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  1. Arwen Kidd

    Greenville: The Lost Oasis

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    By Arwen Kidd

    I have heard the city of Greenville, located in southeast Liberia, described as “an oasis”. A place full of booming businesses, where nice houses overlooked the river, and plenty of job opportunities held great promise for locals and expats alike. Supermarkets, nightclubs, running water… They say Greenville had it all.

    Walking along its streets today, this “oasis” is hard to imagine.

    Rusted fire hydrants and crumbling sidewalks are some of the only hints of a once developed past. Near the entrance to the city’s dilapidated sea port, a massive ship lies abandoned, beached on its side – just as it has lain for the past decade, ever since it was sunk during what some Liberians still refer to as their own “World Wars”.

    Back in town, a few small shops provide residents with little more than the basics. Most are manned by children, or the elderly.

    Graffiti is everywhere.

    Yet amidst all the ruin, there are signs of progress. With international companies slowly moving back in, jobs are becoming available once more – the area’s first reliable income since the 1990s. Along the main roads, wooden power poles mark freshly dug holes – the promise of a future filled with light. And on one corner, a Total gas station sits in its final phase of construction – in modern day Liberia, the truest sign that change is on its way.

    At the city’s main photo studio, nestled between two “pioneer houses”, a couple of teenage boys translate the transformations they see around them. “Greenville,” they proclaim, “is coming up”.

    For now, at least, it’s enough to give a person hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, Greenville “the oasis” will one day rise again.

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    About the Photographer: Arwen Kidd, Liberia.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArwen is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker.

    Since 2005, she have worked with internationally, concentrating largely on projects based in West Africa, as well as Eastern Europe. During this time, Arwen have directed, produced, shot and/or edited more than fifteen films – travelling with my her own equipment and learning to find creative solutions in sometimes challenging situations. She also spent time reporting for a local newspaper in Ghana, helped present a human right radio show in rural Cameroon, served as a multimedia trainer supporting local journalists across Liberia, and was hired as a ghostwriter (co-authoring a novel that took her to three different continents).

    Along with her own projects, she often undertake work for NGOs and produce news and features for various magazines and online sites. To date, her work has appeared in a range of publication, including Global Post, Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), and World Vision Report among others.

    Twitter: @ArwenKidd

    Website: http://www.arwenkidd.com

  2. Marisa Schwartz

    Rhyme Over Reason

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    By Marisa Schwartz

    Ghana is a place where centuries of tradition smash into modernity head on. I’d like to say the two blend seamlessly together, but they don’t. They engage and clash against each other taking on a completely unique, functional-yet-chaotic, combination. Paramount chiefs use iPhones, pastors drive BMWs, and you can purchase anything from herbal medicine to television antennas to toilet paper in traffic.

    This is a place where neighborhood streets are lined with shacks and mansions right next to each other. Shopping malls, fashion boutiques, and electronic shops are springing up all over the place but that kind mask the true essence of the place and its people. The most refined, contemporary international business men frequent traditional priests (“witch doctors”) to secure their success. Democratic politicians spend a lot of time talking and taking bribes while traditional chiefs settle real disputes in communities.

    But the superficiality of the 21st century doesn’t corrupt the real people of Ghana. They are warm-hearted, welcoming, and intuitively curious about the world around them. Ghana is a beautiful place, a model for Africa, which of course has its own issues (evident to anybody that has been to the Tax Registration Authority). I sometimes think that it would be so much more successful without the pretense of global culture and full acceptance of striking, traditional culture that just won’t let itself be suppressed.

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    White for victory. Supporters celebrate the closely contested 2012 Presidential election in which John Mahama beat Nana Akufo-Addo.


    About the Photographer: Marisa Schwartz, Ghana.

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    Marisa Schwartz is a photographer and media journalist from the United States. She graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City and has previously worked for renowned National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry.
    Marisa has a passion for traveling, experiencing new cultures, and sharing stories. She recently moved to Accra, Ghana and co-founded Loud Silence Media, an innovative new-media journalism platform for storytelling.

