Stern Faces

The biggest challenge in shooting portraits here in Benin is avoiding stern-face syndrome.

Outside the larger cities, few people have had their picture taken before.  I often find myself peering through the lens at nervous, expressionless faces.  Take a look at this series of candids leading up to the actual portrait:




And then we’re playful again after the photo!


Often some of the greatest treasures come in those moments right before or after a real portrait, when I can really interact with folks.

These shots are from a recent visit to Ouessè, home to one of the  southernmost Fulani camps in Benin.  Ouessè is an interesting melting pot, as it’s one of the few villages where the Fulani live amidst the Fon ethnicity from coastal Benin.

Several more shots from that afternoon:




IMG_8575grinding peanuts for tonight’s sauce




IMG_8639This elder weaves straw hats for his family – a necessity for long days in the sun with the herd.


IMG_8660 The plumpest baby I’ve ever seen in a rural camp.

The Fulani in Ouessè are also unusual in that they are predominantly Christian.  99% of the Fulani ethnicity in other regions adhere to Islam.  Here they worship in a small thatched chapel outside the camp.




2 Responses to “Stern Faces”

  1. Merci de m’avoir fait découvrir une autre facette de la culture des mes ancêtres

  2. musa Bakari says:

    hi, guys i am very glad to visit your website and discover a series of stories about fulani and most especially the magnificient photographs therein. i am also a fulani in cameroon, thus when i see people interested in our culture i feel very happy.

    thanks keep up my guys