Looking back: Gambian photography students learn the art of portraiture with Jason Florio

I just had a conversation with one of my sisters, who told me that my young nephew is about to study photography at school, and that his first powerpoint was going to be about my co-instigator in all things photography (from our expeditionsphotography workshops), Jason Florio.  Looking back, for links on here that might be of interest to my nephew, took me to the ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language (P.T.S.s) workshop posts; all about when we held a number of photography workshops, around The Gambia, West Africa (thanks to a grant from the US Embassy, Banjul), with young Gambian students.

We are still so immensely honored to have had the opportunity to hold the workshops, and particulary proud of the level of work our young students produced – despite 99% of them having never even used a camera.

I just wanted to re-share this – especially for my nephew, Harry. Maybe one day, he’ll be the one teaching photography workshops somewhere in West Africa.


Helen Jones-Florio

2014: ‘Photos Tell Stories‘ photography workshop #1: The Kombos region, The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa – students were chosen from various senior secondary schools in the region

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L-R: Aisha, Muhammed N, PTS’s producer, Helen Jones-Florio, Haryat, Ya Ida, MMuhammed S, Kadji, Omar, Lucia, Catherine, Florence © Jason Florio

The students spent most the first day in the classroom with Jason Florio,  P.T.S.’s photographer and tutor,  where he covered the following topics: a brief history of photography; what is a photograph; portraiture; environmental portraiture; reportage; landscape photography (including showing the students images from all of our contributing photographers); guides and techniques; what makes a good photograph; rules of photography (rule of thirds, leading lines, etc.); lighting; editing. Lastly, how the students could share their world through photography.

We then went on to familiarize the students with the digital cameras (thank you to FujiFilm USA for their support):

Image © Jason Florio

The students practice how to capture movement:

Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Following is a selection of work from the  students – on the second day of the workshop – taken during their portraiture class:

Image © Florence Ampong
Image © Aisha P. Njie
Image © Gerald Soweh
Image © Muhanned Njie
Image © Ya Ida Drammeh
Image © Omar Dampha
Image © Muhammed Njie
Image © Muhammed Sinera
Image © Kadjiatou Jawara
Image © Catherine Mahoney
Image © Jason Florio
Image © Omar Dpampha
Image © Gerald Soweh
Image © Lucia Mendy
Image © Ya Ida Drammeh
Image © Aisha P.Njie
Image © Gerald Soweh
Image © Catherine Mahoney
Image © Florence Ampong
Image © Muhammed Sinera
Image @ Kadjotou Jawara

The students with Jason Florio – image © P.T.S.’s workshop producer Helen Jones-Florio

Image © Helen Jones-Florio

To check out our ‘behind-the-scenes‘ album, please visit the ‘Photos Tell Stories’ FB page – where you can see the students and Jason Florio at work, during all the photography workshops.

‘Behind-the-Scenes’ Jason Florio with the Kombos photography workshop students

Next up, we’ll be sharing the students images from ‘HOME’.  After showing the students work from all our contributing photographers – Manjari Sharma; Amber Terranova; Amy Toensing; Sari Goodfriend; Ryan Heffernan; Ben Lowy; Stefan Falke; Oskar Landi; Thomas Donley; Brandon Remler; Wayne Lawrence;   Chris Bartlett; Robert Goldstein; Henry Jacobson; Heloise Bergman – their assignment was to go and photograph their interpretation of ‘HOME’ . The following day, they returned to the workshop with some very interesting and inspired images. More on that very soon…

Other posts you might be interested in: ‘Teaching the art of portrait photography

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Sonia Pierre -Executive Director of the human rights organization, the Movement for Dominico-Haitian Women (Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas, MUDHA) © Jason Florio

Thank you for stopping by

The Florios (Helen & Jason)

Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, Photoville, NY, 2013. Image © Chris Bartlett

in Partnership with US GAMBIA WORK SHOP -300dpi_ FLAT

Fine Photographic Prints – new gallery, incoming…

abdou ndong fisherman with a rescued crocodile 2007
‘Abdou with Rescued Crocodile’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio B&W Gallery
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‘Painted Face’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio – B&W Gallery

I’ve been the Director of Print Sales, for Florio Photo for a number of years now; a project which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. So, when I was approached by another photographer (whose work I admire very much indeed), a few weeks ago, to see if I would be interested in selling his work too, thus, the seedling of an idea was planted… .

‘Sky over Texas’ © Jason Florio – Color Gallery

Suffice to say, the last few weeks have found me working on the idea (with thanks for some much-appreciated advice – and support – from a couple of dear girlfriends, who also just happen to be well-respected New York-based curators/photo editors), checking out various photographers, and building a new stand-alone fine art photography prints gallery site. A boutique gallery, where we will be featuring a select number of very fine photographers.

If you would like to follow our progress, feel free to click  ‘follow‘ (see button at the bottom of the page).

