambia. Almost two hundred years later, entering the same woods, I felt deep reverence, something approaching religious and spiritual. I had spent almost a year tracing maps to determine this actual spot, and only when Helen, my wife and expedition partner, found Mollien’s diary at the Royal Geographical Society…’ Jason Florio - read more in Sidetracked Magazine, June 2014

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Other relevant links that you may like to check out, from the Florios West Africa travels:

River Gambia’ – Jason Florio’s portraits of people who live and work along the river (the blog carries on after this post)

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - 930km African odyssey‘ the blog

Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘ – Jason Florio’s award-winning portraits of the alkalo’s (village chiefs) and elders taken whilst on the walk

Makasutu – mecca in the forest‘ Jason Florio’s large format B&W portraits of the people who live and work around a sacred forest

Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language‘ Jason & Helen Florio’s most recent project in The Gambia

Meet the Press – news and awards

 

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

Day 3 : Snapshots from a Photo Destination – the ‘River Gambia’ at Photoville 2013, NYC

Day 3 – Saturday 21st  September : Virginia Quarterly Review presents ‘River Gambia‘ at Photoville 2013, Brooklyn, New York
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Good morning Photoville! Another beautiful blue, blue sky day © helen jones-florio
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Florio “and the hippo’s mouth opened this wide!” © helen jones-florio
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It’s the ‘Moko Jumbies‘ man! Stefan Falke with Florio (and Ebrima in fur) © Helen Jones-florio
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A must see: aCurator‘Small Town Inertia‘ Jim Mortram
Kid interview photocille 20130921_999_78 copyAn aspiring art critic…
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The storm is coming – time to go home…see you tomorrow, folks, for Day 4 of what is sure to be another fantastic turn out at Photoville 2013!
The Florios (H & Flo)
‘River Gambia’ Presented by VQR : images by Jason Florio, curated by Helen Jones-Florio - a 1044km source-sea African odyssey
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Day 1: ‘River Gambia’ opens wide it’s shipping container doors – Snapshots from Photoville 2013, Brooklyn, New York

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Opening time at Photoville – Astrid Verhoef (our Dutch neighbor) from ‘Keep on Dreaming‘ gets ready to welcome the press and public. 

Day 1: ‘River Gambia‘ at Photoville, 2013 – Brooklyn, New York (how to get here)

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First – and very welocme – guests, Andre Washington and his daughter, Aziza

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Exclusive to Photoville, 2013 – ‘River Gambia’ footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

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Our lovely friends come along to support: Amber Terranova, Sari Goodfriend, Oskar Landi (we missed you, Lesley Noville!)

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Photoville nightly slideshows – oerlooked by a very impressive Manhattan skyline

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Post 1st day at Photoville – some much needed r ‘n’ r : Oskar (in his element, playing Bocce), Florio (what are you doing with that scarf, Flo?) and Amber (shows the boys how to do it!) at Floyds, Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn

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The Gothamist at Photoville 2013 – image © Jason Florio ‘Hawa – rice cutter’ ‘River Gambia

And, thank you so much to Chris Bartlett for taking our portrait yesterday – ‘The King and I’ springs to mind..we are honored, Chris x

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Florio and H – with ‘Ebrima in Fur’ – Photoville 2013, Brooklyn, NY

See you at Photoville!

The Florios (H & Flo)

P.S. come and check out our exclusive-to-Photoville-ONLY ‘Jason Florio’ print offers, from our three West Africa journies: ‘River Gambia‘, ‘Silafando‘, and ‘Makasutu

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.39.21 PMRiver Gambia‘ at Photoville, 2013, presented by VQR

 

The Ally 811 folding canoes – inaugural voyage on the Alahein River, Gambia, and lunch in Senegal, West Africa

‘The Twins’ – Ally 811 canoes – ready to go to the Alahein River, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Sunday 4th November 2012 – Lunch in Senegal

As the song goes, ‘only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun…’ Noel Coward couldn’t have gotten it more spot on. As we tied the Ally 811 canoes to the roof of the car, found the car keys (eventually), and gathered the troops up, it was already nearing 12.30pm – the hottest part of the day, reaching almost 100 degrees.

We had decided that we would take ‘The Twins’ (as we fondly call our two canoes – until we have an official naming ceremony with our two Gambian teammates, Abdou and Ebu) out for the day and on their inaugural voyage on a West African river – the Alahein - which borders The Gambia and the Casamance, Senegal.

