Gambia – Portraits of Beauty, Elegance and Dignity

I went to Gambia thinking the hardest aspect of the country to capture would be the people. I’m not a natural portrait photographer and was a little nervous of asking the locals if it was OK to take their picture. Not everybody wants a lens stuck in their face when you’re trying to earn an honest days pay selling fish or vegetables at the market – and that’s fine and to be respected.

Gambia portrait of a lady

But in the end the combination of a good guide, a bit of friendly banter and some polite requests resulted in me not only coming back with hundred of portraits – but also some of my fondest memories from the trip. The friendly interaction with the locals – the kids at Kanuma Village, the stallholders of Brikama market, the old man of the Makasutu Forest…. fantastic memories.

gambian resting

Memories of people are often something you come away with after visiting a foreign country. The people of Gambia I found to be something special. Very hospitable indeed and taking life at a slow and relaxed pace. Rush and panic is something that does not happen in Gambia.

child portrait

I found Gambian people to be extremely polite. Softly spoken but not shy. never choosing to get into arguments the Gambian people love the tranquil way of life and harmony.

Social Wellness Walks

There are many tribal groups in the country. For example the Mandinka, but also Wolof, Fula, Jola and Serahule. the capital of Gambia, Banjul is where the Wolof are concentrated and in the country and rural areas the main group is the Mandinka.

shopper in the market

All have their own cultures, traditions etc but the way they all live in harmony has given way to a combination of all being a Gambian culture.

happy people

When visiting a country it is always great to discover some of the local foods and traditions. For instance a main one is Jollof rice (benachin), which is a dish of spiced meat and veg with tomato puree and of course cooked with rice.

colourful clothes

Palm wine is interesting too. Basically they collect the sap from the top of a certain kind of palm tree. The sap is low alcohol sweet when drawn immediately. But if left a few hours to ferment it becomes stronger in alcohol and less sweet but more sour.

leave it too long or over a day you get vinegar!

serious face

The people in these portrait photographs have left an imprint on me together with everyone I met in Gambia. People helping to naturally create wonderful memories and moments.

I have nothing more that I can say but enjoy the beauty, elegance and dignity of the Gambian people.

wise man gambia

Thank you to the people of Brikama Market, Mandina Lodges, Makasutu Forest and Kanuma Village. Thank you The Gambia Experience. Thank you Gambia.

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  1. I’m just about to discover The Gambia and its people. Thank you for the taster ……. Can’t wait to get there now!

  2. Gary Yeates says:

    Lovely portraits. Not much of a creative comment I’m sorry but they are nice.

  3. Such lovely portraits Tom. Already seems a long time ago. Happy memories!

  4. your photos have that extra something, there is a serene energy in them that sets them very much apart….thanks for sharing them.

  5. I love these. Gambia is practically at the top of my travel bucket list. Everyone I’ve ever met from there has been so full of life and joy, even though many of them had nothing compared to us in the “west,” and you captured that warmth.

    I’m curious. When you say portrait, does that mean that you were able to ask them, say, “Please could you turn to face the light?” or that the photos were planned or were they spontaneous?

    1. Tom Warburton says:

      Thanks for the lovely comments everyone. The straight answer to Linda’s question is that some were posed and some were not. I have a small portable printer which plugs into my DSLR – so lots of people were willing to spend a bit of time getting their portrait taken as I could give them a copy right then and there. This makes for not only for some good shots (hopefully) but it turns the whole experience into more of an interaction and a joint effort. Generally people were delighted with this as they could take the print home to show their loved ones. As discussed in the Brikarma market post at times I had a crowd 3 or 4 deep waiting to have their picture taken. I also end up being asked to take portraits of almost all the hotel staff once they found out I had the printer.

      Having said this – not all the portraits were posed – some of the pictures here were more spontaneous and taken in a village (see the Kumpo post) or in a market.

      Again thanks for the comments.

  6. Beautiful work of beautiful people.

  7. Kate Willis says:

    Fantastic portraits Tom – you’ve captured their dignity and beauty. 🙂

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