The Journey - by trekking and canoes: 1 River. 2 Borders. 3 Countries - Guinea, Senegal and The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa.
When: Mid October 2012 - Late January 2013
Why: To create an historical account - through photography/audio/writing - of the people, cultures, and environment along the length of one of Africa's last free-flowing major rivers, the River Gambia.
'Not only have I watched Jason grow in stature as a photographer, but I have seen an incredible drive and a focused direction grow as well. Jason is now a multi-award winning photographer who has shown in museums and galleries, been published in magazines, and been featured online on FlakPhoto, La Lettre, ProPhotoDaily, and Burn among others...'.- Stella Kramer, Pulitzer Prize Winning Photo Editor and Creative Consultant
Synopsis (and a bit of the Florios' history)
We are husband and wife team, Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio - experienced West Africa travelers. We've both been traveling to the region for over 15 years. In 2009 we made our first expedition - 'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey' - when we walked almost a 1000kms, with two donkeys and a cart to carry our photography and camping equipment (we walked the entire way, by foot - 'bi tamala singala!' in Mandinka). The portraits of village chiefs and elders taken on the journey (by Jason) resulted in an award-winning body of work, 'Silafando - a gift to you on behalf of my journey'
We've worked on assignments together, in many countries - including: DR Congo, Mexico, USA, UK, Holland, East and West Africa. (Jason's) work as a photojournalist has taken him to many more places around the world: Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Papua New Guinea, India, and Suriname - to name but a few. Working for publications such as: New York Times, Newsweek, Backpacker Magazine, AFAR Magazine, VQR, Outside Magazine...to see more about what we've both done, please visit our 'Meet the Team' page on the blog.
'You guys rock!!' - Julie Grahame-aCurator
For the River Gambia Expedition, we will attempt to create a modern day account of the indigenous tribes who live and work along the length of the River Gambia - which meanders for over 1000kms from the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, into the hippo-abundant (an estimated 6000+ of the mammoth mammals!) Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal, on into the Republic of the Gambia, and to the mouth of the Atlantic ocean - where the river ends. There has been talk of damming the River Gambia. So, our journey will also be about the impact on those communities - whose daily lives rely on the river to survive - and the environmental impact of damming the river.
“It looks like an incredible journey. Hope it all falls into place.” Ryan Heffernan - PhotographerSanta Fe & California
We will be promoting canoeing and trekking as a means of travel - thereby, maintaining a low carbon footprint and environmental impact. Traveling through the homelands of over seven different tribes - beginning at the source of the River Gambia, in Guinea, we will trek for almost 200kms in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, staying as near to the river as we possibly can. We then plan to canoe the remainder of the river - when we're not obstructed by hippo pods and too-shallow water, that is - to the Atlantic Ocean and our journey's end.
“Sounds like a wonderful expedition! Great to see you making it happen, despite the collapse in media budgets! Looking forward to seeing the reports and your new fine art photography collection (from the expedition)” Fiona Cullinan - Journalist, Birmingham, UK
The rest of our team will consist of two local Gambian friends - seasoned river men, Abdou Ndong and Ibu Jarju. We will also be picking up local guides for the Guinea and Senegal sections of the journey, to help us to fully understand the traditional protocols - relevant to each country we pass through - of approaching the village chiefs to ask permission to stay in their respective villages and to allow us to document their daily life. Staying in the villages will be an integral part of the journey, in helping us better understand the nuances and intricacies, particular to each tribe we will encounter and, ultimately, to respect the people and environments we will be traveling through.
“Sounds like you will be having an amazing journey. We look forward to reading all your updates (before, during and after!). Good luck Jason and Helen. Sending lots of Aussie love and well wishes!” Claire and Glenn Pott, Queensland, Australia
Photography, video, interviews, blogging, mapping GPS co-ordinates (via a Yellowbrick Tracking Device) to create a 'live' on-line map for people to follow the journey, and regular social media updates.
‘Hi Jason, Helen, stay clear of the crocs! Keep away from things with sharp teeth! All the best, Andy’ UNHCR, Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
The material gathered on the River Gambia Expedition will be used for a book, editorial (magazines, newspapers - online and hard copy), TV, radio, a traveling exhibition, presentations - to educational bodies and the photo community alike - to bring awareness about the regions, we will be traversing, to a global audience. Please check out the 2009 expedition press page, to see how widespread that particular expedition became.
‘I was thinking.. whats stopping me. I own too many shoes and no Florios. So done. Can’t wait to see what you two come back with. Sounds so wonderful, and tough, and mysterious, and important. Sincerely Maggie Soladay - Photographer, NYC
Ok, here's the skinny on what we really need your help for:
We are New York based Brits but, back in May, we sublet our apartment and relocated to Surrey, in the UK, where, for the last 4 months, we've working night and day to fund raise, promote and prep for the River Gambia Expedition And, it's gone really, really well (BIG thanks to Mr & Mrs Florio/mum and dad for letting us take over the room above their garage, in order for us to save as much cash as possible to put towards the expedition). We have been amazed, and humbled, by the generosity and support shown - above and beyond - from both individual sponsors and corporate sponsors. It's given us great faith in what we are endeavoring to achieve - especially in those moments when we've been pulling our hair out with frustration and/or falling asleep over the laptops! However, with less than a month to go, we still have $3,500.00 to raise, to help cover the on-the-ground expenses of operating in West Africa (contrary to what many may think, Africa is not a cheap place to work from) - which include: a specialized canoe for our Gambian team mates - a durable and lightweight craft that can easily be portaged over rough terrain, on the sections of the river we have been told (via local knowledge) we may not be able to paddle through. This is the biggest single expense for equipment - $2,200.00
Other expenses include: medical supplies, emergency insurance (including medical airlift), payment and food for our Gambian team mates - both have extended family which they need to support whilst on the expedition for 2-3 months - fees for the in-country guides, antimalarials, transport, fuel, tents and camping equipment for the Gambian team and guides.
So, as an incentive to raise funds - and because it worked for our 2009 expedition - we are offering 'an exchange': exclusive, limited edition, signed, fine art prints for your support. Prints from both the forthcoming journey - taken by Jason - and from his website B/W & Color Gallery.
Once we get back from the River Gambia Expedition, we will send our donors a whole new series of exclusive images, which will be taken throughout the journey, to make their print choice from.
Our blog 'River Gambia Expedition 2012 - 1000km source to sea African odyssey' is packed full of pre-planning shenanigans - images, updates, stories...and more. Please stop by and check it out.
We hope that you can help us out. Please do feel free to contact us if you have any questions whatsoever. We're happy to help.
Many thanks for your time and (hopefully) consideration in jumping on board the River Gambia Expedition - we hope that you will enjoy following the journey.
Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio
“Can I come?!” Suzy Peters - Costume Designer, Hampstead Village, London
Thanks for some great, and encouraging quotes, from some of our donors - far too many to slip in here! But, you can check them out on the blog
Risks and challenges
Hippos, lions and crocodiles, mosquitoes, ninkinankos.
We are both experienced in traveling in Africa - for over the last 15 years. The key to traveling anywhere is to listen, respect, and use local knowledge to help understand different cultures and/or overcome any obstacles. And, in this instance, lots of antimalarials!
Finding the true source of the River Gambia in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea. Again, we will use a local guide to help us - and a 190 year old 'guide book' by Gaspard Mollien!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (24 days)