Total gridlock! Driving to the Hallahine riverside in Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

H & Florio (and ‘The Twins’) arrive at the Hallahine river, in the village of Kartong.

After being stopped by a bemused immigration officer in Kartong – intrigued by the two ‘toubab’ (European/white person) canoes on the roof of the car – we reached the small fishing port. And, with the help of several of the local guys, we got ‘The Twins’ ready to roll – or to paddle, as the case may be – into the Halahine river, which cuts through Kartong and borders the Casamance, Senegal.

Florio directs – Fixin’ to take the Ally 811 canoes out on the Hallahine river, Kartong fishing village, The Gambia, West Africa

Helen directs – The Ally 811 canoes are in the Hallahine River, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Florio and Tony (a volunteer worker) – with Geri (who runs Sandele Eco Retreat) in the middle – took one canoe and I took the other, with the help of Pa Samba, one of the local guys, to help paddle, with Jesse (another volunteer) in the canoe with us.

Lunch in the Casamance, Senegal – Le Tilibo Horizon

Paddling with Pa Samba was quite an experience. Gambians paddle very differently from the way Florio and I have been taught. Whereas we coordinate – paddling 30-40 deep strokes on alternate sides of the canoe, whilst whoever sits at the stern (back) steers – Pa’s strokes were rapid, shallow (mind you, the river was so shallow in points, we could have gotten out and dragged the canoes!), 3 strokes max on each side, with very little steering technique as such. After half an hour of trying to keep up with Pa’s fast and furious pace, I gave up and paddled the way that I know how to. And, it kind of worked…albeit frustrating not to have the coordination.

We did a little ad-hock fishing on route too, as I spotted a dead fish floating on the surface of the water. Pa deftly scooped it out, hardly missing a stroke of the paddle. “Is it ok to eat?” I asked of the fat, bloated looking fish. “Yes, yes…of course, it is good!” he answers, whilst looking at me like I’m some kind of half-wit. Apparently, it’s only if the fish is not hard to the touch (or obviously rotten looking), it’s all good to eat. Who knew.

After abut 4km of paddling up the river, with Pa (in between plucking the odd dead fish out of the water) pointing out birds and monkeys on route, we docked in Senegal… illegally, I guess – there is no immigration border crossing post out on the river. Switching from Mandinka to French, we ordered ice cold Flag, local beers, and plate de pomme frites from the very affable Oussman, the owner of the small campement – ‘Le Tilibo Horizons’ (the sun on the horizon).

Pa Samba at Le Tilibo Horizons, Casamance, Senegal (and Overboard product placement) © Helen Jones-Florio

Image © Helen Jones-Florio

The above reminded of what some of our friends in New York – with the recent hurricane Sandy – having to charge their cell phones, iPads, iPhones, from car batteries out on the street. Everyday life here in West Africa…just not so much the i-gadget thingys though.

Hanging out at Le Tilibo Horizons, Casamance, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Helen at the bow, Geri ‘the queen of Sheba’ in the middle and Pa Samba at the stern – Hallahine River, Casamance, Senegal © Jason Florio

And so it was time to leave Senegal and make our way back, against the tide (damned hard work!), to Kartong, and legal once again, in The Gambia. At one point, mid-paddle, Pa, announced: “I catch the fish” and promptly hopped out of the canoe! We watched as Pa flayed around the shallow water, trying in vain to catch a live one this time.

When we got back to Kartong, the local guys were waiting for us ‘welcome back…nimbara, nimbara (how is the work)’. Without even having to lift a finger (or being allowed to is more like it…at times, these Gambian men can be very chivalrous), the guys took hold of the canoes and hoisted them out of the river. What ensued, Florio and I like to think, was akin to a blessing of sorts – for ‘The Twins’ – as the guys and women played instruments, sang, and danced around the canoes.

Then, it was time to leave. With ‘abaraka baci’s’ and ‘fonyato domandings’ (many thanks and see you later) all around, we all piled into Geri’s old Audi and headed back to a much needed and well-earned dinner at Sandele

Florio and the guys get ‘The Twins’ back on the roof of the car, ready to head back to Sandele, Kartong, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

On the way back, we were stopped at the same immigration post. This time by a different officer, to ask us where we have been – ‘ekatah munto?’ – and, of course, what do we have strapped to the hood of the car? Pretty obvious, one would think, no? Then he ‘suggested’ that we leave one canoe with him so that he can take it on the river. A little nervous laughter from us, inside the car – a straight face from him – until eventually he waved us on, with a smart salute. Sometimes, you just can’t tell whether the officers at the immigration, police or military check points are being serious or not – however, I suspect that there are times when they mean what they say and then just wait, watching whilst you squirm and think hard about how to respond. It makes you wonder how much they get away with, with less seasoned (or less-informed) travellers.

