September, 2015. I had been walking for hours until I reached a disused railroad in Lome. My curiosity triggered me to start following the tracks and see where it would bring me. It turned out to be a rather interesting intuitive decision.
At a certain point I asked to make a photo of a girl so intensely enjoying her meal that she hardly noticed me, let alone the camera. I showed the photos to her and her mom, mentioning the beauty of her child. We had a little chitchat and I thanked- and, wished her all the best before I continued my way following the tracks.
It was probably no more than a 20 seconds later before I looked at Julianne again. She caught up on me asking for the photos. In my limited French I replied that I was sorry since the photos were all digital. I walked away sadly and most probably left her in a worst situation. This situation made me think and realize about the value and meaning of having a photograph. Imagine all your childhood photos to be gone? But at the same time being photographed while barely having any photographic material yourself, what does it mean?
The next day I had the photographs developed and the quest began. The following week I went straight after French classes to look for the rightful owners of their images. For some I waited hours, meeting new people and ending up in hilarious situations, while others seemed not to have moved from the moment I captured them. In the end there were only a handful of people I 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 I went back and walked the entire length of the disused railroad from Kpalime in the lushy West via the capital Lome, to Central-Northern Togo Blitta. This journey has provided me with some answers. Accompanied with my buddy from Togo, Stan Reveil and equipped with a digital- a polaroid camera and a few notebooks people could follow us literally by GPS-tracker (see down). A Polaroid camera has provided all ‘participants’ with a lasting image. Their 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 I’d rather call them!) we are currently working on an exhibition in one of the cultural hotspots in Amsterdam, Pakhuis de Zwijger, with an opening night and kick-off of Impact Journey coming 7th of July.
The exhibition will be featured from 1/07 – 21/07 and after the summer break continues 1/9 – 21/9
Co-creating enhanced mutual understanding and empowerment through a quite literal visual journey
Blitta to Lome to Kpalime, Togo
Pilot End 2015
Executed April – May 2017
Preps 1st Exhibition 01/07 – 21/09
Preps Opening 07/07
Launch Impact Journey 07/07
Crowdfunding succeeded (March, 2017)
Seeking Additional Partners for (a.o.):
Exhibition in Togo, Online Stories,
Galleries and Exhibition Space.