Jason Florio 'Makasutu' award winning black and white portraits
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Jason Florio – ‘Makasutu’ award winning black and white portraits, West Africa

Jason Florio Makasutu Portraits

“The subjects seemingly became oblivious to me as they created a very personal relationship with the camera. They would shift from side to side, testing different expressions, as I stood a little away from the camera to make my exposure with a long shutter release cord, so as not to interfere with this fleeting relationship that unfolded in front of me. I tried to make the exposure when I felt they were between preconceived expressions, feeling this was when they were free of an assumed character and as close to their true nature as I would find, making it in my mind the most honest view

‘I returned every year to Makasutu, up until 2010…’
Black and white portrait - Makasutu guide, Lamin Coley, standing next to the photographer, Jason Florio's, 8x10 camera, in front of his signature black backdrop. Image ©Jason Florio

Makasutu guide, Lamin Coley, standing next to the photographer, Jason Florio’s, 8×10 camera, in front of his signature black backdrop. Image ©Jason Florio


Often re-photographing the same people, continuing silent relationships through the camera. The portraits unlike some of my work in Afghanistan and elsewhere are not taken surreptitiously. The subject is compliant and aware of the situation. I like this honesty that I have found in this ongoing body. It is liberating to create such a relationship with the subject, even though often silent. Therefore, it is for that reason I continue to return. 

The area of land from which I work has become the title for the project ‘Makasutu’. Makasutu in the local Mandinko language means ‘Mecca in the forest‘, and for me, it became a place of personal pilgrimage. And, most of all, a place to retreat and communicate through my medium in an unfiltered manner.” JF

Pigment prints on Hahnemühle archival glossy fine art photographic – Print Orders and all you need to know. 

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Makasutu - Jason Florio. PAINTED FACE (COMING OF AGE), The Gambia, West Africa. Black and white portrait print

‘PAINTED FACE (COMING OF AGE)’ fine art photography prints by © Jason Florio – purchase