1. Random Post of the Day from A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush - a 930km African Odyssey:

    Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 – Kerr Batch. Distance walked to-date: 659.24km – Sleeping amongst the ancestors.

    It’s been a really long walk today. We covered over 30km by the time we reach Kerr Batch, the home of more ancient stone circles, said to be the burial grounds of former kings.

    The stone circles are actually located a little further past the village itself. We stop in the village to ask directions and for the guys to go and buy cigarettes and phone cards. I’m impatient to get to the stones so that we can get settled in for the night. It’s already past 4pm, which means if we don’t hurry up we won’t be able to do the portrait of the alkalo (village chief) today. Flo, infuriatingly, tells me not to worry, ‘chill out’, as he can always do the photo in the morning. But then that will mean that we set off much later than usual – upsetting our whole routine. Why don’t we just hurry up and get a bloody move on!

    After twenty minutes of taking their time in the village, I decide to walk off ahead, in the direction of the stones. They can catch me up. The pathway takes me through open fields – a vast sense of space, which, right at that moment in time, makes me feel like the only person on the planet. And then ‘Nanga-tah, nanga-tah!’ (move). That’ll be Janneh with Neil, the donkey. I guess the team are right behind me.

    The gates to the compound that houses the stone circles of Kerr Batch is closed and locked when we reach them. However, within minutes of us standing outside, the watchman approaches us from a large building, to the left, inside the compound. He greets us and tells us he had been waiting for us. ‘Stone Man’, the watchman from Wassu stone circles, had called him on his mobile to tell him that we were on the way. Ah…the wonders of technology and how times have changed. The proliferation of mobile phone usage in The Gambia is pretty astounding, since my early days here.

    The watchman tells us that his father, Samba Camera, is the village chief of Kerr Batch and that he is one of the oldest chief’s in the country – at the grand old age of 79 years. The chief had arrived in the village during colonial times and had been in charge of the village for over nineteen years. Also, conveniently for us, he lived right next door to the stones.

    We ask him if we can camp in the compound, amongst the stones. He tells us that its not usually allowed but…if we are prepared to pay, he will let us – just this once. We negotiate him down to a much more mutually agreeable price than he initially asked for, and he opens the gate to let us in.

    The site is much smaller than Wassu and a more rural setting too. There is also a museum on the premises (the large building in the compound), which the watchman is particularly adamant that we take a look at - at a price, of course, despite the fact we had probably paid well over the odds to stay on the site.

    Although there was no running water (we could fill our containers up at the chiefs well, in his compound), there was a proper toilet block, attached to the museum – loo seats and all – something we rarely saw on the road. Apparently, a lot of tourist buses come through, to see the stones and the museum (which, incidentally, turned out to be really interesting and informative on the history of the stones and the surrounding area) and they had to be catered for. Just inside the doorway of the toilet block, there was a big bucket of water, for flushing and washing.

    We begin to set up camp, as Flo goes off with Samba to meet the chief and ask his permission to take his portrait. Although, his son, the watchman, assures us that this will be fine (I wonder if he’ll charge us for that too). Its definitely too late today, to shoot the portrait, so they’ll arrange to do it in the morning after all. Flo appeases me by saying that we only have to walk a short distance tomorrow – around 13km – to the next village where we will camp – so, even if we set off by 9am, we can be there by noon-1pm. “Lets just relax a bit, H, and enjoy having the stones to ourselves”. He is right. We are extremely fortunate to be in this situation – amongst these relics of the past.

    Later…it’s a full moon, the mosquitoes have gone on holiday, and we unroll our mattress on the ground, lie on our backs, and look up at the enormous full moon and a gazillion stars. There is a definite energy here, amongst these ancient stones – we all feel it and comment on it.

    As we lay there, commenting on the energy we all feel, Samba says that as long as we respect the stones (i.e. don’t climb all over them like the watchman’s kids did – jumping from one to the other!), we would be safe amongst them. ‘The Kings will look after us’ he says, in such reverential tones, that we have to stop ourselves from giggling.

