Press: IRIN News – Gambians seek justice after Jammeh’s fall

IRIN NEWS - tortured under Jammeh's rule, Gambian's seek justice - image © Jason Florio
IRIN NEWS – tortured under Jammeh’s rule, Gambian’s seek justice – image © Jason Florio

 

Mariama Saine - one of the last Gambian's to be arrested and tortured under Jammeh's regime, The Gambia, West Africa - portrait © Jason Florio
Mariama Saine – one of the last Gambian’s to be arrested and tortured under Jammeh’s regime – portrait © Jason Florio
“They were beating me while I could hear the election results being announced on a television,” said Saine. “When Jammeh was ahead in the polls, the meanest one kicked me and said ‘Tomorrow, your head will be on a plate’. I was really scared.” read more IRIN News
Mariama Saine interview for IRIN News - one of the last Gambian's to be tortured under Jammeh's regime, The Gambia, West Africa - image © Helen Jones-Florio
“Not only for my case. I want to see all those people who have committed these atrocities prosecuted, all of them.” – Mariama Saine interview for IRIN News – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

 

See also: ‘Documenting a Past Regime – ex-Mile II prisoners, The Gambia

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“We Never Gave Up: Stories of Courage in Gambia” – Amnesty International Documentary

“We Never Gave Up: Stories of Courage in Gambia

A Louise Hunt & Jason Florio Production for Amnesty International

the trailer

At the end of last year, we were commissioned by Amnesty International, West Africa, to make a documentary about the human rights defenders, and activists, who worked tirelessly, and often at their own risk, to stand up for those who had been abused and tortured – including working for the families of those who had ‘disappeared‘ – under the 22-year dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh.

Screen-grab from documentary: Dec 2016, Yahya Jammeh goes live on air to rescind the recent elections, whereby the majority of the country voted him out
Screen-grab from documentary trailer: Dec 2016, Yahya Jammeh goes live on air to rescind the recent elections, after the majority of the country voted him out

 

Director of Photography/Co-Producer, Jason Florio, with Foroyaa newspaper editor, Samuel Sarr, at his printing press
Director of Photography/Co-Producer, Jason Florio, with Foroyaa newspaper editor, Samuel Sarr, in his printing press. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

 

Having traveled, lived, and worked, over the last 20 years, on various assignments and personal projects, in the Gambia, Florio and I were always aware of its dark underbelly. We heard ‘the stories‘ of abuse, torture, disappearances, murder even. And, in a country which depends largely on tourism – the pull of beautiful sandy beaches, year-long sunshine, languorous boat trips on the River Gambia, technicolored sunsets – you’d be extremely hard pushed, if you only visited for a holiday, to have any notion at all of the graveness of what was going on, in the small West Africa country.

Jugana, one of the victims of Jammeh's torturous regime, being filmed by Jason Florio ©Helen Jones-Florio
Jugana Suso, a victim of Jammeh’s torturous regime, being filmed by Jason Florio ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

For 22 years, we documented Gambians living in a climate of fear. Their rights were denied and many were subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, and widespread surveillance. But even in those dark days, there were people brave enough to stand up and challenge the abuse of power.” 

Screen-grab from the documentary #GambiaHasDecided, Bakau ©Jason Florio
Screen-grab from the documentary trailer #GambiaHasDecided, Bakau ©Jason Florio

“Whether they were journalists, human rights lawyers, community leaders, young activists or victims of abuses, they never gave up. Our film portrays their stories, showing the world a lesson that what happened in Gambia is proof of the power and change that human rights defenders can bring about.Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Regional Director.

