When someone asks me why I love Burkina Faso so much and what’s so special about it, I answer without any hesitation: the people. There’s something in this country that connects the people together very strongly. Here, foreign visitors are warmly welcomed. And honestly, I think that the portraits I’m most proud of and that I really love are those shot in Burkina Faso. “Why,” you ask?
Burkina Faso literally means “land of the upright people” in the Mooré and Dioula languages. And it’s not just a name, it’s truly the main character of these people. Everyone I met shared the same attitudes and values: they’re upright, strong, enjoy life even if it’s very difficult, and they’re simply true and honest to each other. By being “upright” doesn’t refer only to their posture in general, but it’s also what I saw and felt while shooting a lot of portraits of the people I met, adults and children alike.
Every portrait was shot in a very spontaneous manner: very quickly, without long preparations or set-ups. Talking a bit with them and being warmly welcomed in their home, I asked if they didn’t mind that I’ll take a portrait of them. They never said no and were totally true in front of the camera. No special pose, attitude, or gimmick to make the shot. Just as they are, in total honesty and confidence with what I’ll shoot. They were not afraid of anything and didn’t hide themselves because a camera wanted to capture who they are. And that’s a fantastic gift for a photographer and generally for any human being. For that, I can say that I simply love the people of Burkina Faso!
Some of these portraits show real strength, others pride and determination or joy and happiness. The kids were, of course, the first ones to be in front of the camera. Whenever I look at these portraits, I’m always impressed with how much of themselves they shared in front of the camera!
I had been to Burkina Faso twice in a span of five years, first in 2008 and then in 2013, and because of this I could see what the people of this country mean when they tell you, “hope to see you again.” After five years, some people who I had only met once the first time and sometimes not even for a very long time still remembered me very well and expressed their happiness to see me again.
One of the families I met in 2008 promised me that they would give me a traditional homemade shirt the next time I visit them. I told them that I really didn’t know when I’ll come back, but that I will for sure. Five years after that I visited this family again, apologizing that it took me that long to see them again. They simply said, "There is no problem. We were confident to see you again as you said that you’ll come back, and no matter how long it took. And besides, here’s the shirt we promised you!” I put it on with great honor and was surprised that it was just exactly my size! I wondered how she did that and she simply answered that she remembered me and made it that way from memory. It is, of course, still my favorite shirt and every time I wear it, I think of them and look forward to seeing them again when I visit Burkina Faso again this October.
I have nothing more to add as the words can’t describe everything. That’s why we love photography: the pictures say things that words sometimes can’t. With that, please enjoy this gallery of portraits that I share with you.
- Vicuna's Travel Stories | On the Road in Burkina Faso
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