Category Archives: Dispatches

Africa Dispatch: Germany

Germany cell: +49-170-8642-912
me@christophbangert.com

Dear all,

we made it on time!
On July 26, more than 14 months after leaving Germany with our Land Rover, Chiho and I arrived safely back at my parent’s house in Daun.

In a ceremony at the local mayor’s office we got married on August 8, 2008.
Our wedding celebrations turned out to be a wonderful event, perfectly planed and warmly executed by my mother and my father. We were humbled by the amount of neighbors, relatives, colleagues and friends who came to congratulate and share this day with us.

The wedding was also a great way to end our epic journey through Africa, with our trusted Land Rover performing his last duty of the journey as the official wedding car.

We were exhausted but happy and a little proud when we finally arrived in Germany. In 444 days of constant traveling we had driven 59.316 Kilometers (36,857 MIles), and circled almost the entire African continent overland.
On the map it looks like this:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/iWeb/Africa/Map%202.html

We visited France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria on our journey.

38 Countries total.

The purpose of this journey was to get an overview. We attempted to learn as much as possible about the vastly diverse societies and cultures of the African continent in a very short amount of time. We were always very much aware of the limitations of our endeavor, but were also deeply grateful to be able to realize such a trip at all.
This journey was not a photojournalistic assignment. It was an adventure. Chiho and I will work hard in the coming months to put together a book about our Land Rover trip and we hope to be able to make it into our third published work.
The most important thing that remains to be said is that Chiho and I performed this huge undertaking together. Because of my work as a photojournalist we are often separated. I’m never home. To be able to spend almost an entire year together in Africa was a great gift and I am convinced that we will remember our Land Rover travels as one of the happiest times in our lives.

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Africa Dispatch: Egypt

Egypt cell: +20-161229519
Thuraya: +88216-51071135
me@christophbangert.com

Dear all,

Chiho and I are in Egypt. Yesterday we left the African continent and we are now in a small town called Nuweiba on the Sinai peninsular. When I look up from my computer screen I can see the deep blue waters of the gulf of Aqaba right in front of me and the Saudi Arabian shore in the distance.

We traveled a great distance since my last dispatch reached you from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. Many things have happened. I’ve been wanting to write this dispatch for a long time, but other things always seemed to get in the way.
In Uganda I was persuaded to shoot down some huge rapids of the Nile river in a rubber boat instead of writing a dispatch. In Kenya I spent all my time underneath my Land Rover repairing prop shafts, replacing rubber bushes, break pads, engine oil, gear box oil, filters, etc…
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, I was struggling to find a decent internet connection, which I finally found in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. But there I didn’t have time to write a dispatch either, because I spent my days and nights under my Land Rover once again, changing wheel bearings, engine oil and fixing tires. All this happened on Sudan’s only camp site at 45 Degrees Celsius. That’s 113 Degrees Fahrenheit. How was I supposed to find the energy and concentration to write a dispatch anyway?
In Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt I got sick with a bad cold and fever despite the incredible heat and I barely managed to sit up straight in my driver’s seat.

So here I am, on the shores of the Red Sea with a nearly impossible task ahead of me, namely to cramp almost one third of a journey of a lifetime into one short dispatch.

But first some practical notes:

On Wednesday, August 6, 2008, two days before our wedding, something very German will occur in front of my parent’s house in my home town of Daun in der Eifel. It’s called a “Polterabend” and it involves the destruction of old ugly plates and tea cups as well as the consumption of lots of beer and sausages. Please consider yourself invited, you just have to bring some old china. (yes, that terrible flower patterned one that you never liked anyway.) We wold love to have you there.

