“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 the 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), Saffie 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

Photos Tell Stories – documentary, photography, travel

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

 

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Images from inside Mile 2 Prison – The Gambia, West Africa

A prisoner shouts through the window from his cell, Mile 2 prison, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio
A prisoner shouts through the window from his cell, Mile 2 prison, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

 

Images from inside ousted ex-president, Yahya Jammeh’s, ‘my 5 Star Hotel’ (as he frequently called it) – the notorious Mile 2 Prison, the Gambia, West Africa, Nov 2017. Taken whilst making the ‘We Never Gave Up – Stories of Courage in Gambia’ documentary for Amnesty International.

 

 

The exercise yard come laundry space, MILE 2 prison - image © Helen Jones-Florio
The exercise yard come laundry-drying area, MILE 2 prison – image © Helen Jones-Florio 

 

These, plus more images from Mile 2 are available for licensing – please contact Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

 

Prisoners watch TV in their dorm-like cell block, MILE 2 prison, Gambia ©Jason Florio
Prisoners watch TV in their dorm-like cell block, MILE 2 prison, Gambia ©Jason Florio

 

A prisoner looks out from his locked cell, maximum security, Mile 2 prison, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
A prisoner looks out from his locked cell, maximum security, Mile 2 prison, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio

One year ago, today – 22/01/2017 – on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa

Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt - image © Helen Jones-Florio
Kairaba Avenue  (‘Pipeline’), The Gambia- – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

This time last year, we had already been in the Gambia since the beginning of January. We had traveled back down to the small West African country, to document the transition of a 22-year long dictatorship to a democracy. However, because the incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, had rescinded his acceptance of the winning vote, in December 2016 – a week after Gambians had decided enough was enough and voted for Adama Barrow’s coalition government – he was refusing to step down.

Ex-president, Yahya Jammeh, with his ever-present security force ©Jason Florio
Then-president, Yahya Jammeh, with his ever-present security force ©Jason Florio

 

Therefore, the last month of 2016 and into those first few weeks of 2017, Gambia was in a state of flux – the unpredictability of what Jammeh would do next was almost tangible.

“We are so stressed by his (Jammeh’s) refusal to step down,

an old Gambian friend told us, “we are ready for change. He must go”, she went on. Even in the safety of our compound, she still spoke in hushed tones – the ingrained fear of 22-years of autocracy, that someone would over-hear and report her, was still very prevalent.

After much intervention from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), on January 21st, 2017, Jammeh eventually agreed to leave the country, exiled to Equatorial Guinea (a West African country which is not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – therefore, he could not be extradited).

E-Presiden, Yahya Jammeh, leaves the Gambia - 21/1/207 ©Jason Florio
Ex-President, Yahya Jammeh, leaves the Gambia – 21/1/207 ©Jason Florio

 

#GambiaHasDecided!

Meeting people on the streets of Banjul, on the 22nd January 2017, couldn’t have been more different from the quietly uttered words, previously spoken by my friend -‘GAMBIA HAS DECIDED!‘, shouted, triumphantly, at us everywhere we went. And, #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt’s worn proudly and without fear – just one day before most people would not dare to wear them so openly. But, now Gambians knew for certain, the dictator had been flown out of the country.

A chance meeting with an inspiring bunch of people, on the streets of Banjul, Gambia
A chance meeting with an inspiring bunch of people, on the streets of Banjul, Gambia

 

The above group were on the streets of the capital, welcoming back and directing the thousands of Gambians to free transportation, back to their hometowns and villages – those who had fled the country, across the river into neighbouring Senegal and beyond in fear, when Jammeh had refused to step down and ECOWAS troops massed on the border, ready to intervene.

#GambiaHasDecided - Gambian boys wearing their t-shirts for President Barrow Senegal inauguration celebrations, at Westfields junction, in The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
#GambiaHasDecided – President Barrow Senegal inauguration celebrations in The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Thousands of Gambians returning back to the Gambia, the day after ex-president Jammeh is exiled to Equatorial-Guinea ©Jason Florio
Thousands of Gambians returning back to the Gambia, the day after ex-president Jammeh is exiled to Equatorial-Guinea ©Jason Florio

 

In October of 2017, at the invitation of Amnesty International, we spent a month making a documentary of the stories of human rights defenders, activists, and victims of the Jammeh regime – this is the trailer:  ‘We Never Gave up – Stories of Courage in Gambia’.