More updates coming soon.


Helen Jones-Florio

HJF_ JF_stefan
Florio & Helen: Sale from the Flat File – Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints – New York, Aug 2015, Image courtesy of Stefan Falke

Press: fossils of light + time – a photographic book curated by Elizabeth Avedon

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‘Ismaila on his horse, Jumpex’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio


The Detroit Center For Contemporary Photography is proud to announce a presale for FOSSILS OF LIGHT + TIME, a limited edition photographic publication curated and designed by Elizabeth Avedon. Black and white photographs were submitted reflecting the spirit of a beautiful seductive quote by Daido Moriyama, “If you were to ask me to define a photograph in a few words, I would say it is “a fossil of light and time.” Read more here

Florio was extremely honored to get the email, from the Detroit Center of Contemporary Photography (DCCP), which announced that one of his B&W images, ‘Ismaila on his horse, Jumpex‘, had been chosen by Elizabeth Avedon, for her forthcoming photographic book – ‘fossils of light + time‘ – along with a number of other photographers.

The image of Ismaila was taken in The Gambia, 2009 – during one of our many travels around the small West African country – as part of Florio’s longterm, ‘Makasutu – mecca in the forest‘, portrait series.

Huge respect and thanks to Elizabeth Avedon, and to the DCCP for their support of her curated book.

Helen Jones-Florio

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Florio, Mr Bah (the marabout), and Helen Jones-Florio – The Gambia, 2009

It’s a Dog’s Life, West Africa

Searching for images on my hard drive back-up, recently, I began to see a pattern – dogs feature prominently, in our various journeys and travels.

Farmers with their dogs, Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio, River Gambia Expedition


Kids and Dogs, Djinji, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio – River Gambia Expedition


The guardian of the River Gambia dog, Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio River Gambia Expedition


The donkey loving dog (or the dog loving donkey?), Bansang, The Gambia © Jason Florio


‘You are outnumbered, pooch!’ – dog and goat standoff, Kedougou, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio 
Jason Florio chatting with a local with beach dogs, Bijilo.
One of our guides on our walk along the coastline of The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio


And, the dogs who have a piece of my heart – The Gang of Seven:

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‘Chase me, chase me!’ Wolfie and White Tip, Cape Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio
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Beware the Crocodiles! These dogs are fearless! Wolfie, Rascal, (Noisey) Nelly, and Kalu (the others are in there somewhere!) – Cape Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio


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King of the Pack: Lion, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio cc
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Kalu, the newest edition to the ‘Pack of 7’ (after defecting from the Indian restaurant across the street) © Helen Jones-Florio
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Me with my sentinals Lion, Susie (white dog), and Nelly, Cape Point, The Gambia © Jason Florio/Instagram 


Lest we forget… the inimitable, Mr P (a.k.a Poet, Poe, Poetta, the P-sta, P-Diddly…), the dog star of Portobello Road, London. We rescued him when he was two or three years old, and he graced us with his serene presence until he reached the grand old age of 17 or 18.

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R.I.P. Mr P, June 7th 2011. Gone, but never ever forgotten



‘Now take them home with you instead of putting the burden on others’ Mrs Overtaxed. One of the more ‘polite’ responses to migrant and refugee boat rescues

MOAS rescuies 361 migrants after spotting them with the Schielble camera copter
Image © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All rights reserved


A good friend of mine posted a comment on her FB page yesterday, in response to some of the disturbing comments, about the migrant and refugee crisis, left on another FB page: ‘I’m not mean but let them in will be the end of gsy it’s hard for locals to live now all most of them will do is go on the dole and get free houses let there govoment sort it out in stead of putting all the money they get in there pockets so they have a good life and there people go with OUT’ JB of the Channel Islands. My friend asked if I would comment, as my husband, photojournalist, Jason Florio, has recently been documenting the boat rescues for MOAS, onboard the Phoenix, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.

In response: 

I saw your FB post earlier, S., and, yes, it makes me extremely sad, and aghast, that people can be so myopic and so grossly uninformed – to put it politely. And, I did think twice about posting this link from Migrant Report : ‘The Pictures That Need to Be Seen‘  (caution – the images are truly shocking and devastating). But, in light of some of the comments I read on the above mentioned FB page, I believe the images should be seen, if only to wake, shake, up some of the commentators.

Palestinian-Syrian boys Mohammed and Amar sleep on the decks of the MOAS rescue ship The Phoenix after being rescued
Palestinian-Syrian boys Mohammed and Amar sleep, peacefully at last, on the decks of the MOAS rescue ship The Phoenix after being rescued. Image © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All rights reserved.

