This is my second rodeo. I first came to Dakar in 2005 and I started covering West Africa for European Pressphoto Agency. From there I photographed the elections in Sénégal and Mauritania. It was a surprise to see Akon and the Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in the Presidential Palace. Ten years later I am once again in Dakar, now covering events for the Francophonie Organization and President Macky Sall. Dakar Noir will be a coffee-table sized monograph about life in the capital.
Touba is a grandiose Mosque; the Sénégalese equivalent of traveling to Mecca without a flight. The marble work and tile engravings are quite impressive. The enduring allure of Islamic architecture can be seen all over world from Morocco to Spain, resisting attempts to eradicate Moorish influences in southern Europe.
The Kingdom of Original Man is my most ambitious project to date because no one wants to see it published. It isn't a pity-party book about famine and drought. It is a brutally honest look at life in an autocratic single party state. Journalists are fleeing the country en masse for fear of being arrested reporting the news. When I was there, blogging was a criminal offense, Skype was outlawed and all dissent was met with disprotionate violance. My photographs are proof positive of this history.
I don't speak Amharic so I was unable to ask this man his age. But aside from a wooden walking staff, he was out and about and in fine form. East-Africans have a particular look, skull structure, that is very unique from the rest of Africa. Hence the title of my book, Original Man.
This young girl is polishing a fertility chicken made from fired clay. She sells these animal sculptures in markets around town. It is part of a collective that provides employment and income specifically to vulnerable women. The chickens are a sign of prosperity, plump, juicy, and expensive. And the ability to purchase one is a sign that you are also equally prosperous.
From 1990 to 1999 I spent nearly every free waking hour riding my motorcycle with a wild band of brothers. We ate, drank, chased women, fought each other, forgave, and did it again night after night. This slowly growing body of work became an internationally published essay thanks to the visionaries at powerHouse Books. In fact it was Joe Rodriguez's Eastside Stories book that led me to believe powerHouse would love my series. I wasn't wrong.
"If you don't have no wheels baby you can't get no booty." At least that's how it was explained to me by a much older and far more threatening man who went by many aliases. My buddy East would call me up at any hour of the night just to ride, destination TBA. And like always, I grabbed some cash, a helmet and a toothbrush. Because you never know...
Drag racing along Bedford Avenue is a time honored tradition. Most biker clubs are located in industrial neighborhoods that value their privacy and isolation. Noise polution is ignored and very few "good men" will risk making a citizen's complaint. Would you?