So much has happened in one short year, and so much more still to be done. Jason Florio and I will no doubt be back down there in the coming months, to carry on where we left off, documenting change in the Gambia. We’ll keep you posted!

 

Helen Jones-Florio

 

Follow us on Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio

International Women’s Day 2018

Silafando portraits - Female village chief, Fatou Dansu, of Kabba Kama, Gambia ©Jason Florio
The village chief (‘alkalo’), Fatou Dansu, of Kabba Kama, Gambia ©Jason Florio. We met and stayed with Fatou in 2009  (she was, at that time, one of only 5 female chiefs in the Gambia) – a strong advocate in the fight to eradicate FGM (female genital mutilation)

 

International Women’s Day 2018

Celebrating just a few of the incredibly inspiring women we have met, over the years, and photographed on our travels, and photography assignments.

 

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)
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 on ‘We Never Gave Up – stories of courage in Gambia‘)

 

Selam Tsfay from Eritrea rescued from a wooden boat carrying 369 people - portrait ©Jason Florio
Selam Tsfay from Eritrea rescued from a wooden boat carrying 369 people ©Jason Florio – ‘Destination Europe: out at sea

 

A village soap production collective in Ghana helping local women support their families ©Jason Florio for United Purpose, NGO
A village soap production collective in Ghana helping local women support their families ©Jason Florio for United Purpose, NGO

 

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

 

Ladies from the Santa Yalla kaffo - a collective that harvests rice for a landowner near River Gambia at Kaur. The earn 30 dalasis a day - 80 US cents ©Jason Florio
Ladies from the Santa Yalla kaffo – in the rice fields, Kaur, Gambia ©Jason Florio

 

January 2013: Kaur, The Gambia, West Africa. Members of the Santa Yalla kaffo (group) take a moment between harvesting rice from the fields, which are irrigated by the River Gambia. They are paid 30 Gambian Dalasis a day (80 US cents). River Gambia Expedition

Interviewing ex-Mile2 prisoner, Ngoi Njie, The Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio
Interviewing ex-Mile2 prisoner, Ngoi Njie, The Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

And, not forgetting, all those young girls who keep me company, and make us smile and, very often, laugh out loud wherever we go in the world…we salute you, too.

Our constant companions, during our walk around Jinack Island, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Our constant companions, during our walk around Jinack Island, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Girls just wanna have fun, Kemoto Point, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Girls just wanna have fun, Kemoto Point, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

One year ago, today: 26th Jan, 2017 – The new president of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, returns home

Welcome home, Mr. President!

A new era for The Gambia, West Africa

President Adama Barrow, the Republic of The Gambia © Jason Florio
President Adama Barrow smiles at the camera during the four-hour cavalcade from Banjul International Airpor to his home, the Republic of The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

Jan 26th, 2017: A triumphant and momentous day for The Gambia, West Africa. Hundreds of thousands of euphoric Gambians lined the streets for miles – and miles! – to welcome home their new president, Adama Barrow. (Due to potential security risks, Barrow had exiled himself to neighbouring Senegal, where he was inaugurated at the Gambian Embassy, Dakar).

Gambia's new president, Adama Barrow, at Banjul Airport, The Gambia ©Jason Florio
Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, disembarks at Banjul Airport, The Gambia, after being sworn in in Dakar, Senegal, for security reasons ©Jason Florio

 

A new era for the Gambia - President Adama Barrow arrives at Banjul Airport, from Dakar, to a monumental reception! ©Helen Jones-Florio
A new era for the Gambia – President Adama Barrow arrives at Banjul Airport, from Dakar, to a monumental reception! ©Helen Jones-Florio

Gambians ware ready for change. Finally, a democracy, after 22-years of the dictatorial rule of Yayha Jammeh.