As you know, S., Florio has been documenting, for MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), onboard the Phoenix, their boat rescue missions in the Mediterranean; thankfully, he didn’t witness this particular horrific incident, but some of his colleagues have – and it’s not the first time they have either. Before Florio began working with MOAS, I was horrified by the news reports… how the hell could parents be so irresponsible as to take their babies and small children – and, in some cases, send their 14 year son, completely alone – on such a dangerous and life-threatening journey?! It was completely beyond my comprehension. However, I have since watched numerous interviews Florio has recorded, post-rescue, onboard the Phoenix – with many migrants and refugees – and the consensus is that the majority (particularly those from Syria, for example) would have done anything not to leave their homes, their professions – many are lawyers, doctors, nurses – behind and/or risk the lives of their whole family, to venture into the complete unknown. But, when your life is in constant danger; you live under a brutal dictatorship; you are forced to join the National Service at any early age, for an indeterminate amount of time, paid very poorly – and not allowed to leave until you are too old to follow your life ambition to be i.e. a doctor (Google: Eritrea); your basic human rights are ignored (Google: Ethiopia); the list goes on  – there is often little choice, other than to move on, to find a better life.

A member of the MOAS team on the the deck, now empty of migrants but strewn with discarded items including three chidrens 'Disney character' paddling pool rafts and a childs rubber ring.
A member of the MOAS team on the the deck, now empty of migrants but strewn with discarded items, including three childrens ‘Disney character’ paddling pool rafts and a child’s rubber ring. Image © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All rights reserved
©Jason Florio - MOAS.eu 2015-0124
Prayers of thanks – post rescue – onboard the Phoenix. Image © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All right reserved

Is that so difficult to comprehend? Maybe so, for those of us lucky enough to have the freedom to sit comfortably each day, eating our three square meals, as we watch the 6 o’clock (mostly edited just so, so as not to offend – too much) news, from the safety of our homes, through the impenetrable barrier of a screen; without the perpetual worry of a bomb dropping on your home, or your children being fatally wounded by shrapnel, whilst out playing in the street… . Imagine that. And, yes, we can argue the fact that the countries where thousands, upon thousands are fleeing from (the numbers are staggering) need to address what is going on, the people smugglers need to be stopped, and so on… but all of this will take time, a long time, to even begin to put right. In the meantime, these thousands of people men – women, children, babies – are on a survival mission, and they need sanctuary now, after having left behind everything that is familiar to them; often taking little more than a memento of their home with them (such as a letter from loved one, a tattered copy of the Koran, protected by a plastic bag, a postage stamp, a local coin – all real things, that people have shown Florio, during interviews). And, don’t even get me started on what they have to go through, even before they pay thousands of dollars to get on one of those nowhere-near-seaworthy-enough-to-make-it-to-Italy-boats!, out of lawless Libya… this subject is well documented. Just check out more of the links on Migrant Report, and, in time, through some of the interviews Florio has conducted (just think rape – on both men and women – torture, kidnapping, imprisonment, starvation, forced unpaid labour), for a forthcoming documentary from MOAS.

What you don’t see is the 150+ people in the hull. Image © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All rights reserved.
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Youtube: footage © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All rights reserved. Click here or on above image to view. These young Eritreans described how, when they reached Libya and were held captive, their friend was tortured with a metal rod, inserted into his anus – he did not survive. This subject was deemed too shocking to add to this particular edit.


The images of dead children are shocking beyond belief and have been condemned by many as ‘sensationalism’, ‘headline-grabbing‘, ‘emotive‘… . Yet, the reality is, is that this is happening on an almost daily basis, out there in the Mediterranean, and many of the people fleeing towards a ‘better life‘ are already aware of the immense dangers they face, and possible death. Again, how can we (us, the ones who watch the teatime news, as another tragedy at sea unfolds, from our comfortable armchairs) possibly comprehend what propels people to take their whole family, walk out their front door, with just the clothes that they are wearing, and – in many cases – walk across deserts, other countries, to take such unimaginable risks?

Mimmo one of the members of the MOAS search and rescue team who had help save 4 month old Daryl and his family two days before, carries him ashore at the port of Messina, Sicily.
Mimmo, one of the members of the MOAS search and rescue team, who had helped save 4 month old Daryl and his family two days before, carries him ashore at the port of Messina, Sicily. Image © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All rights reserved.


So, perhaps now it is time to take the kid gloves off and face the harsh reality, see those images close up… . After all, it’s nowhere near (nowhere near!) the utter wretchedness that many, many people are enduring every single day, in an attempt to find that better life.

Welcome to Europe!

Helen Jones-Florio


Links – to become more informed:

Migrant Report

MOAS_EU  – also, this is where you can donate to help keep the ‘Phoenix’ rescue boat in the Med., for as long as it’s needed.




Photographer Jason Florio, at work, on the River Gambia, West Africa


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© Helen Jones-FlorioTangiers International  ‘We are conflict zone medical’


Jason Florio photographs young fisherman, Samba, on the River Gambia, in Kuntaur, The Gambia, West Africa. Taken whilst in the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea Africa odyssey‘, 2012-13