Reality of life in Djibouti poor villages, and my notes as a documentary photographer

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The sunrise woke him from his sleep. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

At least this so called house is in consistent with the environment. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

 1) Photos in colors .. So I wanted, to be realistic images convey reality as it is, in its colors and spirit. For me, while showing a documentary picture I try to be detached from my feelings and fanciful art, not express, but to convey. I want to communicate with the receiver (the reader of the image) the reality that I’ve seen with my own eyes, perhaps feeling the nature of life they have, and thus when needed to conduct what is better for them be able to act upon that reality.

2) Portray the moment as it is .. I have a strict responsibility as a documentary photographer, to portray reality and its components as it is and the way they looked or act in their lives daily, I do not interfere nor ask for acting or posing. Yes, I photograph in front of them and asked permission to shoot them if needed, but do not interfere, and in most pictures even let them indulge in the practice of their lives or their daily actions and then picking up the usual image to be truer to express their reality and their lives.

Kids mostly pare foot, while adults do not care about fashion consistency. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

The Bully boy. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.


A house made of metal sheets. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

3) Do not portray grief, but portray life .. and this is relative, what we may see sorrow and miserable life they may see a normal life because they did not experienced other. So it’s my job to portray this fact in accordance with the specific purpose of this photographing. This is one of the main differences between documentary and the other kind of photography, in documentary photography often have a photographer’s agenda or specific topic that is required to be reflected through the images. Here, I want to show the receiver (especially in our rich region the GCC) which is the target audience of these photographs, to See the reality and differences from the reality of the life they have, and what might be taken for granted, such as electricity, or a room especially for each child of the family, or the availability of water. I worked on this objective through a set of photographs in a documentary realism without guidance or modified. My mission is to choose the subject, the characters, the angle and the contents within the window of the camera viewfinder, but what lies within the framework there were zero guidance towards it, of course except the portraits since it’s a portrait and it’s acceptable to have a minimum guidance.

Tough life got this little girls, but she is safe and secure with her father and family. Omar Jagaa village, Djibouti.


Simple life. Omar Jagaa village, Djibouti.

4) The first impression through the lens of 50 mm .. What you see in the pictures is through my first visit so it is for real my initial impressions towards them. So what you see in the pictures is what I saw with my own eyes there (or at least that was my plan), and what you feel when seeing these photos is exactly what I felt when taking them. That’s why I chose the wonderful Leica 50mm summilux asph lens, in addition to its high resolution detail images, it makes me come closer to my subjects, and make the contents of the frame more focused and effective.

Bread cook. Lake Assal village, Djibouti

Shepherdess. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

Shyness with a cursory glance at me at the door of their house. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

5) Variety of photos to create a state of understanding and public perception.. There are portraits, photos of nature, still life and Landscape.. and other types of imaging in targeted combination. And that to reach one goal, that to brought to the recipient (the reader’s of the photos) a sense of the physical nature of life there. I chose to show here some of the photos and not all the good ones, Instagram or my blog can’t fit all the pictures about that target, but maybe I will show the rest in other ways or mediums in the future to fulfil my documentary purposes of this project.

Harsh rocky ground, so they made a simple narrow paths for their slender feet. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

A house built os stones turn it to an oven, with an obsolete cloths, and that’s all what they got. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

6) Photographing with no clear agenda or a Shooting List.. As I said, it was my first visit and was meant to be initial photos on the reality of life there, and with the fact that this photography visit was done under the commission of Alrahmah International organisation (NGO), and there were no specific guidance what I can or should photograph, something like a heaven for a photographer to be free shooting what ever I like. However the primary goal was to see the nature of the situation and then later on to develop a photography projects to serve their humanitarian and developmental purposes. When I came back and start working on the photos I see clearly that I missed many images to be taken or issues to be highlighted better, as well as the images I now see with my mind but it’s not found in photographs taken by me. The plan was that we visit that place again with a clear purpose and a shooting list, and this may intercede for me with you.

7) Thematic approach.. I put the photos here and on Instagram without order, choosing the thematic approach that the images are collectively showing the issue. It is not a story but to raise the a mirror of the reality of poor villages in Djibouti.

Now I will leave you with the rest of the photos.

A young girl sitting with the baby in the shade. Lake Assal village, Djibouti.

When asked why they still live here, the answer was: “This is our land and the land of our forefathers, and we live on sheep grazing as it was for our forefathers before”. Lake Assal village, Djibouti

Life is beautiful, despite the harsh rocky ground.. well, at least in the eyes of those kids since that’s the only experience they ever have. Omar Jagaa village, Djibouti.



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    two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

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