Here again a link to Chiho’s blog. She has been working hard on it every other day or so, while making me (!) correct her english spelling each time:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/iWeb/Africa/Blog/Blog.html
Here in Japanese:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/iWeb/Africa/CF9DBF1E-9DEB-4735-BA07-91818EAD8EBD/025A919E-4072-4144-81D9-A3FDF9419BE3.html

And again a map of our great journey so far:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/iWeb/Africa/Map%202.html

Some new pictures and a video you can find here:
http://africablog.christophbangert.com/

No dispatch would be complete without a friendly, but persistent hint towards my Iraq book. (As the ever present Egyptian hasslers always put it: “Just looking, no buying!!!” Right.) Here we go again:
http://www.amazon.com/Iraq-Between-Jon-Lee-Anderson/dp/1576874001/ref=pd_sim_b_title_2
And the German version:
http://www.amazon.de/IRAK-Schweigendes-Land-Christoph-Bangert/dp/3771643694/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205256569&sr=8-1

I was very lucky to win one of only two honorable mentions at the international festival for young photojournalism called “Lumix” in Hannover, Germany.
You can check out the other winners here:
http://www.fotofestival-hannover.de/index.php?id=54&L=1

And at the Look3 Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia, I was represented with a slideshow this year.
http://www.look3.org/2008/index_08.html

That was the easy part.

I did not even notice it. We were driving extremely slowly, maybe with 20Km/h through a busy market in an Egyptian oasis town called Bawiti. I heard a terrible sound, but did not understand what had happened. Some men in the crowd pointed at the car and shouted. I stopped the car immediately, and to my great horror I watched a man pull a little girl from underneath my car, right next to my window. I don’t have the words to describe how I felt in that moment. It was the worst possible thing to happen, a terrible nightmare that became a cruel reality.

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Africa Dispatch: Tanzania

Dear all,

It’s raining. Thick, heavy drops are shooting from the sky.
Once more the rainy season has caught up with us and there seems to be no escape. Several times every day the unbearable, tropical heat is broken by heavy rains.
We are just south of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. The Land Rover is parked under a palm tree on a beautiful white beach. It sounds like we are having a vacation, but we’re not.
Chiho and I are working hard on our computers and also on the Land Rover. We just returned from Amsterdam, where we traveled for one week in order to pick up my ‘Honorable Mention’ at the World Press Photo Award ceremony. We attended lectures and presentations by other photographers, and I was invited to present some of my own work. We also met with editors and other photography people, so the trip was half work and half pleasure. We stayed for a couple of days on an air mattress at our friend Vero’s place, where me made good use of her super fast wireless internet connection. After many months in Africa the experience of a DSL connection can be quite magical. We also met up with my parents who came over from Germany, partly in order to deliver some formal wear for the award ceremony. Even the Prince of The Netherlands was present at the event, so I was happy for not having to stumble on stage with washed out jeans and a faded old T-shirt.
This year’s World Press Photo Awards are somewhat of a departure from previous competitions, as there were less pure news pictures chosen, typically coming from one of the wire services, but more well composed, moody, and photographically sophisticated stories and images that showed a clear authorship by a single photographer. It seems that slowly the walls between what is still known as photojournalism, documentary photography, art photography and commercial photography are crumbling and I think that this is a good thing. Many of the prize winers this year are very young photographers, young both in age and also in their approach. I feel very proud to be part of this new generation of people who are not so much thinking in categories any longer.
http://www.worldpressphoto.org/ …

Another group of photographers I am very honored to be part of is this one:
http://www.battlespaceonline.org/
About 22 photographers collaborated in a group show and book project called “Battlespace: Unrealities of War” that became one of the most powerful visual statements about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that I have ever seen.