    Tumblr: in-to-africa.tumblr.com

    Website: http://marisaschwartz.com

    loudsilencemedia.com

  3. Rodrigo Ordóñez

    The faces of the food crisis in Niger

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    By Rodrigo Ordóñez

    Last year, I was working in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa, in charge of communications for the humanitarian organization CARE.

    The food crisis affecting the Sahel in 2012 was a result of several causes including drought, high food prices and regional instability. Every region, every village and every house in Niger attributed their situation to a different combination of reasons, but the result was invariably the same: people didn’t have enough to eat.

    I had the opportunity to talk to families in several regions of Niger, while traveling on my own or when taking journalists to the field. Despite the variety of personal circumstances, certain elements appeared often in people’s stories.

    Life has never been easy for these people. They’ve increasingly got used to enduring what others would consider unbearable. Their ability to eat has been highly dependent on weather and rains since they can remember. Most families have lost children because they couldn’t feed them and they fell ill easily.

    This cycle of poverty has become the ‘new normal’ for them.

    This is also the case for the people I talked to in Saran Maradi, a village in the region of Maradi, southern Niger.

    Last year was harsher than usual, and crops were insufficient to feed their families. They couldn’t afford to buy food in the markets, either, because of the high prices. Only a few people in the village had grain left, but only for planting. Many sold their goats or sheep to buy food, but the prices were low, up to half of the standard price.

    At the time of my visit, CARE was providing income to 61 families in Saran Maradi so they could buy food during what is commonly known as the ‘lean season,’ the gap between the time people run out of food stocks and the next harvest.

    I was interested in knowing more about the impact of this project in the homes, so I talked to women; they are generally the ones who face directly the difficulties to feed their families in times of hardship. I wanted to know what they were eating before and after this project started.

    I also wanted to give this story a different visual approach and try to make viewers across the world relate to these people at a human level. Therefore, I took photographs up close, focusing on details and expressions, and composed family portraits with three elements: mothers or grandmothers, their children or grandchildren, and the food they consume at home.

    Delou, Halima, Maka, Mariama, Sahara and Sakina are mothers and grandmothers between the ages of 25 and 80.

    All combined, they have 41 children, although their families could have been larger. Through the years, these six women have suffered the loss of 24 sons and daughters in total. Sahara Mahama, 40, lost four children; one of them was only 14 days old. “I lost the youngest one during the rains, in the lean season. I didn’t have enough to eat,” she lamented.

    All of them emphasized that this year there wasn’t enough rain, and little to eat. “Two years ago at least there were people who harvested spikes of millet, but this year the crops have been worse because of the drought and the leaf miners,” said Delou Ibrahim, 70.

    Humanitarian support allowed them to feed their families at a critical time.

    “Before this support, I couldn’t; I was eating leaves,” explained Maka Ali, an 80-year-old widow. “Not only can we buy millet and sorghum now, but also corn and condiments,” told Mariama Oumarou, 55.

    “With this support, we get to eat abundantly,” said Halima Abdou, 25. She and the other women I talked to are now able to give their children two daily meals; porridge in the morning and sorghum paste in the evening.

    Portraits of mothers/grandmothers, children/grandchildren, and food (triptychs)
    Clockwise from left: Delou Ibrahim, 70. Her granddaughter Latifa, 8. Delou’s hands hold sorrel leaves, used as a condiment, and grains of sorghum at her home in Saran Maradi, Niger.

    Delou Ibrahim has four children and suffered the loss of nine. She has about 40 grandchildren, 16 of which live with her. “I’ve seen several crises. The famine in 1984 was the hardest. Rains were very weak. The stems of millet came out but the spikes gave no grain — nothing,” she recalls. “Two years ago at least there were people who harvested millet, but this year the crops have been worse because of the drought and the leaf miners.” Delou’s last crop was 30kg, which only provided food for about two days. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez)

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    Clockwise from left: Sakina Moudi (left), 30, and Halima Abdou, 25. Their children Kassoumou (right), 4, and Massaoudou, 10 months. Sakina takes sorghum out of a sack at her home in Saran Maradi, Niger.

