At the mention of street style and photography the names that may first come to mind, particularly within the global realm of fashion are likely to be the Tommy Ton’s, Scott Schuman’s (The Sartorialist) and the legendary man of them all, the affable Bill Cunningham with his weekly column for the New York Times, On The Street.
These outlets and the plethora of fashion bloggers they have spawned and inspired, feeding our curiosities on the latest fashions and more interestingly, the individuality and creative interpretations made by those most audacious individuals featured.
Turning the focus to what trends might be taking shape on the streets of Dakar or even Conakry, and after entering some random blogs that seemed to lead to nowhere, I happened to land on the photos of cinematographer and documentarian Joona Pettersson.
Escaping Finland’s notorious endless winter nights, Pettersson has spent time on a number of occasions travelling throughout much of west Africa since 2010. No stranger to nomadic travels and sojourns, the Finnish artist who studied video art and cinematography in Paris and Moscow respectively, has since completed two art residencies on the continent. The first in Dakar, and previous to that in Grand Popo. In fact it was during the Benin residency at Villa Karo, that his project on street style began to take shape.
Pettersson speaks of encounters and experiences that seem to have escaped google’s extensive spider searches, and stories that fail to make it into mainstream media at large. As we begin talking about his residency at Taf Taf and time in Dakar in 2011, I ask him about the creative vibe and art scene in this city – home to the longest running art biennale on the continent, Dak’Art. “[It’s] a modern city, fresh, dynamic and crazy.”
He offers that one of his favorite moments was the Muslim new year celebration, Tamxarit. Like him, I am a bit surprised to hear that participants dress like the opposite gender and go about town with friends. Visually speaking, it almost sounds like a version of New York’s Pride parade, how intriguing… It’s exactly moments like these that confirm that new borders need to be delimited, pages on newspaper columns and magazines spreads carved out. I wish fashion could leave the cheetahs, zebras and animal kingdom at large for the pages of National Geographic, and we see more images of stories like these.
I am particularly drawn to the portraits, much like on the mainstay fashion blogs, where we see the individuality of the wearer come through. It is absorbing to see how a silhouette might remain the same – classic, yet interpreted with a contemporary flair through colour or pattern. Or to see just how far global brands do actually reach; the Burberry pattern customised motorbike and rider wins out on that account. Yet the image that I keep coming back to remains the serious faced Tuareg gentleman all dressed in fuschia. Joona recounts that it was this image and moment in Agadez, Niger that started the series off. He mentions that street photography is very much about intuition – I am inclined to agree.
Joona Pettersson (b. 1983 Helsinki, Finland) is a visual multi-player who makes projects in photography, cinematography and projection design. His movies has been seen in major international film festivals like Clermont-Ferrand Film Fest, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Edinburgh Film Fest. Pettersson studied cinematography at the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow and video art at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris. He constantly searches unknown territories and has visited over 60 countries.
Written by Missla Libsekal
All images courtesy of the artist. All rights reserved.