A first milestone in my Afropolis photo project: a work-in-progress exhibition. I framed twelve prints last night to show what I am working on. This small show is combining some sleek-looking photos and rough handmade and “unfinished” frames made out of old windows that are very easy to come by here in Saint-Louis. Doing this show has helped me a lot in both choosing the photos that I want to include in later exhibitions and defining the theme or themes that this project will bring forward. These twelve photos were taken in Addis Ababa and once I will have more material from the other cities – Dakar, Nouakchott and Bamako – these themes will certainly develop more in the process. For now I can say that visually I hope to capture some of the contrasts of neighborhoods that are human in size and “organic” against the modern construction boom with glass and steel buildings reaching up in the skies, and human activity characterized by informality that takes place in between these two dynamics. More of that later with more photos!
Ndar Ndar Music & Café, Saint-Louis: A work-in-progress photo exhibition “Afropolis 2020” with a focus on African urban space: Addis Ababa. The final exhibition material will be made in platinum prints in summer 2020.
A selection of my underwater photography will be in a collective exhibition in St.Louis Missouri (US), hosted by Barret Barrera Projects and curated by Modou Dieng / Blackpuffin in October 4 – November 23, 2019. The exhibition will inaugurate a new and exciting art space in St.Louis.
Statement by Modou Dieng:
The City on the River meets River City. Our Sister City from Africa: Saint-Louis, Senegal.
“A tale of métissage, five centuries old, sitting at its heart. A duality in colors pulsing through the fashion, the jazz, the crafts, permeating all aspects of its culture. The artists who have lived there, who were born there, or those who have simply fallen in love with her, all feel this rhythm. Past, present and never ceasing.”
I am very excited to be part of this and will share more details about the exhibition and other participating artists a little later!
In the middle of our summer residency programme, I am showing some of my work again at the Old Customs House in Kristiinankaupunki during 10-20 June. This magnificent wooden house was build in 1680 and it is a fantastic environment for shows, standing against the constantly changing, disappearing, regenerating nature of our environment.
I have named this series of photographs Evanesce with the emphasis of action rather than a state or a situation, reflecting my constant experience of change and the ephemeral nature of things and light I see around me. Are these images now corresponding to my way of remembering these people, these objects? That is what I am asking myself.
Works: 30×30 cm and 21×29 cm. Prints on Japanese handmade paper; underwater photography; transfers on organic surfaces; mixed media.
I live in such a colorful environment that for some time now I’ve been wanting to add some black & white in my life just for the sake of contrast. I’ve noticed that seeing b&w photographs in exhibitions, in the midst of this continuous stream of colorful images, is very soothing.
I am also a big fan of music videos that present a story, like a short film. As far as music videos are concerned, I have two favorite categories: firstly videos in which a person – most often the singer – simply looks straight into the camera and sings. No fuss, no synchronized dancing in groups. Secondly, I love to see stories that have been filmed in black & white and with more or less non-linear and improvised narrative, such as Spoek Mathambo – The Mountain ft. Pegasus Warning, Dj Spoko & Dj Mujava. Take any screenshot moment in this fabulous clip and it will turn out interesting. That’s something to work for! Another good example of somewhat rare and cinematographic music video in b&w is Michael Kiwanuka’s song Black Man in A White World. It falls in the category of “What did I just see?” And there are others…
I have always been fascinated by the human body and how a person expresses him/herself through movement, and sometimes also with the lack of it through a momentary pause or “pose”. When I think of movement in a photograph I am not so much talking about the actual blur that the movement may create at the time of shooting the photo but rather about the idea inside the frame of “what comes next” or “how we got here”. So in a way a photo can talk loudly about what is not in the photo at that particular time. I am hoping to catch that kind of movement both in underwater photography and in shooting b&w film. It’s too early to say where all this will take me and that’s the fun in the whole thing! My plan is to buy a film scanner some time soon and and start working on prints on interesting papers. I have already experimented with handmade Japanese paper with interesting results. A new year is about to begin, and so is a new direction in my art practice.
This is the camera that I work with these days. After having shot one roll of film my impression is that I am going to use it for portrait photography and close ups. I love the feel of this in my hand and everything in it is very much straight forward, which of course suits my character as a photographer. Looks like I will be carrying it with me a lot – a welcomed alternative to using the heavy DSLR. As it happens, for the moment the nearest place in which I may be able to have my films developed is in Mbacké, a two hour’s ride from Saint-Louis.. that means slow projects to say the least. But chances are good that soon there will be a photo lab in Saint-Louis as well, fingers crossed!
