Ryan Kellman: Dakar Rap City


The Image

Photographer:
Ryan Kellman

Location:
Dakar, Senegal

Time / Date:
10:23 / July 16, 2013

The Technical

Gear:
Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM

Camera Settings:

Shutter Speed: 1/125
Aperture: f/5
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 50mm

The Story

Background: 

This photograph was taken during the filming of a doc my wife, Claire Harbage, and I shot. We had just gotten married. Shortly after she received a grant which funded a project she’d proposed in Senegal. She moved there at the end of May and dealt with establishing connections, finding an apt, and setting up. I arrived after the hardest work was done. Dakar ended up being our honeymoon and the first time we collaborated on something together. Due to the desertification of the Senegal River many former agriculturalists in Senegal moved to the city to look for employment. Unfortunately while the population expanded the job market didn’t. The sons and daughters of the farmers, living in urban slums on the outskirts of Dakar, have few options for gainful employment. As a result  many have turned to Senegal’s hip hop culture as means to share their experiences and frustrations with displacement, unemployment, and poverty. While the hip hop community uses their music to give voice to similar issues as it has throughout the world it also feels and sounds very unique. The BFX crew were our guides through the hip hop community in Dakar’s outlying neighborhoods. This photograph is taken from one of the more mainstream, larger shows we went to downtown.

Our friends, the BFX crew, were able to get us pretty good access to this show which was great. But unfortunately I’ve never really shot video at a concert.  Moving around to vary the visuals meant having to change the way we were capturing the sound. Technically there was a ton to keep track of. Taking stills every once in a while became a great relief for us.

The Scene:

Most of the hip hop shows we went to were small DIY things. Just kids on the corner with some speakers and a little scaffolding. They are making a go of it but don’t usually have much in the way of production. Almost any kind of lighting was usually nonexistent and the neighborhoods rarely had much for street lights if they had power.  So it was often tough for us to shoot. These sponsored concerts offered a bit more in the way of dynamic light. I was most excited by how entranced these young kids were. The crowds up front were so fixated they were hardly moving.

Making the Shot:

Most of the hip hop shows we went to were small DIY things. Just kids on the corner with some speakers and a little scaffolding. They are making a go of it but don’t usually have much in the way of production. Almost any kind of lighting was usually nonexistent and the neighborhoods rarely had much for street lights if they had power. So it was often tough for us to shoot. These sponsored concerts offered a bit more in the way of dynamic light. I was most excited by how entranced these young kids were. The crowds up front were so fixated they were hardly moving.

Editing & Processing:

This photo was shot “as is” apart from a curve layer or two in Photoshop. Claire is still editing the video.

Looking Back:

This was a great project to work on. I love hip hop. I love traveling. I love my wife. It was amazing to work with her. She sees things that I would have missed. This was our first time working together and I remember seeing her shooting something and I’d be thinking “What does she see in that?” later on I’d be looking at the footage and have to admit “Maaaann…she was right!”

Advice:

I always advise people to read a lot and stay curious about the world. This is particularly important for anyone making photographs. One of the better pieces of advice I’ve ever received is from my work partner William Potter; “Always take a new route home.” This is something I try to do whenever I can. Sometimes it can be a little hard…if you are going to work everyday to the same spot it’s really difficult but find something new in the normal/everyday.

Inspiration:

This is a tough question. Like asking someone who their favorite band is. I try to make that question more manageable by asking “what bands are you listening to right  now.” So, I’ll say that lately I’m inspired by RadioLab, Italo Calvino, my buddy Josh Smith’s photography as well as Trent Parke’s work. Photographically I’m always most attracted to images that capture something ordinary and make it extraordinary. At it’s best I believe the still image can reveal the beauty and mystery of living the way no other medium can.


ryan-kellman

About the Photographer

I am a freelance photographer and videographer. My work often takes me to Africa. I make everything from documentaries to commercials. Currently, you can see some of  my work on various NPR blogs as part of the multimedia team at the Science Desk. As a photographer I am a Fulbright Grant recipient, I’ve received a John Collier Award in documentary photography and been published in Humble Art’s Guide to Emerging Art Photographers. Before returning to school to pursue a Master’s degree at Ohio University I lived and worked in Los Angeles as a set designer, camera operator, editorial photographer and teacher. My diet consists mostly of sandwiches.

Website: www.ryankellman.com
Tumblr: saidandseen.tumblr.com
Instagram: @rjckseen
Twitter: @ryanjamescliff


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