Preparing to interview Imam Baba Leigh at his home ©Helen Jones-Florio
Preparing to interview Imam Baba Leigh at his home – a former prisoner and victim of torture – with sound man, Pa Ebou Sossey ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

Jason Florio filming at the Foroyaa newspaper print shop ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)
Jason Florio filming at the Foroyaa newspaper print shop ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

 

Human rights lawyers: L-R ©Helen Jones-Florio
Human rights lawyers, with their client, Jugana Suso: L-R: Hawa Sisay Sabally, Rachel Yvonne Mendy, Juguna Suso, Yassin Sanghor © Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

 

The facilitators of the #GambiaHasDecided campaign ©Helen Jones-Florio
The inspiring people behind the far-reaching and incredibly influential #GambiaHasDecided campaign – Lamin Saidykhan, Gilleh Thomas, Asta Jobe, Salieu Taal ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

Filming human rights lawyer, xxxx, in her home © Helen Jones-FlorioFilming human rights lawyer, xxxx, in her home © Helen Jones-Florio
Filming human rights lawyer, Yassin Sanghor at in her home © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Car bumper sticker '#MyTribeIsGambian © Helen Jones-Florio
Car bumper sticker ‘#MyTribeIsGambian © Helen Jones-Florio

 

To have all those stories,  Jammeh’s reign of fear and terror,  Florio and I had only heard whispers about over the years (until April 2016, when Gambians came to the streets to protest after the death in custody of activist Solo Sandeng), our Gambian friends only ever spoke sotto voce about what was going on, confirmed by those who had actually lived them was both incredibly disturbing and humbling. Now, with a new president, they have the freedom to speak out, have their voices heard.

Louise Hunt, write and co-producer, interviews Salieu Taal (#GambiaHasDecided), Saffy J's Restaurant, Bakau ©Helen Jones-Florio
Louise Hunt, writer/co-producer, interviews Salieu Taal (#GambiaHasDecided), Saffy J’s Restaurant, Bakau ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

We are truly thankful to every single person who shared their experiences, those who worked with us on the documentary, and Amnesty International for inviting us to make the documentary, in a place that we feel is a second home.

The Florios

Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa
Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

 

Follow us on Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio for updates on

when and where you can see the full documentary

 

#ThrowbackSaturday: 30th December, 2014 – attempted coup, The Gambia, West Africa

 

Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt - image © Helen Jones-Florio
Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

In 2014, Jason Florio and I were living in the small West African country of The Gambia, when we were woken by an early morning phone call, on 30th December, from a Gambian friend who advised us to ‘stay off the streets’ as the sound of gunfire had been reported, coming from the vicinity of the State House, in Banjul – the then President Yahya Jammeh’s seat of autocratic power – and talk of an attempted coup.

Not ones to miss out on the action, we got into our truck, cameras in hand, and drove around the unusually deserted streets. It was unnerving, to say the least, to see one of the main streets, Kairaba ‘Pipeline‘ Avenue – which is always teeming with people, traffic-laden, and noisy – virtually empty.

Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt - image © Helen Jones-Florio
Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

The conspirators were from different parts of the US and several may never have even met in person. A few had lived in the US for decades; a coup participant who was later killed in an attempted raid on the seat of government in the capital of Banjul on Dec. 30, 2014 had served in Iraq as a platoon leader with the Kentucky National Guard.‘ Read more: Business Insider

 

IRIN NEWS ‘2017: A year of humanitarian crises in photos’ – images ©Jason Florio

IRIN NEWS - a rubber dinghy, packed with over 120 migrants and refugees, in the Mediterranean Sea - image ©Jason Florio/MOAS
IRIN NEWS – a rubber dinghy, packed with over 120 migrants and refugees – image ©Jason Florio/MOAS

 

IRIN NEWS

‘2017: A year of humanitarian crises in photos’

IRIN NEWS - Ibrima Gaye, 17, from Gambia, on board the MOAS rescue ship 'Phoenix' as he waits to be disembarked at the port of Pozzallo in Sicily ©Jason Florio
IRIN NEWS – A young Gambian boy, on board the MOAS rescue ship ‘Phoenix’ as he waits to be disembarked at the port of Pozzallo in Sicily ©Jason Florio/MOAS

 

IRIN NEWS - The Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Banjul after his makeshift inauguration in neighbouring Senegal at the end of January. Image ©Jason Florio
IRIN NEWS – The Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Banjul after his makeshift inauguration in neighbouring Senegal at the end of January. Image ©Jason Florio    

