When photographer Jason Florio got word that plans were afoot to create a massive hydro-electric dam on the River Gambia – one of Africa’s last free-flowing major rivers – he knew he wanted to attempt to follow the river’s course, before the natural flow was choked. Conservationists fear the dam will have massive environmental impact on many communities, as well as wildlife that rely on the natural flow and seasonal rise and fall of the water.
Along with Helen, his wife and expedition co-leader, and two Gambian fisherman, Abdou and Ebou, they set off on 1044km odyssey – from the river’s humble source in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, through the gold bearing lands of Senegal and along the length of The Republic of The Gambia to the Atlantic ocean. They traveled 300km by motorcycle/4×4 and 744km by canoe – creating a photographic and written account along the way, of the tribes and communities whose traditional lifestyle and livelihood depend upon this mighty African waterway.
Jason Florio is a freelance photographer based in New York City. He has worked around the world for publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Men’s Journal, Outside Magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR). His focus has been on under reported stories about people living on the margins of society and in places of conflict. His work has been recognized with a number of international awards, including The International Photography Awards – ‘People Photographer of the Year’ 2010, PX3 Gold Medal – ‘War’ 2011, and the VQR – ‘Prize for Photography’, 2013. He was the first recipient of the JGS/Aperture Foundation grant to produce Aperture’s first ever assigned story, ‘This is Libya’. His work has been exhibited in solo presentations in the USA, Europe and China and is in a number of museum collections. Florio is a proud Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Established at the University of Virginia in 1925, the Virginia Quarterly Review has won six National Magazine Awards in the past decade—more than any literary quarterly in the nation. VQR has published work from 17 Nobel Laureates and more than 50 Pulitzer Prize winners. The magazine publishes photography, photojournalism, nonfiction, fiction, poetry, translations, art, reportage, and criticism. Its many honors include selection as a finalist, National Magazine Award for Photography, 2012; winner, Overseas Press Club Best Use of Online Video, 2011; winner, National Magazine Award for Multimedia Package, 2011; and winner, National Magazine Award for News Reporting in the Digital Medium, 2010. In recent years, VQR has published photography portfolios by Nadia Shira Cohen, Maisie Crow, Jason Florio, Aaron Huey, and Ed Ou, among others. In addition to the print magazine, VQR has online readers in more than 200 countries.