President Adama Barrow returns to The Gambia, after exile in Senegal - an estimated 100,000 people lined the main roads, to welcome him home © Jason Florio
President Adama Barrow returns to The Gambia, after exile in Senegal – an estimated 100,000 people lined the main roads, to welcome him home © Jason Florio

See more on floriophoto.com#GambiaHasDecided’

#GambiaHasDecided - supporters of the new President Adama Barrow, The Gambia © Jason Florio
#GambiaHasDecided – supporters of the new President Adama Barrow, The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

A young Gambian man raises the Victory sign, in celebration of the new president, Adama Barrow, Westfields, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
A young Gambian man, wearing a #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt, raises the Victory sign, in celebration of the new president, Adama Barrow, Westfields, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

See the trailer for our new documentary, made for Amnesty International

 ‘We Never Gave Up – Stories of Courage in Gambia

Documentary for Amnesty International - press release
‘We Never Gave Up – stories of courage in Gambia’ Documentary for Amnesty International – press release
Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio
Gambian celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio
Instagram – Gambian woman celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio
Gambian celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio
Instagram – Gambians celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio

Film & Radio

Film:

‘We Never Gave Up – Stories of Courage in Gambia – Documentary Trailer. Made for Amnesty International

Vimeo ‘We Never Gave Up - Stories of Courage in Gambia’ - Documentary Trailer. Made for Amnesty International
Vimeo ‘We Never Gave Up – Stories of Courage in Gambia’ – Documentary Trailer. Made for Amnesty International

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Interview footage © Jason Florio/MOAS_EU click image or here to view

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MOAS/Phoenix crew: ‘I Care Because’ interviews by Jason Florio for MOAS_EU + rescue footage. Click above image or here to view

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YOTUBE: footage © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015. All rights reserved. Click on here or on above image to view

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Kristian Kiehling interviews MOAS founder, Christopher Catrambone, aboard his rescue boat, the Phoenix – videographer, Jason Florio, for MOAS_EU

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Footage © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio, 2015 – watch here

 

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Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 8.48.22 AM© MOAS.EU / Jason Florio, 2015 – All rights reserved. Watch here

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Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 8.46.52 AMPublished on May 9, 2015

© MOAS.EU / Jason Florio – All rights reserved. Watch here

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‘Exploding Lakes’ – Lake Kivu, Uganda. Videography by Jason Florio for M.I.T. Review Technology/Redux Pictures NYC

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AMIGOE_VIMEO
To view, click on above image or here

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Vimeo – Florio Travels: Jason Florio makes a portrait of the ‘Alkalo’ (village chief) of Khalaji, The Gambia, W.Africa. Footage by Helen Jones-Florio

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CU youtube2
Forest Festival, Casamance, Senegal, West Africa – Videography © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio for Concern Universal, The Gambia & Senegal (Click here or above image to view film)

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RED CROSS-PORTRAITS

Portraits and interviews © Jason Florio for the American Red Cross, NY (click here or above image to view)

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Youtube: ‘River Gambia’ – footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Click on image or here to view

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Photos Tell Stories exhibition opening night – with Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio (47 secs in click image to view)

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Youtube: Snapshots from the River Gambia Expedition © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Click above image or here to view

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Youtube : Jason Florio talks about his work as a photojournalist with B&H’s Jennifer Diamond, NYC

 

To read more press and awards from our previous journeys, please visit ‘meet the press’

Radio:

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BBC Radio – ‘Excess Baggage’ : Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio – Walking around The Gambia, by foot

 

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC WEEKEND RADIO – Boyd Matson interviews Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio

 

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One Hour Photo – interview

 

 

 

About the Florios

BIO_FLO_HJF_ MASQUERADES2_MG_0444

Left: Jason Florio, middle: Helen Jones-Florio. Work in progress – multi-media ‘Masquerades’ project, The Gambia, West Africa, 2015

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Jason Florio

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.57.11 PM
Image © Isak Tiner, NYC

 

Jason Florio, FRGS (Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society, London), is an award-winning photographer/ videographer whose work has focused on under-reported stories on people living on the margins of society and in places of conflict. He photographs and writes for publications including: New York Times, Newsweek, Technology Review, The Independent on Sunday, Virginia Quarterly Review, Men’s Journal, Geographical, AFAR, and Outside Magazine. Florio’s photography has been solo exhibited globally and has won numerous international awards and his work has been acquired by a number of museums. His fine art photography prints can be purchased from the Helen Jones-Florio Online Gallery.