The Iraq book, both the English version and the German version keeps making a silent, but persistent noise in the publishing world and among readers and I am very happy that several publications wrote reviews about it. The latest could be found in the Tages-Anzeiger Zürich, and it looks like this:
http://www.tagi.ch/dyn/news/buecher/866193.html

The book was also awarded at the Photo District News (PDN) photo annual as one of the best books of 2007.
Here the book again in English:
http://www.amazon.com/Iraq-Between-Jon-Lee-Anderson/dp/1576874001/ref=pd_sim_b_title_2
And in German:
http://www.amazon.de/IRAK-Schweigendes-Land-Christoph-Bangert/dp/3771643694/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205256569&sr=8-1

Before I forget, and before you delete this message, because it became once more terribly long, please check out some new pictures and video on my blog:
http://africablog.christophbangert.com/

Apart from shooting and editing video and still pictures, Chiho was also working hard on her own blog, which can be seen here:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/

In Japanese, the whole thing looks like this:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/iWeb/Africa/CF9DBF1E-9DEB-4735-BA07-91818EAD8EBD/025A919E-4072-4144-81D9-A3FDF9419BE3.html

A map of our travels can be seen here:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/iWeb/Africa/Map%202.html

My last dispatch came from Cape Town in South Africa.
We left the city early one morning and made our way down to the Cape of Good Hope, where we took some pictures with the Land Rover, proud to have reached this important point in our journey. The following day we also  visited Cape Agulhas, the largely unknown most southern tip of Africa, which is located several hundred kilometers east of the Cape of Good Hope.
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Africa Dispatch: South Africa

South African cell: +27-780562152
me@christophbangert.com

Dear all,

we made it.
After 32.707 Kilometers on Africa’s road and about seven months of travel we finally arrived in Cape Town, South Africa.
To view a map of our epic journey from Daun to Cape Town, please click here:
http://web.mac.com/chihochiho/iWeb/Africa/Map%202.html

Chiho and I are in good health, which is the most important thing. Our trusted Land Rover is also doing very well, apart from general maintenance and countless flat tires there are no major repairs to report. Given the rough conditions in Africa like rain, heat, mud, sand, potholed roads and bad fuel, this is a miracle.

South Africa will not be the end point of our journey. We decided to drive the Land Rover back to Daun in Germany via East Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Eastern Europe. Unlike for our arrival here in Cape Town we will have a strict deadline for the remaining part of the journey because we have a wedding to attend in Germany on August 8th. Our own wedding. This means we only have four and a half months time to reach Europe from here, which is very ambitious, but possible.

I haven’t been writing a dispatch in a long time, since Cameroon, actually, but before I venture into a short, yes, short, description of the journey from there to here, I would like to mention some things that have happened in the meantime. So here is the ‘shameless self promotion’ part of the dispatch:

First of all, I am very happy to announce that the Iraq book was published in Germany by Fackelträger, a Cologne based publisher.

It looks like this:
http://www.amazon.de …

There were only few copies printed, so order one soon, before they are all gone. My first book “Travel Notes” just sold out, only one year after publication.

The English version of the Iraq book is still available, though and can be found here:
http://www.amazon.com …

I was surprised to have won an “Honorable Mention” at this year’s World Press Photo Awards. An “Honorable Mention” is one of the smallest prices on offer at the contest, but I am very happy about it and well, very honored.

It looks like this:
http://www.worldpressphoto.org …
Strange picture, right? The image was part of a story I did for Stern Magazine last year about the German military’s mission in Afghanistan.

A story about the first part of my journey through Africa was part of the current GEO special Magazine, which has as it’s topic “Adventure Travels”. In addition to providing the images for this article, I was also asked to write the text, a task that I seriously struggled with, but I finally succeeded with the great help of the editor of the issue, Tom Dauer.

The magazine looks like this:
http://www.geowebshop.de …

I also had some of my Iraq pictures published in this month’s “green” GEO Magazine, which was a big success:
http://www.geowebshop.de …

Two pictures of mine were chosen to be part of the group show “BATTLESPACE: UNREALITIES OF WAR”, which premiered in New York last month and will tour around the US in the near future.
Check it out here:
http://www.battlespaceonline.org/

So much about self promotion.

