Category Archives: Dispatches

Africa Dispatch: Mali

Mali cell: +223-3099642
Thuraya Sat phone: +88216-51071135

Dear all,

we are in Bamako, Mali. We? Yes, we. My girlfriend Chiho joined me on my travels in Dakar and together we will spend a couple of months exploring West- and Central Africa. Chiho is a designer and photographer and we frequently collaborate on projects, the last one being the Iraq book ( which we edited and designed together. Chiho is also an excellent co-pilot, navigator, cook, and packer of things. She has the ability to make huge piles of equipment, clothes and camera gear fit into a tiny metal box.
Additionally she is an experienced video shooter and editor. We started to publish short video clips on my blog, so please take a second to check them out, along with some new still images:

The real reason for Chiho to be part of this trip is obviously to bring some sanity and patience into the Land Rover, which so far has worked extremely well. It has been a huge improvement for the journey to have her with me.

The last dispatch I wrote a long time ago from Dakar. In the meantime I flew back to New York to attend my sister’s wedding. This involved me being one of the groom’s men, wearing a rental tuxedo and feeling adequately awkward, giving a speech, teaching my father how to ride my old motorbike on a Target parking lot, showing up at the wedding with a rented pick up truck carrying my bike on the back (my sister is used to trouble, she just rolled her eyes…), fixing my brother in law’s car, and bringing my uncle to the doctor for the treatment of an ear infection.
After the wedding Chiho and I flew to Hong Kong and China to attend the printing of the Iraq book, which was equally exciting and exhausting because of the great summer heat in southern China and the gruesome 32 hour non-stop printing marathon that we embarked on.

Back in New York we only had three days to take care of a million things, most importantly the preparations for the Iraq show that will open on November 15th at the Redux Gallery in Manhattan.
We barely managed to catch the plane from JFK to Dakar, where we arrived exhausted and terribly jetlagged, not sure if our bodies were still on New York or Hong Kong time.
We were extremely lucky to be able to stay at Finbarr O’Reilly’s house in Dakar, where he and his girlfriend Uma provided us with a perfect place to get some rest and re-pack the Land Rover that had been blocking Finbarr’s driveway for about a month. Finbarr ( is a Canadian Reuters photographer who is based in Senegal and I was introduced to him by Tina, a friend and photo editor who lives in New York. Tina, Finbarr and Uma saved me and I am very grateful for their help.
Chiho and I spent about ten days in Dakar, getting sorted out and hunting for visas. Apart from visas to Mali, Ghana, Cameroon, Niger and Burkina Faso, we proudly received Chiho’s new working visa for America, at the US embassy in Dakar, which was an important step for us as we had spent many months to obtain it.

Equipped with a variety of colorful little stamps and stickers in our passports we finally said goodbye to Dakar and headed for Mali. Still in Senegal though, on the road between Kaolack and Tambacounda, we were for the first time confronted with two realities that will pose a continuing challenge on our African journey:
Bad roads and rain.

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Africa Dispatch: Hong Kong

International cell: +1-917-679-4440

Dear all,

It’s done. After more than one year of work on this project, the Iraq book was printed this week in Shenzhen, China.
Chiho and I were present during the printing, which was done in a 33 hour non-stop marathon session. At the moment we are in Hong Kong and we will fly back to New York tomorrow. On August 1st we’ll be back in Dakar, Senegal to continue the overland journey through Africa.
The Iraq book is published by powerHouse books and will come out in November this year.

It can already be ordered here on
And in Germany.

On November 15, 2007 there will be a show opening and book signing event at the Redux Gallery in New York.

On July 13, my Iraqi colleague Khalid Hassan was murdered in Baghdad. “Fat Khalid” as he was usually referred to was a 23-year old fixer and translator for the New York Times Baghdad bureau. We had been working together regularly during my stays in Iraq. I felt a deep pain and personal loss after hearing of his death.
I just printed this book about the war in Iraq and I could not help but constantly think about what happened to Khalid. And about what happened to Iraq. It makes me terribly sad.
I don’t have the words.

Please find the story about Khalid’s death in the NYTimes here.

Some of the NYT correspondents wrote personal notes about Khalid here.

If you would like to make a contribution in support of Khalid’s family, please find some information below:

Remembering Khalid

Khalid Hassan, member of The Times’s Iraqi news staff, was killed on Friday, July 13.
He supported his mother and four sisters. The Foreign Desk has started a fund to raise money for his family. Tammy Golson (212.556.4667/ is handling all contributions for Mr. Hassan’s family. If you would like to contribute, please make checks payable to:
“The New York Times,” noting Khalid’s name in the memo field. The Times has paid for all funeral costs, offered to relocated the family, made a generous contribution and plans to match all money raised by this fund.

Please mail checks to:

Tammy Golson
The New York Times
Foreign Desk/3rd Floor
620 Eighth Ave.
New York, NY 10018

Thanks and best

Christoph Bangert
currently in Hong Kong
international cell: +1-917-679-4440

Africa Dispatch: Senegal

Senegalese cell: +221-240-2331

With the intention to finally start to select about 20 pictures from Iraq for a gallery show that will open in the fall, I am turning on the computer. As usual the little machine is placed on my knees while I am sitting in the front seat of my Land Rover. Outside it’s already dark. The sun was swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean some time ago, ending a hot and humid day. The inside of the vehicle is being dimly lid by the computer’s screen, making me blind to the dark surroundings of the makeshift campground that I am calling my home for more than a week now. I am the only guest. Just a few moments ago, while deep in thought, I noticed some sort of movement on my right side. When I looked up I saw the dark face of a huge man just millimeters away from the glass of the car’s side window staring at me out of the night in total silence and with great seriousness.

