“I WANT THIS PICTURE…!” Kano & Abuja, Nigeria. December 1 – 8, 2012

A young boy selling candy pauses on the roadway divider in Kano, Nigeria on Thursday, December 6, 2012. Kano State is the heart of the Islamic community and Nigeria’s third most populous region.  © www.chetgordon.com

ABUJA, NIGERIA. Saturday morning, December 8, 2012. Some thoughts on working in West Africa, as I wrap up a week here in Nigeria. This whole trip and the assignment for me to return to Africa literally came about on Thanksgiving morning, while driving to a friend’s home in Pennsylvania. A conversation I’d had with a medical professional while on holiday in Bermuda last September (of all places), led to her referral of my work to a group of surgeons and other medical support staff based at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC. The founding members of the organization are Nigerians along with other African-American medical professionals. Long story short, as I finished up my work week back home, all the logistical hurdles still had to be cleared, a visa secured from the Nigerian embassy in DC within three days (no small feat in itself), personal gear inspected, and re-examined again, packed and then make two long-haul flights, followed by a short in-country flight to get to the mission site in northern Nigeria last weekend. The initial referral alone and having one’s work readily available on the web for potential clients helped to secure the deal, and it was so, so rewarding to get past the mumbo – jumbo of corporate speak, and just simply get the go ahead to start “getting my mind right” those remaining few days prior to returning to Africa. This would be my ninth working trip to the continent in the last 11 years. Not a bad itinerary in itself. I’d been thinking about the challenges one might face again and how you have to step it up quite a bit in Africa. Simply put, Africa kicks your ass. Always has. Always will.

There is no resting as a photographer here. It is all overpowering, and I’d felt many, many times during the week that you can’t simply just put the camera down, relax, walk the streets, or sit in the shade and watch the day go by. Pictures abound here. The light is incredible at times – breathtaking doesn’t do it justice. The sounds and smells bombard you and even the soil and road dust contribute to good picture possibilities. Images scream out at you. There is no rest – certainly not in working for the client. Delivering what you set out to do in ensuring that they’re happy, and then compound that with the thirst for making personal images in between working in the OR’s, treatment wards, press conferences, etc. carries a lot of pressure to perform. Well, pressure is a heavy word. More like “joyful stress” is a way an old Marine friend described that feeling in your gut. There is no clock to report to here, which I desperately live for. In fact it seems at times that the days aren’t long enough or can’t begin earlier…

As far as gear selection and usage, I arrived with two Nikon bodies, (a D-300 and a D-1X as a backup), 3 flashes, lenses ranging from a 10.5mm fisheye to a 300mm f/2.8 (which hasn’t left my rolling Lowe-Pro camera equipment case as of this writing), three Pocket-Wizards, and all the assortment of cords, clamps, card readers, batteries, to make it all work. And of course the 13″ MacBookPro workshorse and the iPhone 4s. Two amazing machines proving their weight in gold once again on an international assignment like this.

I will get to adding a slideshow or two here highlighting more of my work during the past week. Just wanted to be able to get something up here while I briefly had reliable internet here in Abuja. Stay tuned…  ~cg.

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