Updates

July 2017: Magnum Photography Awards 2017 – Winner Jason Florio, Photojournalism Series

Jan 2018 – Co-producer & Director of Photography  ‘We Never Gave Up – Stories of courage from Gambia‘  – a documentary for Amnesty International

Please visit floriophoto.com for more information. Check out Florio on Real Exposures– B&H Photo, NYC as he talks about his career as a photojournalist.

Assignments: contact directly (florio@floriophoto.com) or via Marcel Saba at Redux Pictures, NYC

 

Helen Jones-Florio

Helen Jones-Florio - collodion image © Marcin Seweryn Andrzejewski
Helen Jones-Florio – collodion image © Marcin Seweryn Andrzejewski

 

Helen Jones-Florio is a photography producer, videographer, writer, and blogger.  She has been traveling to West Africa for over 15 years and has produced photography assignments around Africa, USA, Mexico, and Europe. She is the co-founder of the Photos Tell Stories photography workshops, and has created and produced extensive content for her expedition and photography workshop blogs. She is currently finishing a book about their 2009 expedition – based around her personal journal entries – and collaborating with Jason and on a book about their 2012-13 expedition.

Published work includes – writing and photography: Adventure Travel Magazine (UK), ‘Wings’ (Arik Airlines in-flight magazine), American Photography’s Pro Photo Daily, Africa Geographic/Safari Interactive Magazine, Travel Africa Magazine (UK), Resource Magazine (USA), Amazing Travel Stories (USA), B Spirit/B There (Brussels Airlines inflight magazine), Concern Universal, NGO, Gambia Experience Magazine (UK), Stellazine (USA), African World Heritage Annual Report.

Email us: helen.jones@floriophoto.com if you would like us to hold a Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language’ photography workshop with you/your company.

Updates:

May 2016 – The ‘Helen Jones-Florio – purveyor of fine photographic prints‘ gallery is launched. A boutique gallery, offering an eclectic collection of limited edition prints from internationally established photographers.

Jan 2018 – 2nd camera/still photography on  ‘We Never Gave Up – Stories of courage from Gambia‘  – a documentary for Amnesty International

 

jason_florio_abdou.ndong_portrait
Image © Jason Florio – ‘Makasutu – mecca in the forest’

 

The West Africa connection: Jason and Helen met in The Gambia, many years ago, whilst each was visiting mutual friends. Since 1997, Jason traveled yearly to The Gambia to work on a long-term project about the people who live and work around the sacred forest of ‘Makasutu – the resulting book of this work can be viewed here : Blurb Books.

Together, Jason and Helen have made two West Africa expeditions to produce extensive bodies of photographic, written and video material. In 2009 they made the first recorded circumnavigation of The Gambia by foot – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush -a 930km African odyssey‘.  In 2012/13 they made the first recorded expedition to document the communities along the 1130km course of River Gambia – ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1130km source-sea African odyssey‘.  In 2014, sponsored by the US Embassy, Banjul they taught a series of ‘Photos Tell Stories workshops to Gambian students – introducing photography as a way to document and share their lives as part of a cultural exchange.

Presentations: Jason And Helen are available for talks and presentations about their expeditions – please email helen.jones@floriophoto.com for information and bookings.

Past presentations include: Foto Care, NYC; Foto Fusion, Palm Beach, Florida; APNY ‘Image Makers’, Apple Store, NYC; Athens Photo Festival, Greece; Mailman School of Public Health, NYC.

Jason Florio – published work. Click any image below to view slideshow. See more at floriophoto.com

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For all Jason Florio fine art photography print inquiries, including a price list, please email helen@helenjonesflorio.com – Founder of ‘HJF Gallery – purveyor of fine photographic prints’

'Silafando' - a gift to you on behalf of my journey
Image © Jason Florio ‘Silafando’ – from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’

 

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Image © Jason Florio ‘River Gambia’

 

Presently (as of May 2015) – Floro and Helen are basing out of the Mediterranean island of Malta, where Florio has been working with MOAS_EU, documenting the rescues of refugees and migrants off the coast of Libya. Currently (Dec 16th) he is on route to the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Greece, on a new mission. Helen is in the process of setting up a new stand-alone, on-line, boutique fine art photography prints gallery, featuring a select group of established international photographers.

Related links:

floriophoto.com

rivergambiaexpedition

ashortwalkinthegambianbush

wordlyimages

photostellstories

expeditionafrica

floriotravels

jasonflorio