Over the course of two years, Paris-based photo-journalist Elliott Verdier captured on large-format film the people and natural environments he encountered in Liberia, aiming to portray the after-effects that the Liberian civil war has had on its people. While traveling the West African country, he visited the fishing harbors of Harper, the diamond mines of Gbarpolu, and the Westpoint slums. The population does not speak about the bloody civil war (1989-2003) that decimated Liberia. His subjects shared their experiences only after they had found that they could trust him.
The civil war in Liberia lasted for fourteen years. It was rooted in conflicts between different ethnic groups on the one hand, and in fights between warlords for political power and control of the country’s resources on the other. Around 250,000 Liberians lost their lives as a result, and one million were driven out. Both sides used children soldiers. Since the de-escalation of the tensions, many refugees have returned to their home towns or have permanently made a life for themselves in the neighboring countries they had fled to.
“It definitely was a tough year after finishing this work,” says the photographer. “It still weighs quite a lot on my mind. My photographs are illusions of my reality with which I try, with sincerity, to seek a universal truth.”
From the project ‘Reaching for Dawn’, a book has been created, which is the first work to be published at DUNES EDITION Paris.
We learn from the book : “Of the bloody civil war (1989-2003) that decimated Liberia, its population does not speak. No proper memorial has been built, no day is dedicated to commemoration. The country, still held by several protagonists of the carnage, refuses to condemn its perpetrators. This deafening silence, that resonates internationally, denies any possibility of social recognition or collective memory of the massacres, condemning Liberia to an endless feeling of abandonment and drowsy resignation. The trauma carved into the population’s flesh is crystallized in the society’s weak foundations, still imbued with an unsound Americanism, and bleeds onto a new generation with an uncertain future.
The dark and enigmatic monochromes are contextual images that establish the setting for the color portraits. These black & white images are a reference to the night that so often appears in witness accounts, a moment in time where the trauma becomes palpable. They distill a heavy atmosphere that spreads the suffocating silence over the country. From this silence, words emerge, transcribed onto fragile paper, to haunt the Liberian night with inaudible whispers.”
“And so the photos in ‘Reaching for Dawn’ emanate a kind of mournful expectancy, for theirs is an enigmatic and non-tranquil state, one where the present is always on the point of vanishing. Fixed in a suspended moment in time, human beings, places, landscapes and objects morph into memory. A jagged memory that haunts the history of Liberia, a country where the promise of its name appears to have run aground for now, like a rusty vessel on one of Robertsport’s beaches.” Gaël Faye (singer-songwriter, rapper, writer)
About – Elliott Verdier, born 1992 in Paris (France), is a documentary photographer driven by themes such as memory, generational transmission and resilience. In 2017, he completed his first long-term project ‘A Shaded Path’ in Kyrgyzstan. He was supported by the French National Center for Visual Arts in 2019 on his second major project ‘Reaching for Dawn’ in Liberia. Elliott Verdier also regularly collaborates with the press, notably with the New York Times and M Le Monde Magazine. GoSee : elliottverdier.com
About – : Dunes Editions is a new photo book publishing house based in Paris (France). It aims to tell stories and through them recount a larger tale of our modern age via photo-documentary series. The dunes, these hills constituted by a heap of sand accumulated by the wind, are shaped by time. They embody both the infinitely large and the infinitely small, the gigantism and the delicacy, the unchanging ephemerality; just like the multitude of small stories that make up the larger one, that of humanity. Dunes Editions is the materialization of all these moving stories, told in images. ‘Reaching for Dawn’ is the first publication of Dunes. GoSee : dunes-editions.com
30 October, 3pm to 6pm: book signing at Polka Factory (14 Rue Saint-Gilles, 75003 Paris)
12 November, at 4pm: book signing at Paris Photo, stand Delpire & co
13 November, all day (from 11am to 9pm): book signing at Polycopies (Bateau Concorde-Atlantique, Berges de Seine - Port de Solferino - 75007 Paris Paris - France)
14 November, at 4pm: book signing at Paris Photo
25 November (timing TBC): book signing at Micamera Bookstore Milano
BOOK – ‘Reaching for Dawn’ by Elliott Verdier . Texts: Gaël Faye (singer-songwriter, rapper, writer) and Leymah Gbowee (activist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2011), Illustration: Sacha Von Villard, Graphic Design: Marion Denoual, Bilingual English & French, 152 pages, 66 photographs (36 b&w - 30 color), Format: 24 x 31 cm, Swiss book binding.
In Vedic mythology, the two Nasatyas are youthful twin gods. Their names are Dasra and Nasatya. They are inseparable twins and described as pretty youths with a golden shimmer. They are strong and fast like an eagle or a thought. They are benevolent and help those in despair, rescue those lost at sea and have healing powers. According to legend, they appear just before dawn, symbolizing the rising sun, to open a path to Usas, the goddess of dawn, and announce the beginning of a new day. This was the inspiration for the dance film presented here featuring dancers, choreographers and twins Stessy & Cindy Emelie.