‘Kartonker’ kids hanging with the Ally 811 canoes, Kartong, The Gambia © Jason Florio

So, ‘The Twins’ have had there first experience on a West African river and now, Florio and I are eager to get them on the River Gambia next for the River Gambia Expedition…once our shipment of camping gear makes it to Banjul Port, that is. It’s running almost two weeks late at the moment. However, we are assured that the ship should be in by the 11th November – insh’Allah.

More updates on our ETD for Guinea coming as and when. But, for now, we remain on GMT – ‘Gambia Meantime’…alas, also known as ‘Gambia Maybe Time’.

Watch this space…

The Florios

Formal portraits of the ‘Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’ 2009 expedition team by Jason Florio

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush team - 2009

The expedition team members from our 2009 journey: A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km Africa odyssey – images 1,3,5 & 5 © Jason Florio image 2 © Helen Jones-Florio

When we returned to Makasutu, in The Gambia, West Africa, from our Short Walk in the Gambian Bush in December 2009, after 6 weeks in the bush, Florio took formal portraits of the expedition team, of course, our four-legged members: Neil and (p)Hadley, the donkeys.

Over those six weeks of walking, camping and eating together, day in and day out, each person on the team’s personality began to present itself – and nick-names were born. However, I have to say, in my own defense, that my ‘nick name’ is actually a term of endearment in The Gambia – hence, not to be taken too literally. However, I guess being a producer, perhaps it was a fitting nick name. Hey, someone had to organise those four guys!

Portraits:

#1- Helen (‘Boss Lady’) Jones – Co-expedition leader and photography producer

#2 – Jason (‘Mappin’ out The Gambia’) Florio – Co-expedition leader and photographer

#3 – Ablie (‘The Negotiator’) Janneh – security, negotiator and Mandinka language teacher

#4 – Samba (‘Silafando’) Leigh – cultural advisor. Silafando is a Mandinka word which translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey

#5 -Momadou (‘Jamtang!’) Bah – chief donkey handler (The Gambian Horse and Donkey Trust). ‘Jamtang’ is a Fula tribe greeting word.

The expedition team with Mr & Mrs Bah, The Gambia

The expedition team (minus Momadou, who took the photo) with the village chief and family of Balanghar Benthal , in between. The Gambia, West Africa 2009. Left: Janneh (‘The Negotiator’) and H (‘Boss Lady’) Right: Florio (‘Mappin’ The Gambia’) & Samba (‘Silafando’)

Once Florio had taken the formal portraits with his background cloth of the chiefs and elders, we’d often have photos of us all taken together with the various village chiefs and their families. And, as always, there would be a gaggle of village kids, vying to get into the frame!

We have hundreds of ‘on-the-road’ shots from the 930km walk we did on our last expedition in The Gambia – you can check some of these in the archives of the ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush‘ blog. And, you can bet that we’ll be taking just as many, if not more, on our next journey too: River Gambia Expedition 2012 – 1000km source to sea Africa odyssey

As ever, thanks for stopping by

The Florios

Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the expedition:

Formal portraits of the ‘Short Walk’ 2009 expedition team by Jason Florio

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush team - 2009

The expedition team members from our 2009 journey: A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km Africa odyssey – images 1,3,5 & 5 © Jason Florio image 2 © Helen Jones-Florio

When we returned to Makasutu, in The Gambia, West Africa, from our Short Walk in the Gambian Bush in December 2009, after 6 weeks in the bush, Florio took formal portraits of the expedition team, of course, our four-legged members: Neil and (p)Hadley, the donkeys.

Over those six weeks of walking, camping and eating together, day in and day out, each person on the team’s personality began to present itself – and nick-names were born. However, I have to say, in my own defense, that my ‘nick name’ is actually a term of endearment in The Gambia – hence, not to be taken too literally. However, I guess being a producer, perhaps it was a fitting nick name. Hey, someone had to organise those four guys!

