So I have this friend Brendan, a photographer, who lives in Nairobi. Brendan has been over there for a while, years in fact, and has been doing much work for the NGO world based out of this East Africa region. Kenya, Somalia, etc, BB has traveled many roads and many miles in pursuit of the image, or images that will transcend the expected, images that will force us to ignore our “fatigue” of such places and events and take notice.
In case you were wondering, this isn’t easy. Not by any stretch.
First, you have to get there, which in today’s world perhaps isn’t THAT difficult, at least when it comes to the major cities. But that is where the veiled simplicity ends.
Then you have to REALLY get there.
Planes, trains, automobiles, and then on foot.
Many of the places he works are remote, requiring access through small bush plane, then small transport. Time is limited, people are suffering, consequences are dire.
These situations separate the people with purpose from the tourist.
Brendan has to get in, under difficult circumstances and make pictures. Pictures, not snapshots, not “content” but pictures that convey that life sharing vein of being human.
We all have have this vein, perhaps lose it from time to time, but at the heart of this work is a very, very simple idea, there are certain people who are suffering, and there are certain people who can help.
Brendan’s photos are that line in the sand that confront us, when we take the time to notice. It’s easy to think of the world as “us” and “them,” meaning anyone outside our specific, daily circle, but we really are one place, one people, regardless of categories of convenience.
But there is something else about his work, and him, that I like. Is it his full and bushy beard? Nope? His fondness for running shoes? No. His passion for lugging around a panoramic camera through the mountains of Sicily? No, not that either.
What I like is that he lets his work speak for itself. BB is a thoughtful guy, and is very much an unassuming individual. He doesn’t brag about his work, hype himself up, but instead just produces pictures, and stories, and in the end, just gets things done.
He doesn’t seem to be concerned about photo-contests or feathers in his cap, although he has a few.
He just makes pictures, makes reports, files stories, podcasts, etc, and lets the work confront those who view it.
In other words, I’m sure he owns a scarf, but he probably doesn’t wear it everyday.
There are a lot of photographers out trying to do NGO work, a good thing, but being the jaded individual I am, I always wonder about real motivations, but with Brendan I never do.
All you have to do is look and listen and you’ll know why.