Cyril Masson : “The choreography is a circle of life coming down on day one for the twin sisters. It begins with birth. They are just one, a living magma. They breathe, grow up, evolve together until the separation suddenly occurs. They are now two separate entities, and they start to discover their own bodies. But they continue to act and react in harmony, as a heritage of their previous life together. Their personalities are taking over, and they both exist in their own distinctive features : Cindy (bottom screen) is closer to the ground and connected to Earth, her moves correspond to a tribal dance.
When Stessy (top screen) has an ethereal evolution, she needs to distance herself from the twin condition which she sees as a straitjacket. She moves faster and faster until she breaks into a trance, losing herself, out of breath. At this point, Cindy is pulled back to her sister and catches her in her arms before she falls. And like this, they are back to harmony, made one again. As Nasatyas, they go back to sleep, waiting for the next day to come.”
Cyril Masson is a photographer and director who lives in Paris – when he is not busy capturing beautiful photos and moments all over the world and for his clients.
About – Andromeda Theater in the Italian mountain commune of Santo Stefano Quisquina is an extraordinary place. Thirty years ago, sculptor and farmer Lorenzo Reina built it, uniting his passion for art and nature. The Sicani Mountains are the home of sculptor and shepherd Lorenzo Reina and where his family farm is located on 300 acres of land. The Andromeda Theater is an open-air theater constructed on a hill. A stunning view of the surrounding landscape became the backdrop for the scene. 108 stones were placed corresponding to the stars in the constellation of Andromeda. When viewed from above, they form the shape of an eight-pointed star.
A tribute to the Andromeda myth and constellation, the theater amazes visitors. But besides the theater, plenty of Reina’s other sculptures are there which are equally amazing. They are installed around the theater and its surroundings. For the most part, they follow the mythological theme. Visitors can, for example, find a fragment depicting Icarus with fallen feathers. “The mask of the word”: pretty self-explanatory. There is even an octagonal museum, where Reina’s works are collected, which is a continuous work in progress.
GoSee : facebook.com/teatroandromeda & cyrilmasson.com
Written and directed by : Cyril Masson @_cyrilmasson
Starring : Stessy & Cindy Emelie @stessyncindy
Fashion Editor : @joysinanian
Director of Photography : @julienteissier
Steadicamer : @sachanaceri
Camera Assistant : @alixiamejean
Wardrobe Assistant : @its.pierregln
Location Manager : @pascal.resta
Editor : Cyril Masson
Color Grading : @made_with_amor
Music : @link_le_neil
Singer : @lydielapeste
Producer : @blackdeerprod & @creamparistv
Special Thanks : MUGLER @muglerofficial, KCD @kcdworldwide, VANTAGE @vantagefilmfrance, @timiletonja @wblanc @sihamgouymenaa @imfrijol @teatro_andromeda
Once each year, the BFF – aka the Professional Association of Freelance Photographers and Film Creators – offers a one-of-a-kind scholarship to promote twelve participants with BFF mentors, including illustrious names such as DARIUS RAMAZANI, MONICA MENEZ, KATJA RUGE, MAXIMILIAN KÖNIG, STEPHAN LUCIUS LEMKE, ASJA CASPARI, TOBIAS HABERMANN and KAI UWE GUNDLACH, as well as multiple-day workshops culminating in an awards ceremony in the beautiful Baltic Sea resort Zingst, followed by an exhibition tour.
This year’s theme is ‘And then everything was blue’. BFF is looking for the twelve best young photography talents with inspiring perspectives of the world of tomorrow. Awaiting the participants chosen by the expert jury is a unique BFF photographer mentoring program, € 1000 in production funding, multiple-day workshops, prizes from EIZO and ADOBE, as well as presentation at the exhibition premiere in gallery quality produced by Whitewall in cooperation with Epson, the awards ceremony, the promotion awards magazine and plenty of media attention!
“Back when I was the BFF Chairman, I already loved the days in Hamburg and Zingst, when all of the participants and mentors would come together, work on the concepts, exchange ideas, cook together in the evening and spend an intensive time with one another,” Darius RAMAZANI tells GoSee.
This year’s jury is made up of Alice Feja (Head of Art Buying, Kolle Rebbe), Anna Gripp (Photonews), Simone Gutberlet (Head of Art Buying, C3 Creative Code and Content GmbH), Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert (Secretary General of the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States), Sebastian Lux (F.C. Gundlach Foundation), Götz Schleser (Photographer, BFF Chairman), and Edda Fahrenhorst (Curator of horizons zingst Environmental Photo Festival).
The works by the new finalists will be produced by BFF main partner Whitewall in cooperation with EPSON and presented at the opening weekend of horizons zingst Environmental Photo Festival from 20 – 29 May, 2022. During which the three winners will also be awarded.
Eligible for application through 14 November, 2021, are students of Photography, Photo Design, Communication Design, Visual Communication and Liberal Arts in the fourth semester or higher, as well as freelance photography assistants, with at least two years and a maximum of four years of experience assisting, from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Applicants can be no older than thirty years of age. Further information is available via BFF. In charge of the competition are BFF members Sonja Hofmann and Götz Schleser.