Overcoming my shock and surprise I stumbled a clumsy “Bon soir.”, gratefully recognizing the man’s face as the one of the night watchman, who had come to say hello and observe me at work.

I am in Dakar, Senegal.

First of all I would like to thank everybody who responded to my last dispatch. Not all responses were positive, which I was quite happy about, because it helps me to improve things. I never felt very confident about my writing and I only see it as a supplement to my images. I am a photographer not a writer. Nevertheless I feel that it is important to condense some thoughts into words sometimes. I am continuing to write in my little blue diary every night.

To sum up the reactions to my last dispatch: My mother loved it. My sister thought it was too negative. My father probably did not read it because it wasn’t in German. (And I admit, it was terribly long, too. He has my full sympathy on that one.) My girlfriend just kept laughing.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you want to be taken off this email list. I do get tons of annoying mass emails myself, so if you think that my occasional dispatches are just unnecessarily adding to the mountain of “free Viagra” and “Instant penis enlargement formula” emails, please tell me.

I completed the first part of my journey. From Daun in Germany to Dakar in Senegal. 8,515 Kilometers in about six weeks. The trip went very well so far, but it has to be said that this was probably one of the easiest parts of the journey. I am in good health, and the car is running without any problems. Like an old steam locomotive. It’s not the fastest or most elegant vehicle around, but it just never stops functioning.

I am happy. It was a bloody good idea to do this trip. If I’m lonely? Yes, I little bit. I miss my girlfriend. A lot. It makes a huge difference if you are in a relationship or not when you do such a long journey. When I was traveling from Argentina to New York, I had no girlfriend, well, most of the time, so there wasn’t really anybody to miss.

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Africa Dispatch: Mauritania

Mauritanian cell: +222-763-3098
Thuraya Sat phone: +88216-51071135

Dear all,

I am in Nouadhibou in Mauritania.
I’ve been trying to avoid writing this dispatch. I repacked the Land Rover again and again. I filled some oil into the engine, I made travel plans, pored over maps, read in my guidebook, drove a lot through the desert, cooked some spaghetti, and drove some more through the desert. Finally there wasn’t anything left to do but to reluctantly sit down and start to write this dispatch.

I like writing. I do write every day in my little blue notebook that I bought on the day I left on my great journey to South Africa in my little hometown’s only stationary store.

At night you can see me sitting in my car accurately noting the day’s traveled kilometers, date and place into this small diary. I am writing about the highlights and low points of the day and about people I met. But mainly I am writing down my thoughts and ideas, as there is a lot of time to think about things when you are driving for days and days all alone through the desert or the mountains or on a Spanish motorway.

I decided not to write a daily online blog, but write an old-fashioned hand written diary instead, just as I did on my last long trip through South America. And although I know that this is a little disappointing for some people who where hoping to get more frequent updates on my travels, there are several good reasons for this. First of all a diary is something extremely personal and it is important that it contains some things that are not for everyone’s eyes. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a diary, but a dispatch or an article. I found it very important for my last trip that I wrote very personal things in a way where it didn’t matter how many grammatical errors the notes contained or if it made any particular sense to the reader, in my own language, German, and with the knowledge that not every online geek will read it. My last diaries were the basis for my first book, and it wouldn’t have been possible to edit a meaningful book without writing things up in a very straightforward way while on the road. The only solution would be to write two diaries one on a paper and one online, but I simply don’t have the time.

So there will be no daily blog, but there will be regular dispatches, like the one you are reading, every three weeks or so. And honestly, who really has time to read blogs? I don’t.

I will mainly use the blog to post some of the images of this journey, my current location and updated contact information. You are also able to find my location on a map and all travel dispatches will be collected there. I just uploaded new images, so check it out:

I am sitting in the pleasant and shady communal space of a small dusty campground right next to a gas station in the center of town and I not only have to fight the blaring TV that is producing an incredible noise by presenting French afternoon game shows to the half sleeping guardian of this place, but also a local visitor, who additionally to the TV terror, has just decided to reset the ring tone of his brand new cell phone. The only possible way to do this, naturally, is by listening to all of the 50 or so different tones and songs that are on offer. We just finished listening to the entire melody of “Jingle Bells” and are now slowly, after some consideration, moving on to a Shakira song that I can’t recall the title of. I am sure I will be cursed to carry around the melody in my head all day, though.

I will not use these minor distractions as just another excuse for not finishing the task at hand, which is to write down some notes about my travels. I will concentrate as best as I can.

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Africa Dispatch: France

I can be reached at:
cell Germany: +49-170-8642912
Thuraya Sat phone: +88216-51071135

my latest dispatch:

Dear all,

I am in Southern France.
A couple of days ago I started on a half year long overland trip with my trusted Land Rover from Daun in Germany to Capetown in South Africa.
First plans for this journey were made in 2002 while on the road with the same vehicle from Buenos Aires to New York, a project that resulted in a book called Travel Notes. (powerHouse 2007,

The final decision for this latest trip to Africa was made in Baghdad, where I spent about nine months on assignment for the New York Times during the past two years. Working in Iraq was professionally and personally probably the most challenging, serious, and also frustrating experience of my life. I spent the last several months putting together a photo book with pictures from Iraq. The book will come out this fall and will be published by powerHouse.

The idea was to keep my life somewhat balanced and to do something that is challenging in a different way than war journalism. I was hoping that this journey would help me to keep a healthy distance to places like Iraq, Lebanon or Afghanistan, so I will be able to go back there again with a fresh eye and without becoming a cynic or loosing faith in the human race over the years.
Basically it’s about keeping my sanity.

And just to make this clear:
No, this is not a vacation. No, I am not retiring from covering wars, and I am not planning to become a landscape photographer. Yes, I am available for assignment all over the world, at any time.

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