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Freya Dowson is an international documentary photographer based in Dubai.

About Freya

This is the last of my travel diaries from Senegal. It’s taken me a while to get through posting them all, but I have enjoyed putting them up little by little. It helps to make the memories last. There are a lot of photos to go with this post, some don’t really correspond with the story, but I decided to post them anyway.


12th February 2016



The last few days have flown by in a flurry of villages, interviews and personal stories. We meet so many people, film them and document a few moments from their life to tell a small story that is just a part of a larger picture of change. 

We stop for lunch and Toni Braxton is belting out of the speaker system in the restaurant and it’s a struggle not to sing along with over-dramatic hand gestures while eating my pizza. I’m pretty tired from the late nights on my computer, early mornings waking up before the sun, and all day photographing. I’m in danger of losing it in a fit of laughter as one or two of our crew actually do start singing along, using their pizza as a microphone.

We’re way of the urban areas now, and you can drive for miles in what feels like the abandoned desert of the Sahal and still suddenly come across a village. I’ve really enjoyed working out of the city on this trip though, so I’m not sad about the hours spent driving through the sand. The urban areas and markets are such a challenge and I get told off for taking photos with people waving their finger in my face, even when my camera is switched off and hanging by my side. Village life is soft and sleepy, no one is going to run you over when you’re not looking for trying to take their photo.

Because our itinerary changes day to day (even hour to hour, some trips are just like that) I’m always unsure if we’re going to get some usable stuff each day and we just have to make the most of each location. Some trips have really tight schedules, other trips the schedules get chucked out the window.

It’s probably for that reason, or out of sheer desperation, that I find myself at some point sprinting down a highway in the middle of The Sahel salt fields to catch up with a horse that’s leaving me far behind in the dust. 

Justice, our local contact, suggests we just sit by the side of the road for a bit and wait for another to come along. It’s a long, clear stretch of road and an amazing spot to get some shots with the drone, and we have time on our hands today. The sun hasn’t quite risen enough to dry out the soft light of morning and it’s almost cool enough to wear a sweater. 

We kill time taking photos of the landscape and each other until another horse comes along, and thanks to the friendly words of Justice the man agrees to let me take his photo. In those moments where there’s one and only one shot to get I can sometimes really feel the pressure.
By the end of the day we have a few shots, but really amazing ones and I remind myself that quality is better than quantity and just leave it at that. 

After five days in the field, tomorrow we are returning to Dakar for a day and a bit before our flight home. We’ve already made plans for our next trip back to Senegal, maybe in the rainy season, and although we don’t know when that will be it’s clear that The Sahel still had so many stories to tell. I have a feeling I’ll be back. 





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