I feel very lucky that despite my being away and taking time off from the daily news business I am still able to publish pictures and actively take part in all kinds of photography activities. I am also able, more or less successfully, to run a small business while on the road. The internet makes it all possible, but I am also paying a high price for this by spending much too much time working on the computer.

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Africa Dispatch: Happy New Year from Congo

Congo cell: +242-7621576
Thuraya Sat phone: +88216-51071135
Email: me@christophbangert.com

Hello,
I wish all of you a Happy New Year.

I am in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo.
Check it out on the map: (you can zoom in)
http://africablog.christophbangert.com/map-test/
2007 was an exceptionally good year for Chiho and me. We published two photo books and traveled together all over West Africa with our Land Rover. I took part in the World Press Joop Swart Masterclass, gave a public lecture at the International Center of Photography, had an exhibition and book launch with the Iraq book in New York and had the opportunity to work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Also on a personal level the past year has been adventurous.
On a beautiful, remote beach in Ghana I asked Chiho to marry me. She said yes.
2008 will be marked by some more traveling in Africa as well as work in the Middle East and elsewhere. And a wedding or two.
For the moment I am traveling alone, but Chiho will join me again in Namibia. We decided to attempt a return back to Europe by road via East Africa after we have reached Capetown. This part of the journey will take us through 14 African nations, the Middle East, Turkey, Eastern Europe and finally back to Germany. We hope that our beloved Land Rover will keep going as it has always done in the past. However, the success of our expedition is extremely uncertain. Horrendous roads, an accident, a technical brake down, an illness or ants eating all our Japanese Ramen noodles can end our great journey at any given time. We will keep you informed.
Best wishes for 2008.
Christoph.

Christoph Bangert
-photojournalist-
currently in Congo (Brazzaville)
cell Congo: +242-7621576
me@christophbangert.com
http://www.christophbangert.com/
http://www.iraq.christophbangert.com/
http://www.travelnotes.christophbangert.com/
http://africablog.christophbangert.com/
http://www.laif.de/

Africa Dispatch: Cameroon

me@christophbangert.com
Cameroon cell: +237-96572516

Dear all,

The book is out. As some of you know my new book IRAQ:The Space between just came out and can be ordered in your local book store or on Amazon. For more details please click here: http://iraq.christophbangert.com/

Although many people already received their copy, even my mother got hers already, ironically Chiho and I were not able to see the completed book ourselves yet. The work proofed to be hard to come by in Africa. And although we were present during the printing of the book in China, both of us are suffering from recurring nightmares of finding the book horribly misprinted and of terrible technical quality on our return to New York.

We are both burning to see the final product but with equal intensity fear the moment of holding the book in our hands.

Yesterday I became a member of the Bird Watcher’s Club of Limbe, Cameroon. To be quite honest I don’t know anything about bird watching. The private Club that I just joined consists of a small yellow house that is placed on a dark volcanic rock overlooking the ocean. The house is surrounded by the vast Botanical Garden of Limbe, which is home to a large variety of tropical plants and trees and, well, birds. On a clear day you can see the massive Mount Cameroon in the background. The club, a small and homely place has a wonderful terrace and serves good and inexpensive food. There are only two simple, but very clean guestrooms, (I never got to appreciate a clean toilet more than after traveling in West Africa…) one of which Chiho and I are occupying since yesterday. The non-profit club was created by Hans, a wonderfully relaxed and hospitable Dutch man who likes to invite his friends and guests to this beautiful spot. Most importantly, though, he is providing us with a safe place to park our Land Rover for about one month as we will interrupt our long journey through Africa here in Cameroon. On October 23, Chiho and I will fly from Douala, about 70 Kilometers away from here, to New York. I will then fly on to Amsterdam on October 31, where I will take part in the Joop Swart Masterclass, before I’ll return to New York on November 10. The show opening and book launch will take place on November 15, one day after a lecture that I was invited to give at the International Center of Photography.

