We’re almost there – a day nearer to trekking and canoeing on our West Africa documentary photography expedition

Gambian woman washes her bowls at the well as horses drink from it – Image © Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa, 2012

On our last expedition, in 2009, we walked 930km around the small West African country of The Gambia (which is a country that we both love and seem to be drawn back to, year after year), with two donkeys and a cart – as one does – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’. A big part of that journey was staying in a different village each night. That is, once we had asked permission of the village chief – the ‘alkalo’ – a traditional, and very important, protocol that has to be adhered to, out of respect for the chief, his elders and the villagers who hosted us.

Both Florio (Jason) and I have been back and forth to The Gambia for over 15 years now and, over the last four years we have worked together, on capturing his portraits of some of the Gambian people we’ve met along the way. However, Jason has also worked on a long-term project, called Makaautu – mecca in the forest’ of which I have only been fortunate to have worked with him on over these last four years. Here is one of his very first images, from the Makasutu series…from ‘back in the early days’, which I love. We often muse over where these boys – now men – are now. Look at it carefully…check out what a couple of the young Gambian boys are casually holding.

A group of young Gambian boys gather on the banks of the River Gambia to bathe at the end of a male circumcision (‘coming of age’) ceremony, Kombo Central, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Another early days photograph, from the Makasutu series…there’s strength, proudness and knowledge in these women, that you see often. Gambian women are the backbone of the country…keeping everything together – their families, their compounds, harvesting…multi-taskers (and tough taskmasters!), in the truest sense. I wouldn’t argue with these women!

A group of Gambian village elder women, Kombo Central, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

And, one from our time on the road together – we met this man, Dembo, when we were camping in small village, whilst on our ‘Short Walk’. We heard him before we saw him, with his boombox blaring, skanking down the dusty road towards us..he then proceeded to do a little dance for us. It was a job just to get him to stand still, so Florio could take the photo!

Portrait of Gambian man, Dembo Silla playing ‘blues’ from Mali, on his boombox, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

And, just one more, from the Makasutu series of portraits – one that I’m particularly proud to be part of, after having spotted this wonderful old gentleman, Mr Kujabi, in the crowd – from when we were roaming around the ‘Coming of Age’ ceremonies, in the more rural village of The Gambia, in 2008. And, he was the one who insisted on having his little silver pipe in the photograph!

Kujabi - Gambian farmer, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Kujabi – Gambian farmer, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio – 2008

I hope the above images, give you a sense of why we do what we do…and why we can’t wait to get down to West Africa for our River Gambia Expedition – which will take us even further afield, to explore and document, unknown (to us, at least) territories.

We now have only 10 days left to the deadline on Kickstarter – 15th October 2012. If you’d like to support us, there are rewards – Florio’s limited edition fine art photography prints. Please check out the page

Click on image to support our KS page-Deadline 15th Oct. 2012

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. More updates coming very soon – particularly about our pending departure date to West Africa on 16th October!

Helen & Florio