 

Follow on Instagram
@jasonflorio / @floriotravels

#GambiaHasDecided

 

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Image © Jason Florio – Ex-President Yahya Jammeh leaving The Gambia to fly into exile in Guinea

 

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Image ©Helen Jones-Florio – Ex-President Yahya Jammeh leaving The Gambia to fly into exile in Guinea

 

 

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Image ©Jason Florio – Waiting for Jammeh – Press Gang, Yundum/Banjul Airport, The Gambia

 

Follow us on Instagram @floriotravels for daily photo updates

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Documentary photographer, Jason Florio, talks about ‘Silafando’ – portraits of Gambian village chiefs

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click here or on above image to view the interview on Youtube

 

Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation  –  Corridor Gallery, Brooklyn, NY – interview with Jason Florio about his exhibition of award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders – ‘Silafando’ – taken whilst on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘, West Africa, with Helen Jones-Florio.

 

'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio

'Silafando' - a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘Silafando’ The Gambia © Jason Florio – see the full series of award winning portraits here

Take a look behind the scenes on vimeo

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Jason Florio photographs village chief, Lamin Jammeh, Khalaji, The Gambia, West Africa – videography by Helen Jones-Florio. Click here or above image to view footage

Youtube: Directing Gambian chiefs and corralling kids! The photo exhibition is extended

We are delighted to announce that we have been asked to extend the original closing date, 30th April, 2015, of the ‘Silafando’ exhibition, at Gaya Art Café, here in The Gambia, until the middle of May. So, for those of you who missed it, then the exhibition is open for public viewing – with the portraits, inside and outside the venue – Monday-Saturday, 12 noon-late.

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Jason Florio photographs village chief – (Alkalo) Landing Jammeh – of Khalaji, The Gambian, West Africa – click here or on above images to watch footage – by Helen Jones-Florio, 2009

 

We then realised that the tree was the only real shade in the village – of Khalaji – and (something we should have known by this point) its where the whole village congregate, to sit and chew the fat, at the end of their working day. So, along they came, a steady stream of villagers, until our camp site was surrounded by very vociferous, curious kids, and adults alike. They brought wooden benches and stools, plastic chairs and, in one particular case, a women brought her sewing, whilst another two women sat and plaited each others hair. Our team was fast becoming the free entertainment, and amusement, well into the darkness of the evening – rather like starring in our very own live reality tv show!‘ ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km Africa odyssey‘ words © Helen Jones-Florio – read more about this particular shoot here.

 

'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
Alkalo, Landing Jammeh – ‘Silafando’ The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

The Alkalos – Gambian village chiefs – have been around the world and now they are back where they belong, on exhibit in The Gambia, West Africa. And, it’s with huge thanks to the curators at Athens Photo Festival (APhF:15), in Greece, where they were last exhibited – the ‘Silafando’ body of work, in 2013 – and where Florio was invited to present his work, from the last fifteen years,  as a photojournalist.

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‘Silafando’ – APhF:15, Athens, Greece. Image © Jason Florio

 

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‘Silafando’ © Jason Florio – Exhibition at Gaya Art Café, The Gambia, West Africa

 

We hope you can make it down to Gaya’s (Bertil Harding Highway, next to Senegambia craft market). If not, then you can view Jason Florio’s ‘Silafando’ series on his website.

The Florios – Helen & Jason

A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush
A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush, 2009

 

Related posts: Exhibition opening night, Gaya Art Cafe

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush

 

 

 

 

 

Photo exhibition: ‘Silafando’ award-winning portraits of Gambian chiefs and elders by Jason Florio

 

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Gaya Art Café, The Gambia, West Africa – opening Friday 3rd April, 2015, 3-6pm. Everyone is welcome.

Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘ – award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders, by Jason Florio, taken whilst on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘, with Helen Jones-Florio, Samba Leigh, Ablie Janneh, and Momadou Cham.

