AWARD-WINNING photography is on show in the town's parks this summer.

British photojournalist and filmmaker Jason Florio is displaying his work at Town Gardens. The exhibition will host Martin Parr, a documentary photographer who has published more than 100 books, and celebrated photographer Sanne De Wilde.

Jason and his wife Helen visited at the weekend to provide more detail on his exhibit the River Gambia from Source to Sea and host a walking tour. 

His 2013 journey through Gambia capturing the images lasted for three months and the group camped or stayed in hunting lodges. 

He wanted to create an account of the communities that live along the banks to preserve the historic area before it was damaged.

He said: “The River Gambia is where the country gets its name. They planned to put a dam across it which would have disrupted the natural flow of the river. It’s one of the last major free-flowing rivers and they wanted to create a huge power grid.”

The Photo Swindon 2021 exhibition has been put together by Swindon-based Jennifer Berry. It is the first time the collection has been shown in the UK, having been showcased in New York.

Jason said he focuses on documentary photography because he enjoys capturing the natural aspects of people. 

One of his first images captured a group of boys. From a distance it looked as though they were part of a traditional ceremony, but upon closer inspection saw they had painted numbers on each other to play football.

They encountered hippopotamuses on their journey in two canoes, when they were guided by a  Senegalese man and two local fishermen. 

Jason said: “We did loads of research but we almost hit one. It was fast-flowing water and the Senegalese man shouted as it came up, it veered off – I think we scared it as much as it scared us.

“We would paddle 20km a day and look on the satellite map on an iPad to see any villages we could pull into.”

He added: “The river is like being on the sea and there were big waves bringing water onto the canoes so we could have got caught in the bank as the river is so wide with shallow thick mud. It was pretty frightening as we couldn’t paddle and could have got swooped up in a bad way.”

Jason believes social media has damaged trust as people are concerned about pictures appearing online. 

But he says how visitors approach and interact with the community is key.

“I did some work with some ladies and they really appreciated it  and they let me take some pictures of them in the straw fields," he said. "It’s important to the local people they understand what the mission was.”

Jason will be in the park until July 11 before the exhibition moves to the GWR Park and then Queens Park.

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