late afternoon in saint-louis

handmade photography and coffee and anything in between

la folie du baron – exhibition


My exhibition of image transfers on wood is ready. I am pleased with the result with all the imperfection that this media brings into your work. Zero photoshopping – I never do it – but instead hours of sweating while scrubbing the paper off the wood. It is this slowness, the surprise element and the lack of control that I so much like about alternative photography; wood as a surface is porous, dusty and scratched, and the vigour of your scrubbing also leaves its own mark on the photo. At times I use just the tip of my finger to gently rub a spot on the image – if you are not patient enough you will scrub the the ink off entirely! And at times you’ve barely started to remove the paper and the image is already full of traces from your scrubbing.

This time of the year may not be the ideal for this kind of media as it’s been more or less 40 degrees for a few weeks now and my studio has no ventilation. But the series is ready and my drops of sweat are happily fixed into the work and I have but a nasty prickly heat to remind me of all the labour.

Next in line: portraits on wood in cyanotype. Looks like I will be scraping, scratching, rubbing and polishing even more!

The exhibition “Quelque chose germe à la Folie du Baron” runs at Hotel La Résidence during 1 to 30 November. It’s a series of photographs that I have taken in the past in some Saint-Louis neighbourhoods and surroundings that I am very familiar with.


under the surface

It is September and a busy time if you want to apply for art funding from particular sources. I have been sitting by my computer a little more than usual and sending in applications for grants – fingers crossed! I have also taken up a couple of new things – September has always been like that, especially so due to the fact that our summer residency ends early September. And what a residency it was this year! For the entire month of August we had a crowd of ten artists in the house creating fantastic things, injecting inspiration all around! I should write an entire entry about that month as this crowd really marked me! Ever since these artists-in-residence left, I have been dwelling in my own artistic endeavours. I did not go to the river and start canoeing around the island (yet) as I first planned, instead I decided to do test how to create photos with anthotype. This method uses the photosensitive materials of plants to produce a photograph. I was hoping to try this with blueberries or lingonberries but even if the timing for that would certainly be ideal, the geographical coordinates are wrong of course. Maybe I should have them brought here deep frozen next time I am in Europe? So, instead of berries I tried to squeeze a maximum of colour out of bissap (hibiscus leaves) and I have now coated a paper twice with this fuchsia juice. The moment of truth is set for tomorrow when I’ll expose a negative on it on the rooftop.

Version 2

bubbles in action

I have also started a new underwater photo project and so far had three shooting sessions. It has been interesting to discover the extent to which water transforms people. I mean, when you go under the surface and pose to the camera, you may be a bit frightened first, but after a while when you get more used to not breathing and not filling your lungs with air – that makes it very hard to remain under the surface! – something happens and I can see how the person relaxes and how water suddenly accommodates the person in a fantastic way, like in a womb. When I mentioned this project to a friend, he suggested that the water would be a terribly restrictive element for anyone participating. My experience has always been the opposite. When I dive – without equipment – I feel the vastness of the water and its moves with every pore of my skin, particularly so in the ocean. I have now witnessed that same thing happen to some who posed for me – one of them declared he was a poor swimmer and was not even certain he could remain under water for more than three seconds and in two days he transformed nearly into a human equivalent of an otter!

For quite some time now I have been very attracted to work on projects that have a connection to water, and there is no end in sight. I would like to develop my skills with alternative photography methods and see how my photography on water and anything shot under water transforms with this media. It looks like I will finally have some good chemistry in October to see that transformation in action, cannot wait!

something is hatching in la folie du baron

La Folie du Baron

Something is hatching also in my own art work in Saint-Louis, as I have nearly finished my upcoming exhibition and would like to move on to prepare a new one. Living in Saint-Louis has its benefits, but technically speaking some materials are just too hard to come by and you need to have them brought over from Europe or beyond..

