On 19 September 2002, when the crisis erupted (that everyone at the time thought would only last a few days, or at most a few weeks), Ananias Leki Dago was in a plane, on his way to Paris for work. It was when he arrived in Paris that he heard what had happened. His dejection was mixed with concern for his parents, for his friends, for his country. He had already been absent at the time of General Gueï’s coup d’Etat. History was repeating itself. He wasn’t there to take pictures, to be at the heart it.
Up until then, Ananias Leki Dago admits, he had never considered himself to be a politically motivated photographer. His quest is conceptual more than anything else. The images he produced in the 10 years after leaving school are a reflection of the calm social climate that reigned in Côte d’Ivoire at the time. When History entered his life, it made him wonder how he could better contribute to the continent where he wanted to continue working. When he returned in October 2002, he was faced with the harsh reality of the situation.
He discovered that brandishing his camera and taking photos was not only difficult but also dangerous, given the climate of tension. People were edgy and often reacted violently to being photographed, making it difficult to retain them. Nevertheless, he roamed Abidjan, and in particular, the Plateau district in his quest for photographs. He ran a forum in a place called the « Sorbonne » between 12pm and 2pm. Here, government workers, students, the young and the not so young came to discuss politics and the current situation. He took photos of life before the curfew (7pm at the time), especially the underground scene. Thus, he captured people’s desire to have fun despite the crisis, as if it were a souvenir of Abidjan’s nightlife before the conflict.
However, Abidjan was not the only city affected by the upheaval and Ananias wanted to photograph the combat areas. He came up with a project and made a proposal to a humanitarian organisation, but received no reply. He is therefore still in Abidjan, where he is finding it easier to write about daily events than take photographs, given the mounting tension.
In the face of the constant danger that makes any attempt at working perilous, and due to increasing uncertainty about country’s future, Ananias Leki Dago returned to France on 21 December 2002, bringing his negatives and the file he created over the course of two months showing the daily life of Abidjan’s inhabitants in the form of photos and writings with the aim of renewing a gaze largely ignored in the press.
However, his return to Paris also marks the beginning of another more personal struggle. Here it is hard to break into the photographic market and there is no lack of competition. Here you have to choose topical subjects, conform to a given newspaper’s editorial line, cater to the editorial team’s photographic tastes, choose subjects of a certain quality, etc. Meeting journalists, archivists or chief editors is no guarantee that your photographs will be published. In Paris, you have to be prepared for the long haul. You have to build contacts and show your photos, take criticism and be prepared for rejection.
Uncertainty over the Côte d’Ivoire’s future is mingled with uncertainty over his photography. Ananias senses that his way of taking photos, and his choice of subject, are changing. Working with the press requires the photographer to respond to a given subject, to offer a certain readability in photos that are published… While Ananias has retained his personal style, he also knows that in the future he would like to portray more of the social aspects of African life – through photography and writing. He has reached a turning point.
Photos shown here are taken from an exhibition of works by Ananias Leki Dago entitled « Sans titre » on www.afriphoto.com. This exhibition, as all exhibitions shown on www.afriphoto.com are available for hire. © Ananias Leki Dago.///Article N° : 5691