    During the night, I got out of the tent a couple of times, just to look at the huge moon, the stones looking eerily as if they were backlit. It was so quiet. There’s definitely some indefinable, intangible energy here… whilst I didn’t feel exactly threatened by it, I did feel that there was something far bigger then I could even begin to perceive…

    To view the award-winning portraits of village chiefs and elders taken by Jason Florio, from the 930km walk around The Gambia, West Africa, please visit:

    http://www.floriophoto.com/#/projects/930km%20african%20odyssey/1

    Main image © Jason Florio - Children playing on ancient stone circles, Kerr Batch, The Gambia, West Africa - print available in various sizes - please contact helen.jones@floriophoto.com

     
  2. Jason Florio’s B&W portraits of village chiefs (Alkalo’s) ‘Makasutu - mecca in the forest’ The Gambia, West Africa. Taken over a period of 12 years.

    Available in various print sizes (please contact helen.jones@floriophoto.com for price list on fine art photography print sales) and in book form:

    http://www.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=jason+florio&filter=all&commit=Search

     
  3. Jan 2011 - The Haggerty Museum of Art acquires three of Jason Florio’s B&W fine art portraits from his ‘Makasutu - mecca in the forest’ series. A collection of large format portraits, taken of the people who live and work around a sacred forest in The Gambia, West Africa, over a period of 12 years.

    A book of the portraits is also available:http://www.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=jason+florio&filter=all&commit=Search

    The Haggerty museum current exhibition which features the work - 'The Truth is Not in the Mirror - Photography and a Constructed Identity'

    http://www.marquette.edu/haggerty/exhibit_2011_01_photo_portraits.shtml


     
  4. Expedition road-stories' Mr Bah - the marabout/medicine man - telling our future in the sand, Tuba Dabbo village, The Gambia West Africa, 2009

    Image: Florio-2009

    This is the rather wonderful Mr Bah, whom we’d met previously whilst staying with one of only 5 female alkalo’s, Fatou Dansu, in her compound near the town of Basse .

    When I was first introduced to Mr Bah, outwardly, he reminded me of Charles Dickens’ obsequious, Uriah Heep - the oh so humble character from ‘David Copperfield’. When he shook your hand, he stroked it, very gently, with his other. We soon realised that the reason he did this was because he was getting some kind of tactile sense of who you were. It turned out that he was a Marabout - the greatly respected medicine men, spiritual advisors, koranic teachers, sooth-sayers, if you like, of The Gambia (and West Africa in general).

    When we met him in Basse, he invited us to visit his very remote village of Tuba Dabbo, which was right off our course, deep into the bush, but we were so intrigued by this man that we made the journey there about a week later.

    The image is of Mr Bah reading mine and Florio’s future in the sand of his hut, whilst he crouched on the ground - yet another amazing experience from our 930km walk around the small West Africa country.

     
  5. The Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University
    Current exhibition: ‘The Truth is Not in the Mirror - Photography and a Constructed Identity’ Jan. 19 - May 22, 2011

    Walter Mason, Director of the museum very kindly took a couple of photo’s of the exhibition, featuring Florio’s Gambia ‘Makasutu’ portraits, and mailed them over.

    http://www.marquette.edu/haggerty/exhibit_2011_01_photo_portraits.shtml

    For the ‘Makasutu - mecca in the forest’ series of B&W portraits, please visit the website:

    http://www.floriophoto.com/#/projects/makasutu/1

     
  6. Jason Florio: Fine Art Photography Prints - Colour & B&W Collections

    Image: Gambian Village Chief, Herouna Tonkara with his horse - The Gambia, West Africa 2009.

    For both collections, please visit the on-line gallery:

    http://www.floriophoto.com/#/fine%20art% 20print%20sales/color%20collection/2

     
  7. The Haggerty Museum of Art - featuring Jason Florio’s Makasutu B&W portraits, The Gambia, West Africa - New Photography Exhibition Opens tomorrow: Jan 19th 2011 

     ‘The Truth is Not in the Mirror - Photography and a Constructed Identity’ -  January 19th-May 22nd 2011

    Photography as a medium has always been actively concerned with describing identity. While a portrait is typically an artistic representation of a person where verisimilitude is the goal, here the inquiry is questioned and expanded. Rather than employing a camera to create an objective document, the artists in this exhibition are often involved in constructing narrative sequences that pose questions with open-ended outcomes. As the title, The Truth is Not in the Mirror... suggests, photography has the power to imply, construct, and/or deny a narrative. Many of the photographers are contemporary story tellers and, in this sense, their work reflects facets of our ever-changing precepts about family, identity, truth and fiction.