I am excited to start with hand made photography, such as cyanotype and gum arabic, again and I am about to build a dark room at the Waaw studios. At the same time I have come to realise that certain chemicals and negatives and for example laser prints and the likes are literally unavailable in town – or are they? If I want to make contact prints, then where does the planning of a project begins, once your topic is clear and you have shot those photos? It starts with negatives: is there a place where I can have negatives printed on a transparent, or is there another method I could think of in order to create negatives? The good thing is that Saint-Louis is bursting with interesting topics, and my new series will hopefully prove that even these technical hurdles can be overcome in time! I’m just wondering whether there are still any old school photographers in Senegal that would be interested in meeting up and sharing some tips?

Only a couple of days ago realised that I have a Flickr account that I created eleven years ago and then forgot about it. In the world of digital photography during those eleven years I took hundreds and thousands of photographs during many travels in Africa and the Middle East but I have decided not to keep all of them on Flickr, now that I have resuscitated this account. Rather, I think it is time to create a portfolio of my ongoing and future work and for old times sake upload a small selection of some of my old photographs from places that I am so fond of. Feel free to visit my albums here!

things are moving


Last April during the festival Le Fleuve en Couleur I had an exhibition in which I was looking at the relationship of motion and stillness through photographs and a video installation. I have recently returned to this theme and completed a new series of photographs showing some of the buildings of Saint-Louis in a new light. This material will make a new exhibition I hope!

don’t mess with me


Another metal themed photograph, even though I am more attracted to work with objects that are organic and alive. Somehow this pile of metal structures just had me stop and wonder about the beauty of its layers. I found them at a friend’s workshop around the corner. I suppose by now they have ended up as a fence or a gate somewhere on the island.

wrinkled light

Myllysillan pinta_originaali

I have decided to create a weekly photographic diary and this is my first entry. Since we are in a summer holiday period, I decided to start with one of my favourite photographs from my own very recent holiday. I love to watch moving water and its reflections and how they produce different degrees of shades and light. During my holiday I walked under one of the bridges in downtown Turku and was mesmerised by the moving light I saw on this steel surface. When the sun is reflected from the surface of the river, it creates a double reflection effect on the bottom of this particular bridge. I was surprised to see people pass by unstopped in front of this (or rather: under it) – perhaps they were used to it.

meuh oui !

It’s that time of the year when the town briefly switches off to a quieter mode, although the word “quiet” and Saint-Louis do not mix very well. The soundscape of the town was already altered by the holy month of Ramadan that was filled with beautiful sounds of people gathering together, and the buzz of Guet Ndar Market after sunset, and with even more emotional reciting of the Koran in street corners. All this was of course accompanied by the usual sounds of sheep and a few odd cows passing by.

Hydrobasen lehmät

About a year ago I shot cows on video here in Saint-Louis and I got rather excited about their seemingly uncomplicated group dynamics that I witnessed while doing it. The cows were first a little suspicious of my hanging around, but soon they just went on with their business of eating grass. Now, since I am collecting exhibition material on these beautiful creatures, I regret that I did not chat with the herder more at that time. If I had the chance, I would now ask him what it is that he says to his cows? Or does he talk to them? And if the cows are far away, does he call for them and if yes, how? I have told about my project to some of my friends and they all tell me that yes, the Sereer and the Peules do have their own ways of calling cows, and yet my friends don’t seem to remember more in detail how – they are so urban! – apart from one whose demonstration went like “ki-ki-ki-ki-ki” and “nyi-nyi-nyi, niy-nyi-nyi-nyi””

Once we went to a nearby Fulani village with a film maker friend of mine and we took with us a statue of a two-headed cow, made out of old bicycle parts by Meissa Fall. The idea was to film cows upon their return home. We were warmly welcomed to the village and the elders let us sit down and have tea while we were waiting for the cows. But after a while, the eldest of the village let us understand that we would have to leave. We realised that the two-headed cow upset him too much, so we left and soon found a herd that was passing by on their way home. We put the two-headed cow on their path and set up a nice angle to shoot on video and waited. When the cows were close enough to see their metallic replica, they got jumpy and slightly nervous, only briefly though, and made a detour. The eldest of the village was right to send us away, you would not want this kind of a welcoming committee in your home!

