Am in Benin
June 22 - July 20
Opening on June 22, 5 pm
Opening speech by Lars Boering, director of World Press Photo
The work of photographer Carla Kogelman is well known for her series of children. These series can be considered unique because Kogelman is able to show the world of these children from their point of view. This time she created a series in which she looks together with and through the eyes of the children.
Benin has a long history of slave trade and the Voodoo culture one can sense everywhere. The population is relatively young and has a high fertility rate; each family owns around five children. The landscape is breathtaking. It has a view that shows miles of palm beaches. The country is flourishing, although the high prices of legal gasoline are forcing the local population to buy it illegally and cheaply. Gasoline comes from Nigeria illegally and is sold everywhere in the country.
Although it is one of the poorest countries in Africa, it is perhaps the resilience and “drive” of the Beninese and the country itself that so inspires Carla in this series. The same resilience Carla admires in two sisters she photographed. To be able to get as close as possible to these children, two aspects are crucial: time and trust. Kogelman traveled to Benin twice to spend time with the sisters Josline and Lois Diboma. She was able to get to know them and their country through spending time with them. Together they explored the country of Benin and this is how Kogelman learned to know many of the people who live there. She found out how the people built up their country and for the first time in Kogelman’s work, not only the small girls are the subject of her series, but also the country itself with its inhabitants.
Since 2016, Kogelman has been following the Amsterdam sisters Josline and Loïs. She followed them both in the Netherlands as in West Africa. The sisters Josline (12) and Loïs (10) have a Dutch mother and a Cameroonian father. In 2017, the family from IJburg decided to leave behind Amsterdam to live in Cameroon for a few years. Even then, Kogelman traveled the family for three weeks and captured how the girls had to adapt to their new lives as expat children. There she started a series about the two sisters JoloDibo “La terre de mon père” (Jolodibo, my father’s country).
Series about photographers following children are familiar in Dutch photography history, name for example Ed van der Elsken. However, Kogelman uses her role as a photographer quite different: by making herself invisible. She does not intervene, she does not direct, but records what she sees: a magical world where we all crave for.
Carla Kogelman (Raalte, 1961) graduated in 2011 from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam in the direction of Documentary and Portrait. Before that, she worked for 25 years as a theater producer. Her photography has been nominated many times for prestigious prizes on national and international level. She has won a large number of prizes, including two times the first prize at the World Press Photo (2014 and 2018) and six times the Zilveren Camera (2011, 2015, 2016 and 2017).