    Halima Abdou has five children. Sakina Moudi has six children and suffered the loss of one. Last year they harvested 40kg of cereal. “It only lasted for five days,” says Sakina. This year they didn’t get any crops. In the periods without food, their husband collects and sells wood to buy yam flour. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez)

    Portraits of mothers/grandmothers, children/grandchildren, and food (triptychs)
    Clockwise from left: Maka Ali, 80. Her granddaughter Maria, 10. Maka’s hands hold sorghum at her home in Saran Maradi, Niger.

    Maka Ali has been a widow for twenty years. She has eight children and about twenty grandchildren. She has experienced the loss of six children, four of them at an early age. “I was alone taking care of them, so I cannot say their deaths weren’t related to lack of food,” Maka recalls. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez)

    Portraits of mothers/grandmothers, children/grandchildren, and food (triptychs)
    Clockwise from left: Sahara Mahama, 40. Her daughter Mariama, 4. A bucket of millet at Sahara’s home in Saran Maradi, Niger.

    Sahara Mahama has seven sons and a daughter. She lost four other children; one of them was only 14 days old. “I lost the youngest one during the rains, in the lean season. I didn’t have enough to eat.” Eating has become increasingly harder through the years, recalls Sahara. “When I was a kid, we used to have three meals: in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.” However, one meal a day has now become the norm. “It’s never guaranteed, but we try.” (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez)

    Portraits of mothers/grandmothers, children/grandchildren, and food (triptychs)
    Clockwise from left: Mariama Oumarou, 55. Her granddaughter Rakia, 4. A hand holds grains of corn in Mariama’s home in Saran Maradi, Niger.

    Mariama Oumarou has ten children and three grandchildren. Through the years she has lost four children and two grandchildren. (Photo: Rodrigo Ordonez)


    About the Photographer: Rodrigo Ordóñez, Niger.

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    Rodrigo Ordóñez is an independent photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He produces professional-quality images and multimedia in Indonesia, Asia and the world.

    Through his images, Rodrigo seeks to shed light on underreported issues. He applies his field experience and academic training to deliver world-class documentary and editorial stories. His work benefits from his diverse international background in journalism, international affairs, public relations, development and humanitarian aid.

    Rodrigo has worked as a studio assistant for war photographer James Nachtwey (TIME magazine) in New York. In 2006, he attended a workshop with Gary Knight (VII Photo) in Argentina, which resulted in the publication of a book (“Argentina: From the Ruins of a Dirty War”). He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism (Bilbao, Spain and Worcester, UK) and a master’s degree in international relations from The Fletcher School (Tufts University, USA). Through his career, he has lived in four continents.

    His work has been published in Cambio (Mexico), EFE (Spain), GlobalPost (USA), The Huffington Post (USA), Transit (Japan) and Vice Magazine (USA), among others. His list of NGO clients includes CARE, Mercy Corps, Save the Children and UNICEF.

    Rodrigo is a member of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

    Rodrigo is trilingual in English, French, and Spanish. He speaks and writes intermediate Bahasa Indonesia.

    For more about information about Rodrigo Ordóñez’s photography, visit www.rodrigo-ordonez.com.

    Twitter: @rodrigoordonez
    Website: http://www.rodrigo-ordonez.com

  4. Anne Ackermann

    Gulu Youth

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    By Anne Ackermann

    Youth have been both the primary victims and the primary actors in the two decade long war between the LRA ( Lord’s Resistance Army) and the Ugandan state in Northern Uganda, which ended in 2006.

    My photos capture moments of the daily lives of young people. While drug abuse and violence are the extreme ends of a traumatized post war generation, it is mainly the abundant boredom and idleness caused by massive unemployment and lack of economic opportunities, which affect young people. They are trapped in a void between dreams of a westernized and modern lifestyle they mainly experience through media and the violent past of their own cultural identity. It is the war that has shaped this gap. But even in the longest period of recovery we also find moments of hope and beauty.

