Recently in Africa Photo Books Category
Thanks to a generous grant from Rotary International, FAVL will be developing more local-oriented books that inspire people to read more and create more. Our local partner Rotary Club in Burkina Faso is the Ouagadougou Savane club.
One of our first projects is to soon publish a photo book using text and photos from Koura Bemave, a retired soldier in the village
of Bereba (and our own
FAVL representative Koura Donkoui's father!).
Bemave, now 81, was in the French Army in the 1950s and kept a wonderful
small collection of photos from his years of service. He has agreed to share these with the community
of readers in the villages, and we will soon be printing copies for each of the
libraries. For now we thought we would
share one the fotos, of Bemave in Mauritania sitting on top of a
crate of mortar shells!
The books will be about subjects of interest to village readers, be authored by people in the villagers, and be "produced" by the FAVL team in the region. We are looking forward to producing microbooks of stories from the various ethnic groups in the region, village histories, family histories, school story contests, photography books of local festivals and important events, and basically anything that our team comes up with that will likely be of interest to readers!
Some examples of the photography books FAVL has been producing are here as our fastpencil website. We are looking forward to starting to work on the project! Thanks especially to Charlie Wasser and the whole Sunnyvale Rotary Club, and other district-level Rotarians who worked hard to make this happen!
This is FAVL new mico-book. The text and the photos are from Alison Wallace and Christopher Davis, two peace corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. This is a excellent book about the moringa, a multiple-purpose plant used in Burkina Faso. The book titled Làbàɲu is in bwamu language translated in french. Coming soon the moore-french and the jula-french versions. Here is some of the wonderful pictures from the book now available on fastpencil.
Yet another challenge involved working with Santa Clara University, where I teach photography, to develop a study abroad program. After my third trip, one of my colleagues at the University suggested that we propose a study abroad program in Burkina Faso. Our proposal was accepted. We became co-directors of "Reading West Africa" and we began to learn about the challenges (and joys) of bringing a group of college students to a developing nation for a semester. We took our first cohort of students in the fall of 2009 and the second in the fall of 2010. This allowed me to spend three months in Burkina Faso each year. I had already become a familiar sight in the village, but by 2009 Bereba began to feel like home.
It was during this period that I began to attend the weekly Friday night dances at Le Cotonnier with my friends from the village. We drank warm beer and danced all night under the stars. Other than the generator that powers the music, there's no electricity and no light - a challenge for any photographer! I began to experiment with flash, dancing while I was shooting, and rarely looking through the viewfinder. This was not a "project": it was my life in the village. Boundaries collapsed: I made photographs as a participant rather than an observer. The element of chance became an integral part of the process since I never knew what images I was going to get.
The images in Friday Night seem formally quite different from your other work, such as Re: Collections, or even the series Kiosks and Market Day from Burkina Faso. Would you agree?
You are quite right that the images in Friday Night are different from my other work. I am by nature very formal in my approach to composition. I favor simplicity and symmetry in an attempt to foreground my subjects, whether they are people or objects, and emphasize their similarities and differences. This is clear in the Re: Collections project and in the Kiosks portfolio. Both are classic typologies in the tradition of August Sander and the Bechers. I think my African portraits fall into this category as well.
But I also like to experiment with the element of chance and challenge myself to move outside my comfort zone. That is what is behind Friday Night. I am literally shooting in the dark. I can see my primary subjects dimly, but the background of each image is unseen until my flash fires. Everyone is in constant motion, including myself, so every image is a surprise. The juxtaposition of contorted bodies, hands and feet, shadows and expressions is not something one can predict.
Another thing that distinguishes Friday Night from my other work is that I am an active participant in the process rather than an objective observer. I am caught up in the music, moving and sweating alongside the other dancers, reacting and interacting. This was not possible the first two or three times I visited Bereba. I had to get to know the villagers and earn their trust. I now feel very much at home in the village and an insider at the dance. Everyone expects me to make photographs and they are delighted with the results. I should add that I take back and distribute all the images that I make on each subsequent trip. I have more than 500 prints that I'll be handing out when I visit Bereba in December.
(Photo: David Pace, Children in Bereba village hold RWA books, 2010)