A trip to Barombi Village-Pittsburgh Documentary Photographer

Not long ago, Justin the founder of the Cameroon Football Development Program, lived in a village outside of our hoe base of Kumba. He was working with the University of Dayton, in Ohio, to design and construct a water system for a farming village that is set off of the beautiful Lake Barombi. The project was quite an undertaking, and after months of hard work the project was finished. Now Justin has returned to Cameroon, for the fifth time, to start the Cameroon Football Development Program. CFDP is designed to engage the youth of Cameroon, and eventually West Africa, in life skills, and HIV education on the soccer field.

I met Justin in the late fall, and we began working together. I redesigned their website on a wordpress platform, and integrated their blog, so that as things move along, whoever is managing their PR, and online presence, can easily mange everything from one menu. They loved the results, and now I am spending two months in Cameroon photographing their project, and shooting videos to help explain the different facets of the program.

Today, join me on a trip to Barombi, across the lake in a wooden canoe that I was sure was going to deposit myself and cameras in the lake.

The trip to Barombi... Every time the "boat" aka hollowed tree trunk, shifted my stomach was in my mouth

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Nothing is quick in Cameroon-Pittsburgh Documentary Photographer

Work here in Africa is very different from back home in the U.S. Just preparing a meal takes many hours, and depending on the meal, preparation can begin days in advance. A good way to explain this is through a scene witnessed on Thursday. Mrs. Ngwane, “Momma” (the matriarch of our compound) is heading to the United States on Monday to visit family for a few months. She has been preparing food since the day we arrived in the country. This includes, drying bitter greens, smoking barracuda and pork, making cassava, and tons of other things just to be able to take some food with her to her relatives.

Momma and her friend preparing greens to go to the U.S.

While there is city water, that is expensive, so every day they pull water from the well to do all the washing in the compound. This could be a few trips a day, or on a heavy cooking day, many many trips to bring clean water as needed.

Carol draws water from the well for evening cleaning

Jayden carries water back to the house as the sun sets behind him

When we arrived home Thursday night, Momma had traveled to Douala (about 5 hours round trip on a bus) to bring home loads of barracuda to smoke before her trip to the states. The fish had to be cut by machete because it was frozen, remove the scales, clean it, and then prepare the smoker to be set over night.

Just an evening meal takes a very long time to prepare. With so much time on peoples hands, there is no surprise that a faster way has not become a way of life.

Preparing the fish for smoking

Preparing the Smoker for the night

Slow smoking over night

A letter home

Today has been a great day. I was able to meet with the Womens Empowerment Center today, as well as the Delegate and directors of Sports and Physical Education, and I will be meeting with them next week to interview them on tape, and get a better understanding of the issues that face youth in Cameroon.

I was going to write a separate blog post, but instead I will share a letter that I wrote to those that I love.

Good morning

I hope you are doing well back at home.

I am well. Do not fear about that. I am busy with the things that seem to take forever while I am here. I didnt start the video series yet, but today I am meeting with the director of the Woman’s Empowerment Center to interview her on tape, and start to understand the issues that west African youth face on a daily basis. We will also be going to the jail, talking to teachers, ministers, and local business men,to understand the wide range of problems and successes that people

It is so insanely hot here. Nicaragua is hot, and humid, but I sit in the room, eat breakfast, and within minutes I have lost all the water that I have been drinking from the night before. Last night power was out for a few hours, but God is good, right as I was getting in bed,the power came back on and I was able to turn on a fan! I woke up with mosquito bites, but I think that was from the night before because we had a “dance” party with the kids in the compound. It was pretty funny. They were trying to teach me dance steps that I couldn’t do well, most likely even if i practiced for days. As soon as I would figure it out the beat would change and I looked like and epileptic dinosaur stumbling.

Today will be a good day. It has been a quiet time with lots of
reflection, about life, what is important, and I can see so clearly
the places that I want to improve, not just within my own life, but also within my photography. I need to be intentional. Images are only as powerful as the combined elements will allow. Just because I am in Africa, it does not guarantee beautiful images. I need to focus more on being out of my comfort zone, and not hiding behind my camera. This
means meeting people and building relationships so that I can then make images that are more telling. Things like eye contact, take an ok image, that compositionally may be good, and turns it into a portrait that is really telling. It helps you to meet that person even though they are thousands of miles away.

It is so hot here right now. and I think that I have finally stopped sweating. There is nothing left to sweat out. Our meeting is soon, so I must go. I hope that this makes your morning more exciting. I will try and call through magic jack today, so keep your phone near.

I pray that your day is filled with joy and laughter, through the love of our LORD.