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BARABAIG WARRIOR, TANZANIA
I am a self-taught photographer who has been living and working in Africa for the past 32 years, including long stays in countries such as Somalia, Mali, Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, and Tanzania. I became a full time professional in 1992, working as an Africa based photojournalist, shooting numerous picture stories for all sorts of magazines, including National Geographic Magazine USA (Hunting the mighty python, May 1997 and Hunting for Glory, July 2004), GEO Magazine, The Smithsonian Magazine (Suiting up for the honey wars, July 2001), The Sunday Times Magazine, Paris Match etc. I am the recipient of several major awards, including a Fuji Award and a World Press Award (1998).
In July 2004 I got myself into trouble when it was revealed that one of my shots published in Nat Geo had been staged. After this I decided to quit photography entirely and for the next 10 years I did not touch a camera. It is only about 2 years ago that I started taking pictures again at the insistence of my girlfriend. I discovered that my passion for images was intact and ever since have been shooting obsessively.
I like to think that I have a special connection to the African people (always speaking the local language and a keen interest in anthropology and ethnography), one that enables me to capture their essence. In the past most of my stories were about rare traditions that somehow linked man and wildlife or nature, but Africa has changed a lot in the last 30 years and now most of these traditions have disappeared. My recent work has been more contemplative and less focused on picture stories. I have also moved away from color photography and only shoot in black and white.
I spent 2 years working with the Barabaig, and particularly with the young men who hunt elephants and lions, with spears for glory and wealth. One day I came across this guy and asked him if i could take his picture. He agreed and sat down for about 10 seconds, then abruptly stood up and stormed out of the hut, obviously pissed off that the shoot had taken so long... I only had time to take about 3 frames.
© 2003 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARRIORS TRAINING, TANZANIA © 2003 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
AFRICA AND HER FRIENDS, CAMEROON
One day while I was living in Cameroon I heard that there was a place, somewhere, where a hippo had befriended some local kids. I immediately "dreamed" a shot where a bunch of naked children would be riding on the back of a hippo, convinced that if I managed to get such an image it would run widely... After a long time searching I finally found the hippo. It was a female and her story was amazing. When only a few days old, she'd been found abandoned on a small island by a local boy named Souiabou, who'd taken upon himself to come and feed her every day. From then on she grew up thinking that Souaibou was her mother and became habituated to humans. Souaibou had named her Africa, and the local kids loved to take a ride across the river on her back. This was an exceedingly rare occurrence - something perhaps even unheard of before - because wild hippos are one of the most dangerous animals of Africa and by far the ones that kill the most humans. But of course Africa was different from the other hippos... She would even go into town to look for Souaibou and cause traffic jams in the process! She had also understood that Souaibou loved to watch Kung-Fu movies at the local movie theatre, and so in the afternoon she would go and wait for him outside the cinema!!! In the end I had managed to get the exact same shot that I had dreamed up in my head 6 months earlier, but apparently few editors understood how exceptional this story was and it never was a great success. (Some years later a male arrived and Africa had a few babies with him. Guess what the local people named the male? America!!)
© 1997 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
NETTING A CATCH, TANZANIA © 2015 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
JUNGLE MAZE, TANZANIA
I was standing in the sea when I took this shot. The boy was trying to avoid getting himself wet by climbing over the tapestry of vines and roots that covered the shore.
© 2015 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BOY WITH DUCKS, CAMEROON
This shot was taken near Lake Maga, in the Far North region of Cameroon. I had followed two guys who had gone to hunt ducks. When ducks fell from the sky and into the waters of the lake, some local boys would run into the water in order to retrieve them. The hunters then rewarded them with some small cash.
© 1996 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A LA MODE, BENIN
I was attending the Nikki annual celebrations when these 3 friends asked me to photograph them. They took the pose and i just clicked away.
© 1989 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
SLEEPING, BENIN © 1990 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
UNTITLED, TANZANIA © 2015 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
LONGING, TANZANIA © 2015 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
SAMBO THE PYTHON HUNTER, CAMEROON
Sambo was from the Gbaya tribe and hunted the vast expanses of the remote Adamawa plateau. His specialty was hunting pythons down aardvark burrows, using techniques that are exclusive to the Gbaya people. Sambo could spend up to 45 minutes going down into a burrow, where he would eventually grab these giant snakes and bring them back to the surface. I spent 2 years documenting Sambo's hunting and that of a few of his friends. The story eventually ran in Nat Geo Magazine, albeit in colour. Recently, I heard that Sambo had passed away. He was an amazing hunter.
© 1996 Gilles Nicolet, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED