A decade after it finally came to an end, the west African state of Sierra Leone is slowly emerging from the shadow of it’s devastating and brutal civil war that ripped the country apart. It is a country that Danish-born, London-based photographer Kim Thue first travelled to document daily life as a Danish charity re-established a jungle hospital in the very heart of the country.
However, he was to quickly realise that photographically he wasn’t ‘inventive enough to escape the stereotypical and self-perpetuating images of impoverished African’s,’ all to frequently fed to us by the worlds media. He says, ‘everywhere I looked I saw images that seemed familiar to me, images of the malnourished child, of disease and poverty.’ Images that, rather sadly, he feels we have all largely become immune to.
As he stepped back from the scene before him and acknowledged the realities, Thue decided to travel to the capital city, Freetown; and begin what he terms ‘another kind of visual rummage.’ Arriving in the city not as a photographer but as a ‘traveler with a camera,’ he spent hours wandering the chaotic streets absorbing it’s atmosphere and looking to make some form of connection. Whilst taking the occasional photograph as he explored the city, Thue struggled to make the emotional connection he sought.
Three weeks on, and with the growing sense of isolation, he says he was beginning to get lonely, when by chance he came across the suburb of Big Wharf — the largest of the cities slums — and it was here that things began to change.
In this community on the periphery of society, Thue says ‘I soon found strong echoes of myself within these people and I knew I had finally outlined a territory to explore’ and a project that he would be able to call his own, that would mark the beginning of what would become his first book, Dead Traffic — a title which takes it’s name from the words written in the red dust that had settled upon an abandoned car, and possibly stands as a metaphor for what Thue encountered around him — made during the course of two visits that totalled ten months during which time he lived within the community of Big Wharf.
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