View Portfolio

Explore by Category

Learn More

Freya Dowson is an international documentary photographer based in Dubai.

About Freya

This is part two of the travel diary I kept when I was working in Senegal last month. To catch up on part one, click here. It’s an account of my photography trips overseas, what it’s like to work in the field as a photographer, and a few personal thoughts.

10th February 2016


FDowson.Photography Senegal

I’m writing this as we sit in a small village in Sokone. There’s a meeting going on between all the men left in the village who have not gone to market and I’m waiting for them to finish before I feel like it’s ok to start wandering around and taking pictures.

It’s not easy to photograph people here because often they expect payment in exchange for having their photo taken. It’s something I’ve come across in other countries around the world but here it feels like there’s a lot less room for negotiation. I wish I had more time to get to know people and make them more comfortable, and I think about those photographers who spend months in one place. There never seems to be enough time.

I wouldn’t mind spending a long time in this village. It’s towards the end of the day so the heat is less intense, and there’s a tree in flower that’s giving off such a beautiful smell. Sitting in the shade I think this would be a really peaceful place to spend more time.

Anywhere in Senegal would be pretty peaceful to spend more time. In the early morning or even in the evening when the sun isn’t so harsh and it’s cool enough for long sleeves, everything is still and the light is so clear. This morning we were down photographing by the water and it was so clear in the sunrise, it looked like a completely different place as we drove past it again in the afternoon.

There is a woman sitting right behind me now, playing with her daughter and they both have the same beautiful smile. I’ve already asked her if I can take her photo when I met her earlier and she said “no thank you”. The scene now in the shade of the tree is just too perfect but I just can’t ask again. I’m sad to let the moment go, but really it’s between her and her daughter and it just doesn’t belong to me.

I get up and wander over to our truck to let Jeremy, our videographer, know we’re getting ready to do an interview. He’s flying his drone and the entire village has shown up to see what’s going on and watch the kids chase it around. It’s complete chaos and pretty funny to watch from the outside, but maybe not so much for Jeremy who’s trying to find a safe spot to land it.

The interview we do in the open air as the sun is setting and it’s one of those rare interviews where there is no awkwardness, no hesitation, just a man very passionate and animated as he speaks.

As the one in charge of these trips and getting the best content we can, these interviews make me breathe a sigh of relief. Even if I can’t understand what he’s saying I know he’s giving us what we need and I’m so thankful for that.

Jamie does the interviews now. Back when I first started I was photographer, videographer, interviewer, producer, director, and the momentum behind the whole trip. As soon as I could convince anyone to give me some budget and let me bring along some help, I dragged Jamie on a plane from London and gave him the task of talking to people so I could focus on photography and the rest. I’ve been in his shoes so many times and I knew at first he found it awkward as hell doing these interviews. It really is! Trying to get a good story out of a stranger speaking a different language, it doesn’t get much more difficult than that – especially when you’re having to work with two translators. But tonight he’s really nailing it and I can tell he feels it too.

Some moments you can capture and others you can’t. But I’m so happy to end the day on a good note.¬†And just as we are getting ready to leave for the evening, I manage to capture a moment that makes up for all the ones I felt like I missed on this trip.

FDowson Senegal

You May Also Enjoy