    This is a work in progress and part of a bigger project about Gulu, which is supported by a grant of VG Bildkunst, Germany.

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    Bar in Gulu.

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    Irene, 29, watches as kids in her neighbourhood play with her wheelchair. She lost one of her legs when she stepped on a landmine 12 years ago.

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    Nelson and his friends meet every afternoon to chew leaves, drink and smoke. Chewing makes them feel good about themselves, giving them confidence and self-esteem.

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    Irene, 29, prays a lot. She lost one of her legs when she stepped on a landmine 12 years ago.

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    Irene, 29, stands in front of her house. She lost one of her legs when she stepped on a landmine 12 years ago.

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    Irene lost one of her legs when she stepped on a landmine 12 years ago. She attended the “Landmine Survivor Beauty School” and now runs a small salon.

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    Shidda, a student, dozes in her bedroom. She shares a small place with her boyfriend.

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    Irenes feet. She survived a landmine 12 years ago.

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    Lady Sharia is 24 years old and a well know musician in Gulu. In her songs she sings about equality of men and women and female empowerment. Few people know that she was abducted to be a child soldier with the LRA and has born two children in captivity.

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    Angel does occasional jobs like cleaning and working in bars. She dreams about meeting a white man to marry her. She goes out at night hoping to find this person.


    About the Photographer: Anne Ackermann, Uganda.

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    Anne Ackermann (b. 1980, Germany) studied Visual Communication and Photojournalism in Hamburg, Buenos Aires and Aarhus (Denmark). She started freelancing in 2008 and received an Eastern Europe Research Grant from Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Her work has been widely exhibited, e.g. at the New York Photo Festival, PhotoGrafia Festival Rome, Belfast Photo Factory, «Nuit Blanches» F-Stop Festival Leipzig and OPEN Photo in Cape Town. She was nominated for the Joop Swart Masterclass in 2010. In 2011 Anne received a grant from VG Bildkunst. In 2012 she was awarded 1st prize with her piece on intersexuality by the profamilia journalism award. Her clients include Stern, Neon, The New Yorker, The Guardian Weekened Magazine, Amnesty International, Unicef and many others. Anne lives in Kampala and splits her time between freelancing and following her own projects.

    Website: http://anneackermann.com

  5. Michael Ellis

    Namaqualand

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    By Michael Ellis

    Namaqualand is known for it’s flowers during spring but when spring leaves summer arrives, packing heavy heat, leaving the landscape dry and quickly stripping it of the colourful flora which covered it and painted the scenery just a few weeks before.

    About the Photographer

    Website: snapkamera.com | www.michaelellis.co.za
    Email: michael@michaelellis.co.za
    Tel: +27 83 547 9868
    Twitter: @snapkamera

  6. Diego Arroyo

    Kenya

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    By Diego Arroyo –

    I went to Kenya with the idea of depicting the beauty of the country and its people. Portraying ethnic groups is one of my main areas of interest in photography, so I really enjoyed having the chance to spend some time with the Samburu people.

    For this journey, I also intended to check out the work some good friends are doing in Lamu.
    Years ago, they founded Anidan, an NGO that takes care for the needs of local children. On the island of Lamu off the northern coast, they built a shelter where they house 100 children, while also feeding, dressing, caring for and educating over 200.

    Their dedication and enthusiasm is absolutely praiseworthy.

    I felt really impressed by the sincerity of it’s people and inspiring beauty of the land. Approaching a different culture is always challenging and enriching but Kenya seemed so impressive to my eyes, that I couldn’t really stop taking pictures.

    It was a journey full of adventures and touching experiences, I felt inspired in many ways by the authenticity of it’s people.

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    Samburu baby at local village

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    Giraffes at dawn. Samburu National Park


    About the Photographer

    Diego Arroyo is an art director and passionate photographer based in Amsterdam. He travels the world in search of the subtle: a smile, a wink of complicity, that special look that reveals our true and intimate essence.

