Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘Africa’

The end of the road

One year ago today, the eyes of the world were on Gold Coast, Australia, as the opening ceremony for Commonwealth Games began. The centrepiece for this celebration was the arrival of the Queen’s Baton Relay, which had travelled across all 70 nations and territories of the Commonwealth to bring a message from Elizabeth II to mark the start of the 21st Games.

The Queen’s message had been placed into the Baton at a special event at Buckingham Palace in March 2017 and over the course of the following 13 months, the Relay made its way across the world. Myself and friend and colleague Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert were privileged to document in photographs and videos the Relay’s progress as it made its long and winding way to Gold Coast. The year-long adventure allowed me to work in all five continents and visit places and meet people in many and varied locations from the Amazon Basin and the Falkland Islands in South America, to the Namibian Bush and the Indian Ocean in Africa, the Taj Mahal and Singapore in Asia, the Channel Islands and Malta in Europe and culminating in a three month road trip all around Australia.

Logistically, the Queen’s Baton Relay was an enormous undertaking for everyone who worked on the project. These few selected photos show what we saw: they cannot give the full picture of what it took to get them. Hot days, long flights, endless roads. But worth every twist, turn and bump. It was unforgettable in so many ways: part adventure, part exploration, part public relations. I met many people who have become friends and brought back so many stories and memories which will endure.

The Commonwealth consists of a collection of countries, many of which face ongoing social, economic and environmental challenges. It’s difficult to be blind to the fact that life is dangerous and hard for many of the citizens of the Commonwealth. But for a short time, as the Baton passed through thousands of hands, there was only laughter and smiles. And for that alone, it was worth it.

For a wider selection of images from my work on the Queen’s Baton Relay click on the following links:

QBR International legs

QBR in Australia 

Llongwe, Malawi, April 2017

Windhoek, Namibia, April 2017

Belize City, Belize, August 2017

Annai, Guyana, August 2017

Wagah, Pakistan, October 2017

Haridwar, India, October 2017

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, October 2017

Tarawa, Kiribati, November 2917

Echuca, Australia, February 2018

Bellingen, Australia, February 2018

Cooktown, Australia, March 2018

Prairie, Australia, March 2018

Cairns, Australia, March 2018

Innisfail, Australia, March 2018

Brisbane, Australia, April 2018

The Baton arrives in Gold Coast, 4 April, 2018






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Looking inside out in Africa

A photograph is an object which depicts a scene. Whether it is a landscape, a piece of documentary evidence or indeed a portrait, the act of the photographer pointing the camera creates the space into which the visual architecture is designed. The result can be simplified to an equation which equates to the viewer looking at objects created by the practitioner/artist. One-way traffic. So far, so simple.

In his totemic piece of work entitled RFK Funeral Train, American photographer Paul Fusco turned the equation back-to-front. The images depict people standing transfixed at the sight of the train carrying the coffin of recently-murdered politician Robert F. Kennedy as it snaked its way up the American east coast from New York City to the Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1968. It captures a nation gripped by grief and disbelief, that we know. The often blurred images freeze forever a sense of shock and bewilderment. Taken from on board the moving train, Fusco’s vantage point allows him to be in the ascendancy, often looking down to individuals and groups of people as they form a human daisy chain to pay their respects and mourn the sudden loss of hope in a country in the grip of racial and economic tension.

What has always fascinated me about this body of work is this: many of the images are blurred and imprecise, vignettes of reactions, stares and expressions caught on the move. This gives the sense of movement, but it also does something to alter the perception of who is in control of the process. For me, it becomes clearer with each viewing of the images that there is an ambiguity which I cannot resolve. Fusco has the camera, and constructs the scene. But somewhere in there another dynamic takes over. It is almost as if, by freeze-framing these people, the subject of the photograph is re-imagined: it is now Fusco and his deceased travelling companion which are the primary focus, not the people lining the route.

I have always held these images to be ‘other’. A set which created uncertainty in my mind, asking for a deeper exploration of the relationship between the sitter and the artist, the subject and that which objectifies it. I have always had the intention of trying to experiment with this concept and recently on an assignment I found myself in a place and position which allowed me to reignite this interest. For nearly six weeks, I spent many hours travelling as part of police motorcades, often at high-speed, through eight different countries in southern Africa, with time on my hands and space to contemplate the vast and varied rural landscape and the chaotic and diverse urban environment. What became apparent to me, as the sirens wailed and traffic swerved, were the expressions of people, caught unawares, unsuspecting, slightly bewildered by the sudden encroachment into their lives as a convoy of important-looking cars headed by police outriders and other vehicles whizzed by.

As we sped through Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and finally South Africa, scores, if not hundreds, of people were captured, frozen in time, their expressions betraying personal emotions, unaware of the content or context of what they were witnessing. Photographed without particular fastidiousness, the images presented in Africa Drive-By represent the moment when, like a reflection in a mirror, we see our own consternation, surprise, joy, shock, ambivalence or insouciance captured and turned back on us. They are us. And we are them.

Africa Drive-By is presented as a small-scale, 28-page ‘zine publication, with a limited edition first print run of just 150 copies, available exclusively through this website.

To flick through a copy of Africa Drive-By, click here…

Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Photograph © Colin McPherson 2017, all rights reserved.


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Africa Drive-By

Take a look through this small visual monograph of photographs made during an assignment in southern Africa.

Limited to an initial print run of 150 copies, Africa Drive-By is a 28-page ‘zine-type publication available exclusively through this website. It is a collection of pictures taken from police motorcades as I travelled on assignment through eight countries in April and May 2017. Set against the varied urban and rural landscapes encountered, the images challenge the idea of who the observer is in the moment that pictures are made.

Measuring 148mm x 148mm, and priced just £3.50 plus postage and packaging, the publication will be available from 15th June 2017 and limited to one per person. It sits with other publications I have produced over the last couple of years.

Africa Drive By

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