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Helen films the departure from Makasutu – the beginning of a 930km walk. Image © Jason Florio

 

In 2009 we turned left at the gate, from Makasutu Culture Forest, to embark on the first ever circumnavigation of The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa, completely by foot, with two donkeys – Neil & Paddy – (courtesy of The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust) and a cart, to carry our camping and camera equipment.

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Florio dreams of cattle! Chamois Bunda village, The Gambia, West Africa – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

At the end of each day, we presented ‘silafando’ (the traditional gift giving of kola nuts) to the village chief – the alkalo – and asked permission to pitch our campsite for the night, along with a request to take a formal portrait of the chief and, at times, the village elders.

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Helen, ‘Paddy’, and Samba Leigh (Ablie Janneh in the background) – on the road. Image © Jason Florio

 

‘A New York dinner party isn’t the place to open your mouth and not follow through – no matter how much Brooklyn Lager you’ve drunk. Yet, after a fellow guest told my partner, Helen, and I how he had walked 500 miles across Europe on the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, we declared that we’d been contemplating a journey for some time and a long walk sounded like just the thing… ‘ read the full story here:  You People Cannot Walk, You Only Move in Cars‘ – The Independent .

‘Silafando’ is an award-winning body of work, which has been published and exhibited around the world and now, for the first time, we have been given the opportunity to do something we have dreamed of doing, since we finished the walk, and that is to exhibit them here in The Gambia (we are indebted to Athens Photo Festival, APhF:15, for shipping the prints to West Africa).

'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
‘Silafando’ – Alkalo Landing Jammeh, Kalaji village (click link to view Youtube video of Jason taking the portrait of the chief), The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

At last, the chiefs are coming home – thanks to Gaya Art Café and Gregor Gorman.

We hope you can make it.

The Florios – Helen & Jason

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Jason Florio, Mr Bah – the marabout – and Helen Jones-Florio, Tuba Dabbo village, The Gambia

 

Related blog:930km African Odyssey’  – images and stories from the journey.

 

Happy New Year from #ebolafree Gambia! A Year in the life of a photographer and producer team

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Traditional masquerades – ‘Fairies’ – Banjul, The Gambia. Image © Jason Florio (personal multi media project with Helen Jones-Florio)

 

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Village Banking, Ghana, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio for Concern Universal, NGO

 

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Ebola sensitization in The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio for Concern Universal, NGO

 

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Multi-media: Togolese artist, Amigoe – Image © Jason Florio (personal multi-media project with Helen Jones-Florio) – Vimeo – ‘I am Amigoe, artist-painter’

 

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BBC Africa News – Image © Helen Jones-Florio – 12/30/2014

 

Updated ‘A Year in the Life of…’: 12/31/14

Thankfully, all is now quiet on the ‘Smiling Coast‘ of The Gambia, after yesterdays ‘attempted coup’.

It’s now been a little over a year since we packed our bags and left behind our much loved apartment, in Greenwich Village, to temporarily decamp the all too comfortable familiarities of our cosmopolitan New York City life, to the tiny Republic of The Gambia, West Africa – a country that both of us are equally familiar with, having spent over 17 years coming backwards and forwards, (‘ikatah, ikanah’), individually and, during the last five years, as a couple.

At times, the transition has been a stretch, having left behind all that NYC has to offer, the things we coolly took for granted – museums, photography galleries, spectacular architecture, cultural diversity…the constant sensory overload.

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Quad Biking in The Gambia, West Africa – Images © Jason Florio for Arik Air/Wings Magazine

 

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President Yahya Jammeh, of The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio (stock/Photoshelter)

 

However (despite the Ebola epidemic – which has tragically effected so many in three other West African countries and , although not one single case  has been reported here, Gambia has been marred by the outbreaks…the results of which have yet to fully emerge), we’ve found that this narrow slither of land has all of the above mentioned to offer too, as we’ve enjoyed a hectic year of working with, amongst others,  the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC – producing portraits of the traditional masquerades); we’ve exhibited our ‘Photos Tell Stories Photography Workshops students work at Alliance Française (and we’re planning to exhibit Jason’s ‘Silafando’ portraits, from our 2009 ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush expedition, with NCAC, early next year); we’ve taken a stroll along the entire coastline of the country, staying in some of the most architecturally inspiring lodges in The Gambia (story to be published shortly). It’s all here… we just need all our friends from NYC to decamp and life will be complete! However, even that balances itself out here, as old friendships continue to grow, our circle of new friends expands, and we constantly meet inspiring folk who pop into the country from all over Africa and the rest of the world.