    The artists in the exhibition: Tina Barney, Claire Beckett, Valerie Belin, Dawoud Bey, Jesse Burke, Kelli Connell, Michael Corridore, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, Jason Florio, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Andy Freeberg, Lee Friedlander, David Hockney, Nikki S. Lee, Graham Miller, Martin Parr, Thomas Ruff, The Sartorialist, Alec Soth, Will Steacy, Larry Sultan, and Mickalene Thomas.

    http://www.marquette.edu/haggerty/exhibit_2011_01_photo_portraits.shtml

    Image by Florio: ‘Ensa (Gambian guide), holding freshly slaughtered cow head, for male ‘coming of age’ ceremony, Myork village, The Gambia, West Africa

     
  8. FOTOFusion, West Palm Beach, Florida - Thursday 13th January 2011

    Seminar 125 - 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
    A 930km African Photography Odyssey: Don’t Wait For An Editor To Call - Create Your Own Assignment With Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio
    In 2009, NYC based, British photojournalist Jason Florio and his wife, Helen Jones-Florio made the first circumnavigation of The Gambia, West Africa by foot (a nearly 600 mile journey) to create a series of now award winning portraits of African village chiefs and elders who hosted them on the expedition.  They will take you through creating your own assignment, planning and organizing for such photography based adventure, fundraising and execution of the work in difficult environments - accompanied by reportage and portraits from their odyssey.

     

  9. Fine Art Photography Prints from Jason Florio - including his award-winning colour portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders from a 930km walk around the small West African country
    Main image © Jason Florio L-R: Umbi Sallah Touray (Alkalo’s mother) & Kanifana Touray (Alkalo’s sister-in-law), Balanghar Bental, The Gambia, West Africa

    Tonkara Heruna - acting Alkalo of Souduwole village, The Gambia, West Africa

    Tonkara Heruna – acting Alkalo of Souduwole village, The Gambia, West Africa
    L-R: Samba Sowe-Farmer (Alkalo's brother) & Jarre Sowe (Alkalo), Felling Koto village, The Gambia, West Africa

    L-R: Samba Sowe-Farmer (Alkalo’s brother) & Jarre Sowe (Alkalo), Felling Koto village, The Gambia, West Africa

    Just a little reminder of some of the beautiful colour images, taken by Florio, of the Alkalo’s (chiefs) and village elders whilst on our  ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km odyssey’ by foot! We met some amazing and inspirational people along the way who have left an indelible impression on us – along with these stunning images which also act as a reminder.

    Please see more of the series on Florio’s website www.floriophoto.com Also, all of the images are available to purchase as prints – see the 'Fine Art Print Sales' section on the website – both colour and B&W collections. Images from Cuba, Afghanistan, Beirut, Cambodia, India, Ethiopia, Burma etc also available.

    For further information on print sales please contact: helen.jones@floriophoto.com

     


  10. New York Photography Awards -  Blog Entry-June 2010:
    'New York Photo Festival Awards' - Presenting Winners Slide Show - Jason Florio gets Fine Art 'Honorable Mention' for his majestic and painterly portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders from 'A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey'

    NYPhoto Festival Awards 2010 – Presents the Winners Slide show (from May 2010)

    Jason Florio ‘Honorable Mention’ – Fine Art Series

    http://www.newyorkphotofestival.com/?p=11212#comments

    Mission: NYPhoto10

    ‘The goal of the New York Photo Festival is to identify and document the future of photography in all its forms.

    Every year, a select group of internationally-respected curators are called upon to deliver their personal vision of the newest and most important trends in contemporary photography, each exhibited in their own pavilion and promising to draw the attention of the entire photographic community’

    General Categories:

    4. Fine Art – Image Series

    Winner – J Carrier
    Honorable Mentions – Aaron Vincent Elkaim & Jason Florio

    We are very happy that all that hard work (especially on our feet!) is paying off – Florio’s beautiful images of the amazing people we met along the way, on our journey in The Gambia, are gaining recognition and being seen. Please check out his website for the whole series of Village Chiefs and Elders  ‘A 930km African Odyssey’ www.floriophoto.com (’Projects’ section) from ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush’, West Africa.