Portraits:

#1- Helen (‘Boss Lady’) Jones – Co-expedition leader and photography producer

#2 – Jason (‘Mappin’ out The Gambia’) Florio – Co-expedition leader and photographer

#3 – Ablie (‘The Negotiator’) Janneh – security, negotiator and Mandinka language teacher

#4 – Samba (‘Silafando’) Leigh – cultural advisor. Silafando is a Mandinka word which translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey

#5 -Momadou (‘Jamtang!’) Bah – chief donkey handler (The Gambian Horse and Donkey Trust). ‘Jamtang’ is a Fula tribe greeting word.

The expedition team with Mr & Mrs Bah, The Gambia

The expedition team (minus Momadou, who took the photo) with the village chief and family of Balanghar Benthal , in between. The Gambia, West Africa 2009. Left: Janneh (‘The Negotiator’) and H (‘Boss Lady’) Right: Florio (‘Mappin’ The Gambia’) & Samba (‘Silafando’)

Once Florio had taken the formal portraits with his background cloth of the chiefs and elders, we’d often have photos of us all taken together with the various village chiefs and their families. And, as always, there would be a gaggle of village kids, vying to get into the frame!

We have hundreds of ‘on-the-road’ shots from the 930km walk we did on our last expedition in The Gambia – you can check some of these in the archives of the ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush‘ blog. And, you can bet that we’ll be taking just as many, if not more, on our next journey too: River Gambia Expedition 2012 – 1000km source to sea Africa odyssey

As ever, thanks for stopping by

The Florios

Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the River Gambia Expedition 2012:

‘You people cannot walk, you only move in cars’ The Independent newspaper- Travel

 'You people cannot walk, you only move in cars' The Independent - Travel

Image © Jason Florio, 2009 – arriving at the lumo (market), The Gambia, West Africa

A little more background on our previous expedition – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’

When we returned from our 930km walk around The Gambia in 2009, Florio was commissioned by The Independent, a British national newspaper, in London, to write an article about our expedition for their travel section: ‘You people cannot walk, you only move in cars’

Boys playing on a boat on the River Gambia, Tendaba, The Gambia, West Africa

Boys playing on a boat on the River Gambia, Tendaba, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio, 2009

Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the River Gambia Expedition 2012:

 

Yellowbrick™ Tracking devices are on board for sponsorship with their ‘YB3′!

We just received confirmation from Yellowbrick™ that they will be sponsoring the River Gambia Expedition 2012 with a YB3 Tracking Device – ‘Yellowbrick3 has been designed to withstand the harshest of environments. And with our heritage in offshore racing, you can be sure that we’re not just saying that…!’

The YB3 will allow us to get GPS co-ordinates and transmit our position back to the blog, ‘from anywhere on earth‘. Ensuring that we have ‘truly global coverage. Absolutely no dead spots.’ Simply put, you can follow us on the whole journey up the River Gambia!

Yellowbrick3

Yellowbrick3™ Tracking Device

We can even Twitter, send emails and text -wherever we are on our journey. So, there will be no escape from our adventures – we’ll be transmitting our position up to four times a day to where you can follow us on a web based map.

Seriously though, if we get into any sticky situations, we will be able to send an SOS signal, with our co-ordinates.

Therefore, we’re very happy and thankful to be sponsored by Yellowbrick™

Yellowbrick3

The Florios – Jason & Helen

Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the River Gambia Expedition 2012:

The things we get up to… BBC Radio 4 – ‘Excess Baggage’ – Walking in Madeira, Europe and Gambia

BBC Radio 4 'Excess Baggage' with John McCarthy

BBC Radio 4 ‘Excess Baggage’ with John McCarthy

When we returned from our ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’ expedition, we were invited onto John McCarthy’s ‘Excess Baggage’ program on BBC Radio 6

Because we had actually returned to New York by the time we did the show, we went up to the BBC Radio studios, on the Westside, in Manhattan – to pre-record the show – Florio and I were on one end of the phone whilst, presenter and journalist, John McCarthy and his other guests disembodied voices came out the other end, from the BBC studios in London, UK.

Walking in Madeira, Europe and Gambia: ‘the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell about his enthusiasm for hiking in Tasmania and Madeira, glaciologist Richard Sale about long distance walking routes in Europe and to photographer Jason Florio and his partner Helen Jones about travelling all around Gambia on foot’ Producer: Harry Parker

It was fascinating, inspiring, and humbling listening to the others talk about their adventure’s – our 930km seemed very tame compared to our seasoned walker co-guests, and the lengths and places they had walked.

Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio – Backpacks on and ready to walk – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’