trois amis...

Wonougba, Togo, April 2007.

A couple years ago, in early 2005, a young French man by the name of Vincent Colin undertook an amazing adventure by moped from Ouagadougou to Paris. The journey took him five months and covered more than 8,000 miles: around West Africa, crossing the Sahara and into Morocco, then back home through Europe. He made his trek, mostly by way of backroads and small villages, on a pathetically underpowered, pedal-assisted, 50cc bicycle, the most marginal conveyance one could possibly imagine for such an arduous voyage.

What is even more wonderful for us is that, among his meager equipment, he packed his father's vintage Rolleiflex. The portfolio of black and white photographs he produced from this trip is absolutely superb, available for online enjoyment here.

The 28 images beautifully portray the grace and dignity of the people in rural West Africa today. The subjects convey their natural strength and character, the compositions are perfectly brilliant, and the technical execution of this work is simply outstanding.

M. Colin's portfolio recalls another adventurous young photographer with a Rolleiflex in West Africa, Hector Acebes. Acebes, an American-born Columbian, travelled widely around West Africa in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Although he used a Jeep instead of a moped, the challenges of photography and overland travel in Africa over 50 years ago were certainly as daunting then as now (and probably more so), no matter how motorized. A wonderful collection of Acebes' work from this period has recently been published in the book Hector Acebes: Portraits in Africa, 1948-1953 (ISBN 0-295-98413-9), a volume I keep on our shelves here in Togo.

Thank you both, M. Colin and Mr. Acebes! I can only aspire to such excellence.

Rolleiflex T, Fomapan 400.