1120km, Gambia River

Today, April 1, 2019, a lot of travel photos were taken, and this day is no different in this respect from any other during the year. These photos will flood social media, some of them will be lost forever on computers, and others, after careful processing, will be published in travel magazines. And about 167 years ago, traveling photography was so difficult and required so much knowledge and patience that it was rare. Difficult to imagine from the point of view of today’s globetrotter.
It was an incredible pleasure to show an alien world by photographers who traveled around exotic countries with the new technology invented and developed by Frederick Scott Archer in the 1850s. The hunger for images from this part of the world has increased the frequency of middle class trips to African countries. High temperature was not an obstacle, the first photographers bravely traveled along the Nile by ship, with their own darkroom and sometimes a hen, used to obtain protein for albumin prints.
Marcin Andrzejewski also had to struggle with high temperatures and hard-to-reach places, traveling along the Gambia River. Today, the technology is so developed that some of the hardships of the first travelers – photographers can be overcome. However, then as now, traveling is primarily about meeting people, talking to them, watching what they do. The places where the locals live are very different for us and this is invariably interesting for generations of photographers who wonder how to present what they see and experience so that it is closest to the truth. Marcin decided to shoot slowly, in the style of the pioneers of travel photography, using the wet collodion technique. He chose this strenuous path so as not to steal in fractions of a second what takes place in front of the lens for a long time. His fascination with The Gambia, as well as mine, is the willingness to take your time to absorb what is happening at the pace of its inhabitants. In The Gambia we will meet 12 different tribes, each of them has an unusual and intricate past, and the present does not spare them traps and disappointments. All this translates into images that show different parts of this beautiful country, not necessarily matching at first glance, but in their entirety they create a story that we are unable to see in the tourist tumult. We rarely meet people in the photographs, but the ones we see were met by the author and told about himself and his project. These are conscious creations in front of the lens. These photos are very different from those from the mid-nineteenth century. The faces of the people in the old photos are sad, usually the protagonists have been forced to pose. Perhaps photography was so foreign to them that they were afraid of its unknown, spiritual dimension. Nowadays, in the era of selfies, there is no such atmosphere of uncertainty, there is fun, cooperation and mutual trust.
Andrzejewski does not travel like most contemporary tourists in an air-conditioned bus, but just like everyone else, he protects himself from the scorching rays of the African sun in various improvised ways, sweating, but smiling because he participates in the daily celebration of Gambian life. It works like in 1870 Alfred Noack, whose old photographs of the landscape with staffage became a model for many years to immortalize places. It is a very strong reference to the tradition of photography, even a form of homage to the achievements of the pioneers of photography. In the photos, we can see important places by the water for the Gambians, their beautiful boats, which they use to catch fish. Farmers and animals that are meticulously guarded, like family members, and people are happy to sing and dance. I believe that Marcin Andrzejewski will be able to create an unforgettable and unique image of The Gambia, which will reflect the uniqueness of this African country.
Marek Poźniak