Two Men Playing Checkers on an Abandoned Train: Gosette Lubondo’s Best Photograph | Photography

Jhis image, part of a series called Imaginary Trip, was taken on an abandoned train outside Kinshasa station in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was looking for a site to evoke an imaginary journey to convey the idea of ​​memory, the passage of time and the reappropriation of old places. A lot of young men hang around this neighborhood, which is a poor neighborhood, and they squat on trains during the day while doing various jobs like helping people at the station. Sometimes they have something to do, other times nothing.

The two people in this photo are me. I took several digital images and then layered them to show two young men playing a traditional game of checkers with bottle caps – as they do. When I started this project, I had no intention of putting myself in the photos, it was almost accidental. I didn’t have the money to pay for models, so it was partly a question of budget, but also of time. I spent hours in these places creating my photographs, too long for most people to hang around, so in the end I found myself in front of and behind the camera. I often work alone with a camera, tripod and remote shutter.

In the photo you see a bag from the local market in Kinshasa which gives the scene a more global context – “See the north” is written on it. You can’t see anything out of the train windows, so this trip could take place anywhere in the world. The image is complete on its own, but integrates with the rest of the series to tell a bigger story: the series shows a journey that begins somewhere, but does not end, and the destination is a mystery.

Some figures in the other photographs in the series are transparent. They represent the people who have passed through this abandoned place in the past, and those who may pass through it in the future. Many see them as ghosts, but I see them as representing people who have been here and who will come here.

The installation of images in abandoned places evokes the duality of personal and collective memory, as well as the history of the DRC: the train here is from the time of colonization. The idea is to use a figurative journey to evoke the passage of time, in a real and imaginary sense.

My dad is a professional photographer and I started as a teenager helping him at weddings and other events. One day, I just took one of his cameras and didn’t return it. When I decided, around the age of 17, that I wanted to make it my job too, he didn’t really try to discourage me, but he was afraid that I wouldn’t succeed.

It’s complicated in the DRC – and in many other African countries – because being a photographer was not considered a profession for a woman and still is not, for the most part. I was going to take photos at an event and people called me the “Sunday photographer”, i.e. an amateur, someone who takes family photos, so even if no one told me to stop, it was very discouraging. When I tell people that I am a photographer, they are surprised, even if there are more women photographers in the DRC today, our number is still low, and it remains a macho society.

In 2013 I decided to stop doing weddings and commercial work and focus on personal photography projects. It was a difficult time because I had no money or resources and it took me three years to sell my first photo. I had finished my studies and people said: “When are you going to find a real job?” But for me, working on Imaginary Trip was my real job. I think it’s important, especially in our time, to break away from what’s fashionable and the so-called rules of what works and what doesn’t. I say to myself, here it is! I will take this photo because I like it. Whether it works or not is not important.

Gosette Lubondo

Not: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993.
Qualified: Learned with his father then studied communication and visual arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa.
Affecting : “The workshops of the EZA Possibles collective, Kin ArtStudio, photographers Sammy Baloji, Cindy Sherman and James Barnor.
High point: “The 2018 residency at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris – Jacques Chirac (Imaginary Journey II). Then in 2019, I had an exhibition at a girls’ school in Lubumbashi, DRC, and the interaction with the young students was wonderful.
Low point: “The three years between starting my own projects and selling my first photo.”
Trick : “Stay true to yourself and what you want to do.”

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