Songu daan koo is a project in which I want to focus on expressions of movement. The title comes from a song by the notorious Youssou N’Dour and Akon. I have very fond memories of this particular song and I am guessing that one day, when retired, I’ll be sitting in a rocking chair smoking pipe and as soon as I hear this song I will jump up and do some moves! That is, of course, if I should be lucky enough to rock in a chair in Senegal or anywhere warm under a shady tree rather than in some boring elderly people’s home where they will force us to do water colors every Thursday morning and prohibit smoking altogether. Oh, and come to think of it, how likely is it that elderly people in such institutions get to hear Youssou N’Dour? Or any music? I don’t really know those places… And there are no rocking chairs in Senegal either! Anyway this song reminds me of the gym I used to go to in Guet Ndar on the side of the town where a very dense fishing community lives. We would do fitness exercises in synchronized moves and formations and I was quite impressed how well everybody, men and women, exercised together and everybody, not just the coaches, encouraged each other to stay on the move and keep fit.
There is also one other reason why I’m getting myself accustomed to this camera. I will be using it on our upcoming “Analog Extreme” mobile art residence in February in Mauritania. A full ten days of walking in the vast emptiness, off the radar. The semi-nomadic camel herders will be the likely candidates to end up in my photographs. It’s time to brush up some Hassanya so that I can politely ask them whether a photo would be OK – I can quite conveniently start practicing in the local grocery store Xewel where I am a regular customer. During the trek I just might, in lack of subjects, end up taking photos of our traveling companions instead, which of course would be just as good. So we will be a bunch of artists with very little gadgets to carry with us and we’ll take photos of each other and desert landscapes. I love every part of this!
Let’s admit it, there is a somewhat oxymoron twist when you talk about going analog in a blog as you do need some digital gadgets to even read what I am writing here, but for those like-minded people out there who sometimes feel tired of screens and everything digital and who would like to shift from representation back to direct experience, there is an offline publisher called Analog Sea that prints books. The Analog Sea Review – An Offline Journal (Summer 2018) discusses these matters through interviews and various contributions by artists and I can fully recommend it! In order to receive a copy of their bulletin or ask in which independent bookshops to find their titles you can – naturally – write them a letter.
Guet Ndaru Mool is one of my continuous photography projects. Now after summer break I thought I would focus particularly on portraits and make a series that would have a retro feel and reflect the organic nature of the local fishing business. Here’s for starters:
The local fishing community feels the effects of climate change first hand and many families have already lost their homes to the sea. Their lifestyle is vulnerable and alarmingly threatened because of coastal erosion and rising sea levels. A few years back we hosted documentary photographer Greta Rhybus at Waaw and she made a fantastic photo series on climate change in Senegal.
In Saint-Louis life really spins around fishing. There are anglers on the edges of the river; men in water up to the waist – or sometimes neck – throwing in their nets both in the river and in the sea; there are small boys in giant wooden fishing boats called pirogue on the shores just waiting to grow and follow in the footsteps of their fathers; there are boat builders, engine repairers, horse carriages, fish dryers, men sleeping on giant mountains of blue nets, waiting for departure or resting after a night out in the sea, net repairers, refrigerators, ice vans, ice factories… and the big fish market where women handle and sell fish and where the other-worldly scenes of busy crowds, melting ice and crazy chaos with some hidden order to it make it one of my favorite spots in the entire town… That other-worldliness is what I am hoping to catch into my portraits.
Some giant geckos still consider my darkroom their territory and every time I enter the room they first look at me for a few seconds as if I were an alien from another planet, then they run in all directions to hide and while at it they make that funny noise with they bodies. Thanks to these guys the room needs a regular cleaning and yesterday while sorting out the mess I made a discovery of some unused cyan coated sheets of paper. When the opportunity arises, never miss your chance to test out coated paper, no matter how old or damaged it may first look!
The horizontal image is from one of my series of underwater portraits from last year, and the two vertical ones are from a street performance created by an artist friend El Hadj Keita together with Pap Bouba & The Family. Keita is a man of many talents and makes amazing sculptures and in this particular situation they had made a street performance called “Breaking the Chains” for the Dak’Art Biennale and I took some photos of the performers.
Overexposed edges and all sort of other imperfections are not such a bad thing. They are the thing.