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Project Portrait: Day 69

Day 69 of Project Portrait. I actually found another pic from Gambia that I totally forgot I took. On one of the days we had the chance to visit a local community school in Banjul that relies on donations to survive. There were three classrooms with 50 kids each, but I wouldn’t really call them classrooms, more giant cupboards. The kids were between 3 and 5 and as such were just full of beans. While the experience was amazing I couldn’t help but feel a little voyeuristic going to an African school and everyone being so deferential, mainly because I’m white. Awkward doesn’t really sum it up. I learned just as much about my own postcolonial guilt than the Gambian education system that day.

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Project Portrait: Day 68

Day 68 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Sara Kelly and Paul Vincent, co-founders of Sehkelly – a British fashion brand. I shot these two outside their store in east London. I had the chance to spend a morning with the pair while working on Provenance. Sara, whose initials make up the brand name used to work for Hardy Amies on Savile Row, a company known for its exacting standards.
Paul on the other hand is glib, gregarious and always seemed to be drinking from a bottomless cup of coffee. The two are an unlikely mix but somehow they’ve made a hugely successful company out of combining Savile Row style tailoring with cuts and styles most commonly seen in workman’s uniforms from the early twentieth century. To capture the pair I liked the idea of them both sitting in their tiny doorway, optimistically peering out at the world as a reflection of their size in comparison to the giants of men’s fashion and tailoring they compete against.

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Project Portrait: Day 67

Day 67 of Project Portrait. This is the last in my series in Gambia, and it’s a photo I never thought I’d be able to take. This is Assan the 18-month-year-old male lion. This was taken at the Fathala nature reserve in Senegal on a very hot and sunny day. Assad was one of five lions that take part in something called a lion walk in which members of the public can spend 45 minutes in the company of two adolescent lions. No collars, fences, just a carved wooden stick and a healthy sense of paranoia. Lions aren’t native to Senegal and these five were brought in from the Kalahari. While we were under the impression they were trying to start a colony in Senegal it turns out that these had been reared by humans and as such wouldn’t survive in the wild. But, in light of it being basically a tourist attraction it was incredible to be as close to something as powerful and dominant as a lion. They say you should never look directly into a lion’s eyes as they’re very good at reading fear – and acting upon it – so Assan is just looking into the lens while I tried to look as calm as possible (difficult, very difficult). I’m still amazed at just how this picture came out.

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Project Portrait: Day 66

Day 66 of Project Portrait. Another shot from my Gambia series. This is Stefan. Stefan ran a small fish restaurant on the beach where I was staying. I met him one day while trying to capture a shot of a man walking alone down the beach (I’ll get that one up later today). While Stefan initially was trying to lure me in to having lunch with him he actually taught me a lot about Gambia and its tourist industry. A lot of the hotels are foreign owned (the one I stayed in included) and as such the money that they make never stays inside the country. Those same hotels also work very hard to create experiences where tourists never have to leave meaning any of the trickle down effects these establishments normally provide are all but halted. So I was pleased that I’d accidentally broken out of that business model through my photography. While many feel hassled when they walk around places like Gambia it’s actually a vital part of the informal tourist economy that keeps many small businesses going.