On my second day in Luanda, the capital, I headed down to Ilha, a long promenade that hugs the beach. It's a place where Angolans from all levels of society come to hang out and enjoy the beautiful coast line. As I walked towards the end of the promenade, I saw a huge group of boys gathered to watch some of their friends practicing judo moves on the beach. It was something akin to the crush you get when street performers set up in NYC. At first, I couldn't tell what was going on the crowd was so thick, but as they saw me trying to move in with a camera, the crowd parted slightly and I was able to get a few quick snaps both of the judokas as the crowd. These two boys had both an intense and at the same time laid-back gaze that I became very familiar with the more portraits I made in Angola.
I flew down to Benguela, a coastal town in the southern part of the country to experience some of the contrasts between the capital and other provinces. In order to best see as much as possible, I hired a local taxi driver to be my fixer while I was there and so that I could see as much of an unvarnished view of the place as possible. He wasn't afraid to show me some both the highs and lows. Benguela is a beautiful, clean colonial town, but it also has very high unemployment and encapsulates many of the challenges (and opportunities) Angola faces as it emerges from so many decades of conflict. I was able to visit a massive frozen fish processing facility that employs around 400 locals. Women are doing most of the sorting and organizing while men were doing more of the heavy lifting. I loved the strength and power of this woman (and she broke into a huge grin right after I took this picture...a total contrast from the glare she had at the moment I snapped it).
Benguela Fish Market
This is by far the strangest photo I think I took in Benguela. One of the first places we stopped as I began to explore the area was the fish market. This is sprawling, quasi-informal amalgamation of fish and other wares right on the beach. It is a very visceral experience that combines heat (and a certain listlessness at mid-day), the smell of drying (and rotting fish), extreme poverty, etc.. It was very intense. I saw this group of teenagers sitting on a fishing boat and went to snap a photo. The instant I did, this toddler strutted into the frame with an almost comical level of attitude.
Porto Amboim - Girl
Porto Amboim is a small fishing village a few hours south of Luanda. I passed through as I drove south to visit a farm about 5 hours away from the capital. Passing through Porto Amboim you see a much different side of the country - one that is primarily driven by subsistence rather than industrial fishing. The highway itself is quite new as one of the first priorities post-civil war was infrastructure build out. Just a few years before, my 5 hour journey would've taken 2 days. I spent some time walking around town and shooting (and incidentally also spent some time detained in the local police station as cameras are still met with quite a lot of suspicion). Prior to that, though, I was down on the beach talking to the local fishermen. Their kids were playing the water and this young girl had come up and was playing around the fishing boat. She was curious about the camera, as kids in Africa often are (which is one of the cool things about digital in that you can show them their portrait).
Porto Amboim - Pineapples
This is a continuation of time on the beach in Porto Amboim. This particular group was very suspicious of me taking photos and it took some time to get them to relax. However, this woman was definitely not thrilled that I was there. Sometimes it's better to ask forgiveness than permission though...
Porto Amboim 1
Probably my favorite image from my time in Porto Amboim - you can see this massive wreck of an ancient freighter on the main road passing through town and initially, seeing it caused me to stop, pull over and head to the beach. As I was talking to a few fishermen about the wreck, a group of women marched down with buckets on their heads and began to gather sand. I had a 20mm lens with me and the combination of the sky, the wreck, the women all just came together.
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Mike Magers is an emerging photographer who documents his frequent travels, which will be featured in Musée’s new travel section. Magers originally studied photography at ICP under the tutelage of Musée founder and Editor-In-Chief Andrea Blanch.