I found some old photos floating in one folder that I had named “miscellaneous”. You know the type of dumping folder that serves for a long term graveyard for those shots you do not know what to do with and yet you don’t want to toss them in the bin either. These ones have something in common: they are all close ups of surfaces. Not very typical of me as I have always been more inclined to take photos of people.
These were made without any particular series or project in mind. For some reason these surfaces and textures and colors had a strong appeal me and now it’s clearly another form of “long term diary” of places that I read when I watch them. The interesting thing here is how just about any image, even the most abstract one – has the power to develop into a story – whether imagined afterwards or something that really happened and had a wider connection to your life at the time when the photo was taken. To open up those contexts with these photos, please read on. I named these photos by their locations.
Inspired by an exhibition where I saw one visually stunning screening of a video set up on a large mosquito net, I once attempted to photograph something through a net but did not really put my mind to it properly and abandoned the whole thing, too soon. I thought it just didn’t work out. Yet. I might try some tricks later on so better keep the photo as a reminder…
The Dogon Country
I don’t remember where exactly I took this photo, except that it was on one of my trips in Mali when we were going around the country meeting people who work in crafts cooperatives. This is the ceiling of a place where we had a short break for a tea. Buildings in mud are fantastic, they make me feel I am an earthling. And Mali is simply a pearl!
A close up of a pan that is called Mankeshikesha in Amharic. I bought it on the Kefira market in Dire Dawa so that I would be able to roast coffee in Saint-Louis on the rooftop (because roasting produces a lot of smoke). I did it a few times with this pan but abandoned it and started to use another, more practical one. I forgot the pan under a bougainvillea for many months in the merciless tropics and the next time I saw it, it had turned beautiful yellow and orange. I was so happy to see this that I made another art work out of painted metal sheets that I left exposed to the sun for a long time. I sprinkled them every now and then with all sorts of media and abracadabra! They ended up first in an exhibition and after that somewhere in Sweden. I still have this pan!
More metal. This shot is from one of the local metal workshop round the corner. I admire all kinds of workshops where people make things by their hands. Welding and noisy stuff happens there day in, day out. The wonderful thing is that there is almost no work that they cannot do! Here’s a perspective: the so called developed countries have abandoned to large degree the knowledge of crafts. Everything related to manual work these days is overpriced, outsourced to distant poorer countries with cheaper labor, or it is practically non-existent. It’s painfully hard to find a handyman in a throw-away culture. Here i.e. in Saint-Louis of Senegal, on the other hand, whenever you need something you can start by designing it yourself and someone will make it for you out of the materials available. We have had a spiral staircase made out of metal, as well as a gas roaster for coffee. And so many other smaller projects. How neat is that?
You are looking at the skin of a swordfish that was caught by one of the local restaurants running a fishing club and dragged ashore one day in Ngor in Dakar. It had a fantastic shiny deep blue color that unfortunately does not show in this photo. I may have post edited the photo anyway for some purposes. Fish is good, and their skin makes beautiful sandals. It’s a pity that their skin is not exploited here to their full potential. Yet. Though unfortunately fish meal factories and industrial fishing is killing the local artisanal fishing!
The process itself becomes the art work. This piece of plywood was covered in old indigo that had lost most of its blue power. It so happened that I forgot the dye on the wood for too long before rinsing it out – must have been because of someone at the door interrupting my creative process – so eventually I left it as it is. The thing I like about natural indigo is that it is very blue and yes, it’s natural! And here I was completely taken by surprise with the “tired indigo” color. It has lead me to experiment with other organic surfaces and dyes too.