the Fishmongers

Besides sweat and an appreciation for the thumping reggae and Afrobeat rhythms ubiquitous throughout coastal Ghana, I had little in common with these fishmongers and the amicable masses who crowded around while I photographed this series. With the invaluable help of Peter (local fixer, translator, and surfer extraordinaire), I searched for portrait subjects to set against colorful backgrounds.

Whenever we found a willing participant, we quickly transformed the dusty back alleys of bustling fishing villages into makeshift photo sets, complete with the diffusing scrims and large reflectors needed to sculpt the hard light of equatorial Africa. Crowds of locals fanned out behind us to watch. Their voices created an intense and raucous shooting environment as they co-directed, laughed at, and distracted anybody who agreed to pose for the portraits you see here. The coastal dialect of Ga is a series of animated bursts, a gentle and sonorous staccato despite its intense delivery. Their voices—molded by years spent competing with the sounds of wind and sea—were loud. I cannot balance everyday items on my head for transport (machete, desktop computer tower, water), never mind massive amounts of tuna, swordfish, or shark.

While I realize capturing this otherness—that of people carrying fish on their heads—in photographs could be construed as cheap voyeurism, this was not my intention; the subjects are intriguing and beautiful—regardless of what they carry on their heads. The result, I believe, honors these women, who, as one viewer remarked, “carry the entire continent on their heads.”