River Gambia is one of Africa’s last free-flowing major rivers, but plans are afoot to build a mega-dam to bring much needed electricity to aid development in the three countries it passes through, Guinea, Senegal and The Republic of The Gambia. But conversely, the negative affects could be devastating to the hundreds of traditional communities and the fragile eco-system that flanks its 1044km course that rely on its natural seasonal rise and fall. The images are a document made during the first source-to-sea expedition along the river of lives and communities that could be irrevocably destroyed with the dam’s construction.
Jason Florio is a NYC based photographer and writer from London. For the past 10 years he has worked as a freelance photojournalist around the globe for publications including The New Yorker, New York Times, Outside, Liberation and The Times of London, working on stories that attempt to reveal the unseen and to provide an alternative point of view on people and places. At the beginning of his career he had the dubious recognition of being one of the last photographers in Afghanistan to photograph the anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Masoud in August 2001, who was assassinated by Al Queda operatives on September 9th, then to be at the foot of the World Trade Center on September 11th as it collapsed. Since then he has returned to Central Asia a number of times on both personal journeys and assignments. Whether it’s bat hunting in Suriname or searching for pirates in Somalia he is most at home away from home and immersed into a story. Florio spent the last 3 months of 2009 making a 930 km expedition by foot of The Gambia, West Africa to produce a series of portraits of African chiefs for which in part he was given fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society in London. The Gambia has been a place Florio regularly returns to. For the past 12 years he has made yearly trips there to work on a long term large format portrait project of the people that live in and around a sacred forest there called Makasutu - The culminating body of work was shown in New York in 2009 in a solo exhibition and the work won a Black and White magazine Spotlight Award, as well as garnering him a nomination for the Santa Fe prize. Florio was awarded the Joy of Giving Something grant in 2004 to produce the first ever assigned story for Aperture in their 50 year history, called ‘This is Libya’, which is now part of the permanent collection of The Forward Thinking Museum. His work on Afghanistan is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, as well as a number of private collections. Between magazine assignments and photographing for NGO’s this year he is planning another expedition to West Africa to retrace the journey of his hero, Scottish explorer Mungo Park, who went in search of the source of the Niger River 200 years ago.