Passport West Africa
Emilie Regnier (Canada)

Returning from a trip in northern Mali in March 2013, I decided to stay in Bamako. To do this I had to extend my visa. The photographer who took the ID pictures for my visa worked with an old Polaroïd mini portrait camera. This camera inspired me and I subsequently purchased one of my own at a local market, inspired by the idea of repurposing this camera, whose small-scale format offered an opportunity for a more intimate form of portrait. I wanted to photograph other things than conflict scene and distress.

For a while now I have wondered about the Malian identity. In a country where the North imposed sharia few months ago, where women were forced to wear the full veil and where a man accused of theft was to be amputated. In a country torn between wahhabisme Islam and liberal Islam, what about the Malian identity? I have since then extended this portrait project to Senegal, Guinea Conakry and Ivory Coast.

Passport is the unrealistic desire to imagine a West Africa who shares the same passport. An Africa that is not dependent of the borders imposed by the compromise of the former colonial power. The desire to move away from a visual treatment that seeks a tribal Africa, where we often see pictures of famine, war, conflict at the expense of urban landscape that moves away from stereotypes preconceived by the West. It is also an attempt to show photographic truth located in the bodily presence of young West Africans proudly negotiating their future.

Emilie Regnier is a Canadian Haitian photographer born in Canada in 1984, and spent her childhood in Africa, mainly Gabon. In 2008 she moved to Dakar, Senegal where she was based until 2015. Now her work is taking place between Europe and Africa and she is currently based in Paris. Regnier has worked in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and throughout Africa. Her work has appeared in numerous international publications such as Le Monde, Le Monde Magazine, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, International Courier, Foam, Yet, among many others. Regnier was part of the 2014 Joop Swart Masterclass and her passport West Africa project was selected for the 2014 edition of Foam talent issue.