Today two stories featuring humanitarian photojournalist Jason Florio. In the first we talk about a photo expedition he took with his wife and business partner Helen Jones-Florio along the Gambia River, which sounds beautifully romantic and exotic in equal measure, but doesn’t come without its wildlife challenges as you’re about to find out. And then in part two of our conversation, we discuss moving to Africa, living initially under a regime that didn’t encourage open documentary work or journalism or indeed anyone who might want to talk of uncomfortable truths in a country which has the motto, progress, peace and prosperity. Listen to the podcast at The Photography Daily Show
“We want answers and we want justice, and we will not give up until those who are responsible are held accountable.” Nana-Jo Ndow, human rights activist and founder of ANEKED, whose father was murdered by Yahya Jammeh’s security forces
Jason Florio is an award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker, originally from London, based in NYC for 18 years before relocating to The Gambia, West Africa, in 2013. He has produced images and documentaries for clients including The New York Times, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, Outside, Bloomberg, Geographical, MIT Technology Review, and Amnesty International. His focus has been on under-reported stories about people living on the margins of society and human rights. His work has been recognized with a number of awards, including The Magnum Photography Award for his work on migration. His work is held in a number of public and private collections and has been presented in solo and joint exhibitions in the USA, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Jason is represented by Redux Pictures in NYC.
Florio completed the first recorded circumnavigation of The Gambia by foot, co-leading with his wife Helen Jones-Florio – a 930km expedition, producing an award-winning series of portraits titled ‘Silafando’. Three years later he co-led, with Helen, the first recorded expedition of River Gambia from its source in Guinea-Conakry to the Atlantic Ocean, in The Gambia – creating a document of the communities that live along its 1130km course before a planned dam is constructed. He is currently continuing a long-term project in the Gambia documenting the victims of the former government under the dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh.
An Afghan Diary: For those of who have had the privilege to have spent time in Afghanistan, I am sure all hearts go out to the extraordinary people who are on the verge of facing another surge of uncertainty as the US troops prepare to leave on Sept 11 2021. Jason Florio
My journey to the Taliban-controlled region of Afghanistan in August 2000 was in fact not planned. I was on my way to Kashmir to follow the ‘jihad trail’ when I got a call to join my colleague and writer Pepe Escobar, who was working on jihad stories on the Pakistan-Afghan border – he said: “This is (Afghanistan) where it’s really happening…”.
Crossing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border by foot at the Khyber pass we spent two weeks driving through the heart of Taliban-Afghanistan to try and get a clear understanding of who the Taliban were and how they held such sway over the populace. We felt we had dropped through a tear in the space-time fabric to the surreal land of corrupted ancient ideologies spouted from the mouths kohl-eyed men driving brand-new Toyota 4×4’s, where photography was outlawed – and because of which, we were arrested on two occasions.
To follow the full story on Afghanistan we knew we also need it to head to the north-east to meet the Taliban opposition, the Northern Alliance, who controlled that portion of the country. This we could not do until a year later in August 2001.
Our first attempt to cross the border from Pakistan to the Northern Alliance area disguised as women wearing full covering burqas failed. We then spent the next three weeks organizing a ride into the country via Tajikistan on a Russian helicopter operated by the Northern Alliance.
Being in the north-east was like being in Shangri-La compared to our time with the Taliban. We worked fairly freely and were eventually granted an interview with the legendary commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. Despite our two successful Afghan journeys, we felt that the world at the end of August 2001 the media cared little about what was happening in this harsh land.