Leading street photographers at Arik Air destinations share the story around their most memorable shot taken in 2012, and what their photograph says about 2013.
Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing,” said Henri Cartier-Bresson, a man often regarded as the Godfather of street photography. “When they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
A panoramic view of Lagos Island; a busy bus area in Abuja; a Senegalese man passing time in his village; a beautifully lit New York Broadway; and a retro image in a central London square – all are are fleeting city scenes that will never return.
Five seminal street photographers have captured these images, each one of them choosing a particular photograph from their recent portfolios.
From West Africa to North America, the tales behind these visual narratives provide an interesting series of thoughts on how each photographer views their city, with each image in some way helping to preserve a record for the future, while giving a nod to the past. In West Africa in particular, where life unfolds on city streets – people watch television, socialise and even pray in full view – these photographs comprise an essential archive for the future.
The politics, architecture, history, environment and quirks of the five cities are subtly captured in the following shots, and although the photographers – Andrew Esiebo in Lagos, Tom Saater in Abuja, Elise Fitte Duval in Senegal, Markus Hartel in New York and Paul Iwala in London – take a quiet, fleeting and even anonymous and behind-the-lens approach to their work. Their personal reflections on their subjects manage to speak volumes about the cities within which their images are framed.
Tom Saater (Abuja)
Having picked up an interest in photography over ten years ago, Tom Saater started taking professional images in 2006. Since then, he has visited South Africa, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia and the Niger Republic to further develop his craft.
“I took this photo at the Wuse market bus stop. It’s where all the buses park and the conductors call out to the passengers to take them to their different destinations. What I like about the image is the parallel between the green and white colour of the buses and the national colours of the Nigerian flag. These colours represent unity, which is part of Abuja’s motto and slogan. It’s not always easy to take street images in Abuja if people don’t know you. The man in the image looks a bit wary, but I smiled and winked at him after I had taken the shot, and he smiled back nervously as I walked past him.
“The image is part of a series I’m shooting on bus stops in Abuja. The idea is linked to the fact that Abuja is said to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa, which is attracting a progressively huge population, so there is a need for a more improved and advanced public transport system in the very near future.”
Markus Hartel (New York)
Markus Hartel became an award-winning photographer when he moved to New York from Germany in 2003. He creates fine-art street photographs from scenes that he discovers on a daily basis.
“My street photographs portray random moments that I come across with my camera. This particular photograph is at 72nd Street and Broadway. The light in the late afternoon was gorgeous, and the reflection in the floor-to-ceiling windows drew my attention. Many of my photographs are commentaries on society and New York culture. This photograph portrays a great deal of layers of time and emotion because, although it’s very busy, with the hustle and bustle of the city and the always apparent energy, the rooftop terrace and wooden water tower overlooking the scene from the bottom right corner give the image a peaceful quality. Also, the shadow cast over Broadway gives the shot a Gotham feel, and the fact that these water towers are still in use and get maintained regularly shows a historic part of the city. New York is constantly changing. There’s something to discover at every street corner, and the mix of architectural styles show how the city may keep changing in the future.”
Paul Iwala (London)
Paul Iwala’s first ever photograph was of an elephant at London Zoo, when he was nine. These days, he uses an assortment of analogue cameras to focus on street, portrait and fine-art photography.
“When I take photographs, I tend to look for strong graphic compositions, although the difficulty with street photography is that things are fleeting. That’s the nature of it – unless you’re taking shots of buildings. I tend to walk around like a flâneur, but saying that, I wouldn’t just characterise myself as a street photographer. For this image, I was walking around Leicester Square and out of the corner of my eye, I saw this guy who really stood out because of how he was dressed. He was also very still; almost motionless as he stared at his phone. It just seemed right.
“I raised my camera and took the shot before he even noticed me. When I look at it, I feel that it harks back to another era, maybe the 1950s or earlier. It makes me think of when my father came to England from Nigeria. He used to wear tailor made clothes. Newcomers, like my father once was, will continue to contribute to the culture of London.”
Andrew Esiebo (Lagos)
In 2001, Andrew Esiebo received his first camera as a gift.
He turned professional when he had his first residency in Paris in 2007.
“I consider myself to be a photographer-artist who is free to use any style of photography to tell stories and express my perception of the world. Hopefully, I bring attention to certain questions as I see them. This picture was taken from an old house around Tinubu Square in Lagos Island, which is also known as Eko, the commercial hub, and also the oldest part of the city. It’s a shot of Nigerian-German musician Nneka for an assignment depicting cultural roots. Her songs are internationally known for addressing issues in Nigeria. As such, the concept was to give an urban context of the country to reflect a contemporary vision of her culture. The logistics of getting permission to take the shot was difficult because it was done from a family home. It took us time to negotiate and win their trust. The shot is special for me, because it doesn’t only show the musician. It also shows a wider texture of the city and engages the eyes of the viewer.”
Elise Fitte Duval (Dakar)
Born in Martinique, photographer Elise Fitte Duval moved to Senegal in 2001. She works as a photo editor at Panapress Pan-African Press Agency, and regularly photographs street images that showcase daily life in Dakar.
“This picture was taken in February 2012. It shows a retired man from the Lebou community. They live in one of the first areas to be built in Ouakam, a district of Dakar. Their culture – rites, music, fishing – still exists but the village, which was once central to the town, has almost entirely disappeared. The original spot is still there, but since the extension of the capital city, the Lebou people have been selling their land little by little, even though they feel that it still belongs to them.
“They feel that they have to guard their ancestors, so I started an Ouakam photography project with the idea of giving back the images to the inhabitants in an outdoor exhibition. This was done during Dakar’s Art Biennale, as a movie projection. I like the image of this old retired man because of the way he was resting on the post. I saw him long before I got close, hoping he wouldn’t move before I took the picture. I liked his style; old-fashioned, mixed with modernity.”