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Aside from the work we’ve been doing in The Gambia, this past year, Jason has been off on his travels, on assignment for various clients – including the New York Times, Oprah Magazine, and Men’s Journal,  which has taken him to other parts of West and East Africa. He’s also traveled up to Spain and Turkey (PepsiCo), back to NYC (Tablet Magazine), and, we’ve just returned from assignment in Ghana for Concern Universal, who we work regularly with.

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Natural soap making, Northern Ghana – Image © Jason Florio for Concern Universal
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Tomato farming, Ghana – Image © Jason Florio for Concern Universal

 

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Aspire Academy, Senegal, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio for the New York Times
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Aspire Academy, Senegal, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio for the New York Times

 

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Young knife trader, Pakwatch Uganda – ‘Walking the Nile’ /Men’s Journal – Image © Jason Florio
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Lev Wood & Boston (left) , Uganda, ‘Walking the Nile’/Men’s Journal – Image © Jason Florio

 

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Walking 80km of the Gambia coastline, Sanementareng sacred forest. Image © Jason Florio for bSpirit Magazine/Brussels Airlines (to be published shortly)

 

Judging by this past year, and very recent events here in The Gambia, I’ll wager that there is plenty to keep us busy – and entertained – for quite some time, here in West Africa and further afield.

Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful New Year

The Florios – Helen & Jason

Assignment requests: please contact helen.jones@floriophoto.com

Dedicated to Matthew Power – 1974-2014

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Image © Jason Florio, Uganda, March 2014

Gambian ‘Photos Tell Stories’ photography workshop students receive their certificates

TEAM SOMA
Silicon Institute, Soma, The Gambia, West Africa

A selection of images of the ‘Photos Tell Stories‘ school students, from various towns and villages around The Gambia, West Africa, showing off their Certificates of Attendance – which each student received after completion of their photography workshop with photographer and tutor, Jason Florio, and producer, Helen Jones-Florio.

Huge thanks to Josh Shrager, Papa Njie, and all at the US Embassy, Banjul, for partnering with ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language

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Tote bag design by ‘Jekkah – African inspired clothing‘ – made in The Gambia
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Aila Senior Secondary School, Kembujeh, The Gambia, West Africa
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Catherine Mahoney, St Joseph Senior Secondary School, Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa
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Ya Ida Drammeh, SBEC International School, Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa
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Sally Asamoah, Aila Senior Secondary School, Kembujeh, The Gambia, West Africa
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Kadjiatou Jawara, Imam Malick Islamic School, Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa
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Muhammed Sinera, Imam Malick Islamic School, Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa
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Farafenni Senior Secondary School, Farafenni, The Gambia, West Africa
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St Martins School, Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa
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Florence Ampong, Principal, St Joseph Senior Secondary School, Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa
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Gerald Sowah, St Joseph Senior Secondary School, Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa

We are now working on an exhibition, to be held in The Gambia, of the students work…news on this coming soon.

We have so much more to share with you. So, please check in again to see more of the students work. In the meantime, if you would like to check out the students work we have uploaded so far, please click on ‘Students Work‘ and ‘Teaching the Art of Portrait Photography

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Image © Ya Ida Drammeh

 

If you are interested in booking a Photos Tell Stories photography workshop with us, or a presentation of the work from our West Africa travels: ‘River Gambia Expedition‘ and ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush‘, please click here for more details.

Thanks, as ever, for stopping by

The Florios – Jason & Helen

Photos Tell Stories

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