Calf in a village

Apart from this short trip in the bush I have not yet had proper time to go and observe the life of local cows and their herdsmen in more detail, but I will soon be looking for sample sounds that herders make to gather up their cattle. I suppose no cow herder in Saint-Louis is going to read this post, but I would be happy to hear any reaction on this subject from whoever reads this. Have you heard local people call their cows? Or talk to them?

all that jazz.. and afrobeat and mangoes

Saint-Louis is pampered with great music and great jazzy vibes thanks to Saint-Louis Jazz Festival and numerous off-gigs in various venues in town. To celebrate the occasion we have ignited our roaster again to make a fresh new batch of coffee. This time the journey of the beans can be traced back all the way to Cameroon. We suggest you give this coffee a try as an ice latte and while you’re at it, you can indulge yourself with not just jazz and mbalax but also some recently acquired great vintage vinyls, starting from Fela Kuti, Orchestra Baobab and Bamako Rail band! We have not only a new batch of coffee but a batch of some great classic albums for you to browse – a chance not to be missed!

Vinyyli 3

Last but not least, a small side note: as the mango season is about to begin, we have been dreaming of getting creative again with cakes.. only one thing seems to be missing: we are out of gelatine and so far have not been able to locate the stuff on the island. So if you have an idea where to find it, or how to replace it with some perhaps lesser known traditional method, please do let us know. If your lead helps us, we’ll invite you for a treat!

camel milk


Have you ever tasted the traditional staple diet of the bedouins, camel milk? It is full of proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates to keep your engine going in the desert. In a more urban setting: we have always had camel milk on our menu, although so far we have actually never tried camel milk in a coffee. This stuff is a rich source of proteins with potential antimicrobial and protective activities, and since it has more fat and protein than cow’s milk, it should, at least in theory, make a great froth.

Usually the taste of camel milk is slightly sweet and creamy and sometimes you can almost taste the camel’s diet in the milk. Last time we detected hints of acacia in it, or was it just our imagination? Whatever the case, try it out at least once, it’s a very refreshing drink, served ice cold!

harar in the pan

Today I roasted two kilos of Harar Oda-Bultum beans. This coffee comes from the Eastern part of Harar in Eastern Ethiopia. This is where the famous Harari coffee farmers produce their crop and dry their coffee in the sun. The drying process guarantees that you have a very particular earthy Harar flavour, sought by many roasters and coffee lovers, and particularly so by the Saudis who buy most of these coffees of the highest grade. Roasting Harar evenly has its own challenges, and especially with our traditional roaster operated by swinging the drum by hand!


A mix of two batches of Harar.

The fact that roasting involves very high temperatures, and that to detect the degree of roast I need to open that drum while roasting, are other challenging parts of the job. And since we are in the tropics, even the time of the day matters: I am roasting outside so that I can let the smoke out freely – and there is always a lot of smoke where coffee is being roasted – and this means I need to do it in the early morning when it is not too hot and when I can still see the flame from the gaz burner. Later in the day the daylight is so bright that I cannot adjust the flame well. Likewise, in the evening  when it’s getting dark, I can see the flame very clearly but then it is too hard to see the beans in the drum. In the end, to get the degree of roast I am looking for is a mix of listening to the beans rattle and crack, checking, swinging again, checking again and calculating the last one minute or thirty seconds of roasting before letting the beans quickly out of the drum. These calculations include also the after roast, because we do not have a cooler at hand.


Fresh out of the pan! Typically with Harar and other sun-dried coffees, there is plenty of chuff (the outer layer or skin of the bean) coming off in the roasting process.