September, 2015. Steyn had been walking for hours until he reached a disused railroad in Lome. His curiosity triggered him to start following the tracks and see where it would bring him. It turned out to be a rather interesting intuitive decision.
At a certain point he asked to make a photo of a girl (Pascaline) so intensely enjoying her meal that she hardly noticed him, let alone the camera. He showed the photos to her and her mom, mentioning the beauty of her child. They had a little chitchat and Steyn thanked- and, wished her all the best before he continued his way following the tracks.
No more than 20 seconds later he looked in the eyes of Pascaline’s mom, Julianne. She asked for the photos. In his limited French he replied that he was sorry since the photos were all digital and stored in the camera. He walked away sadly and most probably left her in a worse situation. This made him think and realize about the value and meaning of images more than ever before. Imagine all your childhood photos to be gone? But at the same time being photographed while barely having any photographic material yourself; what kind of meaning do people attach?
The next day he had the photographs developed and the quest began. The following week he went straight after French classes to look for the rightful owners of their images. For some he waited hours, meeting new people and ending up in hilarious situations, while others seemed not to have moved from the moment he had captured them. In the end there were only a handful of people he couldn’t trace, but left the photos in good faith with their friends or neighbours.. The responses were so unexpectedly overwhelming and touching. Both ways.
“I will never forget their thankfulness, appreciation, tears, joy and laughter, but at the same time it raised a considerable amounts of questions on the impact and meaning of photography and images…”
In April – May 2017 Steyn went back and walked together with his Togolese companion Stan/Dodji the the entire length of the railroad from Kpalime in the lushy West via the capital Lome, to Central-Northern Togo Blitta. This journey provided them with some answers and thoughtful insights in the meaning and ethics of Photography. Accompanied with his companion and equipped with a digital- a polaroid camera and a few notebooks people could follow them literally by GPS-tracker (see below). A Polaroid camera has provided all ‘participants’ with a lasting image. Their own image.
Since the railroad crosses a wide range of cultural regions, with- and without electricity, biological and landscape diversity this Impact Journey has been able to show a great variety of Togo. A country which isn’t very known in the Global North and oftentimes misunderstood. Therefore it brings another great opportunity.
After a successful crowdfunding campaign and lots of backers (heros we’d rather call them!) an exhibition was shown in one of the cultural hotspots in Amsterdam, Pakhuis de Zwijger (July – September), with an opening night and official launch of the Impact Journey platform on 7th of July (see live recording).
Co-creating enhanced mutual understanding and empowerment through a quite literal visual journey
Blitta to Lome to Kpalime, Togo
Seeking Additional Partners for:
Execution of Part 2 of KETEKE, Exhibition in Togo, Online Stories, etc
German Colonial Togo