Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou / Borderlands @ Jack Bell Gallery, London, July 8 – 22, 2016.
Image courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery.
To be in a hurry in West Africa is to be immediately conspicuous. And to expect something to happen on time serves only to exhaust the energy required for the inevitable long wait. Backpackers complain enthusiastically to each other in hotel lobbies about delays and uncomfortable transport. Despite this however, the great cities of West Africa which grumbling visitors pass through continue to swell and adapt rapidly and organically, seemingly against the odds.
Adaptation and ingenuity are the immediate responses of the populations of these cities to serial frustrations and obstacles to development. This visceral mix of real necessity and ingenuity creates an aesthetic which is at once troubling and beautiful. In the dust raised by the traffic of Porto Novo, capital city of Benin, photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou continues his series of portraits of people working the black market between Benin and Nigeria. These are spontaneous yet masterful compositions captured in available light on a medium format camera. Agbodjelous’ subjects are those people whose livelihood depends on transporting electronics, palm oil, car parts and petrol across the border.
Stemming from the best tradition of African portrait photography, ‘Borderlands’ captures, without dramatic embellishment, the uneasy energy of a modern West African city.
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