    His challenge is trying to catch the story behind the eyes of strangers, the underlying magic that deserves to be seen and usually remains unnoticeable.

    Twitter:http://twitter.com/ArroyoDeigoPhot
    Flickr: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Diego-Arroyo-Photography/303672146312132?ref=hl
    Website: http://www.arroyodiego.com

  7. Roy Gunnels

    A Pastiche Of The Street

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    By Roy Gunnels –

    Al-Muizz Street in Cairo, Egypt, about a kilometer long, is one of the oldest in the city, with one of the greatest concentrations of medieval architecture in the Middle-East. It is commonly divided into two sections, north and south. The spice market and antique shops are in the north, which has been rehabilitated by the government with new facades and a stone boulevard, but in the south where the famous Tent Market of Gamaliya and the towering gate of Bab Zuweila are, the street becomes a narrow dirt passageway with the smell of raw sewage drifting among the humanity that shop, work, live and die there.

    I photographed both sides of Al-Muizz in 2010 and 2011, for the documentary ‘A Pastiche Of The Street’. It has survived throughout thousands of years of war, invasion and conflict, before the revolution this year that witnessed the fall of the Mubarak regime and the confusion and violence that followed it.

    Among the images here are the craftsmen working in leather, or brass and silver, the homeless finding solace and sleep on ancient walls or hard, stone steps, shopkeepers playing backgammon, a young artist sketching as a black and white cat strolls quietly by, a lady seemingly as ancient as the walls she leaned against selling simple shoes, I named “Queen Of Shoes”, and a merchant taking his ease next to a bright, antique Victrola. There are wonders to behold on this ancient street, mysteries down each narrow alley, sights and images that transport you into the distant past.

    Al-Muizz is rich, exotic, medieval, and a study in contrasts…shimmering heat and the cold stone of ancient walls, sunlight competing with dark slices of shadow…the fragrances of the morning, shisha, mint tea and fresh oranges sometimes smothers a prevailing feeling of decay…the energy and lethargy of the street always struggling in a slow dance. Ancient Cairo as it exists today

    I lived in the Zamalek area of Cairo for several years, while working on the documentary of Al-Muizz, which was largely finished, when the revolution began in 2011. Within days the city was a far different place for me as a foreign photographer then it had been. Continueing with the documentary at this time wasn’t practical, so I turned my camera towards Tahrir Square, the heart of the revolution. I was detained and harassed repeatedly by the Egyptian army, the police, and Ministry of Interior secret police. The revolution was an exciting, dramatic and frightening time. I can still recall the sting of CS gas in my eyes, the police walking away leaving the city unprotected, F-16’s from the Egyptian air force making low passes throughout the night to intimidate the population, competing for airspace with military helicopters looking for those breaking the 6pm curfew.

    I shoot with two Canon 7-D’s and exclusively use Canon “L” Series lens, zoom to ultra wide-angle. My two primary genres are Documentary and Fine-Art, although sometimes the line between Documentary, Street Photography and Fine Art portraiture can blur, as it should. If there is a style of shooting that is closest to my heart it would be candid portraits, discovering and interacting with those you might meet, and shooting in the circumstances you find yourself in.
     
    There are two pieces of insight I always hold close as a photographer. Jean Paul Sartre said, roughly translated, that one must see the darkness to appreciate the light, and I believe that is true for photograhers. And the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, “Everything terrible is something that needs our love”, and perhaps our attention as photographers as well. I captured hardship, poverty, defeat, laughter and courage along Al-Muizz in Cairo, as well as so very much beauty.


     

    About the photographer

    Roy Gunnels is a documentary and fine-art photographer from Fort Worth, Texas, USA. He attended Texas Christian University and has worked the past few years in the Middle-East and the continent of Africa while based in Cairo, Egypt. He was profiled and his work from the streets of Cairo featured in The Guardian, as well as the Egyptian Midan Misr newspaper, and the Atlantic Council’s ‘Egypt Source’. His images from the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 have been recommended for exhibit at the World Peace Center in Verdun, France.

    Website: www.scorpionkiss.com