October 16, 2018, 12:37

A Harlem Photographer Captures the Distinctive Style of Senegal |

A Harlem Photographer Captures the Distinctive Style of Senegal |


Gorée Island, Senegal.

Photograph by Joshua Woods

The thirty-year-old photographer Joshua Woods grew up in Harlem’s Le
Petit Sénégal, a small enclave along West 116th Street, where, as a
child, he heard fly, gold-chain-rocking, elder male émigrés speak
gloriously of easy black living and independence in Senegalese cities
like Dakar or Pikine. Woods dreamed of seeing it for himself and, like
many African-Americans, of tracing his roots back to Africa. In early
October of last year, he finally embarked, with his Pentax 6×7 film
camera, on his first trip to the country. The pictures he made are
diary-like reflections that celebrate black life in Senegal.

On his twelve-day journey, Woods, who got his start in downtown New York
shooting dazzling snapshots of models for magazines like Vogue and W, captured a series of images that mix social reportage with an eye
for style. On Gorée Island’s sandy coast, he captured the skeptical
expression of a young black boy wearing a plain white Senegalese boubou (a flowy cotton shirt and trousers*) and matching sandals,
and the steps of the House of Slaves, a stunning pink building that
serves as a memorial to the millions of captive Africans who were
transported to the Americas and Europe during the transatlantic slave
trade. Walking through Dakar, Woods took pictures of shoes neatly lined
up on rutted pavement, colorful towels strung up to dry, men gathered on
stoops, and the Olympic inline-skating team, fearlessly high jumping
while wearing their roller skates over a steel rod hoisted nearly six
feet into the air. Woods told me that the pictures are meant to
highlight how black urban communities, whether in Harlem or Dakar,
create, against the odds, their own distinct style of fashionable

Dakar, Senegal.

Photograph by Joshua Woods

At Lake Retba, a lush body
of water located some thirty kilometres northeast of Dakar, Woods
met the Senegalese male wrestler Mor Ndiaye. After a tour of the narrow
white-sand dunes surrounding the lake, the photographer asked Ndiaye if
he would pose for a portrait. Ndiaye waded into the lake’s salty pink
water until it coalesced around his waist. He held up his muscular arms
in a fighting stance and peered, with a daunting expression, directly at
Woods’s lens. The image is one of sublime beauty, a search for strength and a search for self.

*An earlier version of this post misdescribed the Senegalese boubou.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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