After some more promotional work for the book and accomplishing tasks as enjoyable as preparing my taxes, I will then fly back to Cameroon in the beginning of December to continue my trip to South Africa. Chiho will unfortunately not join me on this part of the journey, because she had been planning to travel to Japan around the same time. Continue reading

Africa Dispatch: Ghana

Ghana cell: +233-245831859
Thuraya Sat phone: +88216-51071135
me@christophbangert.com

Dear all,

Let’s face it. I’m not really in the mood for writing.
I’m walking up and down in the living room. I enter the kitchen in search for food. I’m looking Chiho over the shoulder while she is editing our latest video, which will be online by the time you read this. (http://africablog.christophbangert.com/) Back to the computer. There’s no escape.

We are in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Our friend Jane, who has been living and working as a freelance photographer here for the last six months (http://www.janehahn.com/), arranged for us to stay at a place of a friend who is currently out of town. It’s a lovely little house with a safe driveway for the Land Rover in front of it. Yesterday night we slept in a real bed for the first time since we left Dakar about one and a half months ago. I never thought I could enjoy a hot shower so much.
Chiho and I both like camping with our vehicle a lot, but we were also reminded that there is an actual reason why people generally live in houses and not in cars. It’s far more comfortable. After having experienced great hospitality in Dakar, our buds were saved for a second time by a fellow photographer and we are grateful to be able to stay here for three days while we work on our computers and run errands in the city like stocking up on food and supplies, getting visas and doing some repairs on the Land Rover.

From Bamako, the capital of Mali, from where I sent my last dispatch, we drove along the great Niger River to Segou and Djenne, a small but historically important town and the home of a spectacular mosque, the largest mud brick structure in the world. Each year after the end of the rainy season a festival is held where thousands of men volunteer to remodel the building and coat it with a fresh layer of dark brown mud. When we visited the town the rainy season was still in full swing, though, and we were wading through ankle deep mud and puddles of water and sewage. Despite Djenne’s attractions and sights, my memory of the place is slightly overshadowed by impressions of feverish, sleepless nights and exhausting days spend commuting between the whole-in-the-ground toilet and the cod in the back of the Land Rover. Somewhere along the way I had caught a bacteria or virus that seemed to be determined to make me loose all my bodily fluids and about 10 per cent of my weight within hours. It was a miserable experience.
Four days, an endless flow of a special salt and sugar emulsion with a funny strawberry taste and a serious antibiotic treatment later, I started to feel a little better and was even able to slowly return to eating solid food.
A phone examination by my father, who is a doctor, saved me again, like so many times before. Not having to face these troubles alone, but with Chiho at my side providing me with tea, white rice and toilet paper (quickly!!), made a huge difference. Individuality, stubbornness and the determination to do things alone are great things, but man, I was happy not to be alone in Djenne.

Although I was still a little weak, we were in good spirits and happy to be on the move again, when we drove on to Mopti and a village called Bandiagara. There we hired a local guide for two days who showed us around several villages of the Falaise de Bandiagara, a fascinating rock formation that stretches over about 150 Kilometers through the dry and generally flat plains of the Sahel. The villages that are lined up like a string of pearls along the base of this escarpment are inhabited by the Dogon people, one of the better known African tribes, who’s members until very recently lived a traditional way of life only minimally influenced by the outside world. Today Coca Cola, Motorola and Adidas are just as present here as they are everywhere else in Africa and the world. And although the Dogon people are still mainly living in traditional mud huts, are tending their fields like they did generations ago, are not connected to the electricity grid, and keep their traditions alive, like mask dances for example, that they are regularly performing for tourist groups and at local festivities, the days of the great African tribes are over. Education, tourism, the introduction of money as a means to trade goods and the wide availability of western and Chinese made products have reached even the remotest corners of our planet. It is sometimes hard to tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing in my opinion. It is a historical event and it results in both, terrible losses and great improvements. Who am I to judge. Continue reading