Photo Editor, Stella Kramer’s Interview with Helen Jones-Florio – for Stellazine – about her 2009 Expedition


When we returned to New York, from our ‘Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘, Stella approached me about interviewing me for her blog. She wanted her readers to know how I felt, for example, about travelling as the only woman, with four men and two donkeys – all male.

To quote Stella’s opening:

‘There’s something inherently romantic about an expedition to a foreign country. It’s in doing something new, seeing a world unlike your own and testing your own abilities. For Helen Jones, walking the length of The Gambia was familiar in that she has visited one part of the country many times, but totally new in experience, and what she learned about herself, about traveling with donkeys, and about where home really is.’

Jason Florio's Award-Winning Portraits of Village Chiefs & Elders, The Gambia

Jason Florio’s Award-Winning Portraits of Village Chiefs & Elders, The Gambia – take whilst on a 930km walk around the small West African country.

I loved being interviewed by Stella because, like any smart journalist, she asked challenging questions…questions that really made me have to think about the answers to.

During the interview, I talk in-depth about how we, photographer Jason Florio and I,  came up with the idea for the 2009 Gambia expedition (over a couple of beers at a dinner party in Brooklyn!), how we went about it, how we raised funds, and how it was, walking into villages, out in the middle of the West African bush.

Blog entry from 7th November – Kalaji village, The Gambia:
‘In this particular compound, there were around 30 kids who were our chaperones right up until torch lights out in our campsite. Nothing was going to get past these kids. Every little thing seemed to interest them – even if it was just me washing my smalls!! Our team was like a mini theatre to them, in that they brought out chairs and wooden benches and placed them right up close in front of our tents. One woman even brought her embroidery! The villagers are fascinated by everything us two ‘toubabs’ (or ‘toubabo’s’ ) in our group do and that’s quite something to get used to. Not a lot of choice really. Personal space isn’t even in their vocabulary!’

One of the main questions people asked on our return was what did we eat? We were very fortunate to have been there through the harvesting season, just after the rains. So, we ate like kings – munching our way through The Gambia, on peanuts, banana’s, and melon… – ‘Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

Gambian Kids

Gambian kids love to play up to the camera – image © Helen Jones-Florio 2009

Stella: What was the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself?

‘That I managed to come out of walking around a small Gambian country for 6 weeks with 4 guys and 2 donkeys – all of them male (imagine all testosterone!) – without pulling my hair out!’

Stella Kramer - Stellazine

About Stella Kramer: ‘I am a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor who works as a consultant to photographers, helping them to strengthen their creative eye, put together the strongest portfolios and websites that reflect their work, and set a course to reach their professional goals… For many years I worked with such top publications as The New York Times, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and People magazine, and won numerous awards as a photo editor’ Stellazine blog


About River Gambia Expedition 2012

Jason Florio, FRGS: award-winning photojournalist. Helen Jones-Florio: expedition & photography producer. 2009: The couple co-led the West Africa expedition 'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey' - the first circumnavigation of the small West African country, by foot, with two donkeys and a cart. Resulting in the award-winning series of portraits of Gambian village chiefs (Alkalo's) (under 'Projects') 2012-13: The couple co-led their second West Africa expedition - 'River Gambia Expedition - 1000km source-sea Africa odyssey' over-landing for 400km and canoeing the River Gambia for 720km
This entry was posted in Adventure, Culture, Expedition, Fundraising, Guinea, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, Sponsorship, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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