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Jason Florio March 20, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Libya.
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Libya, 2004

Jason Florio (b.1965, England) has been based in New York since 1996. He apprenticed with a number of top NYC fashion photographers, but soon decided that ‘realism’ was his real calling. In 2000 he crossed Taliban controlled Afghanistan and in August 2001 he photographed the Taliban opposition forces; returning to NYC on Sept 5th to be at the foot of the Twin Towers as they collapsed. Since then he has worked all across the Middle East, Africa and South America for publications including The New Yorker, Outside, Men’s Journal and The New York Times.  He returns yearly to his ‘other home’, The Gambia where he has been producing large format black and white portraits for the past 12 years, documenting the people who live around a sacred area of land called ‘Makasutu’. He has had a number of solo exhibits in NYC, and his work is in the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Museum of art.

About the Photograph:

“In 2004 I received a grant through The Aperture Foundation to produce the first ever assigned story for the magazine in their fifty year history. I was told that I could create my ‘dream’ assignment, which was both an exhilarating and frightening prospect. I wanted to go somewhere that had not had a lot of recent coverage and was emerging on the global stage. So I decided to produce a piece on Libya,  with the initial title in my head of ‘The Emerging Youth of LIbya’. So my focus on arrival was to find the youth, see what they were up to, what influenced them, what it was like to grow up under the shadow of Quadaffi, and how they related to the ‘outside’ world. 

After spending a month roaming across the country I felt that I needed to present a broader picture to put the youth in context of their environment. While in the southern desert town of Sebha I went into a store to buy supplies for a trip into the desert. I saw, what seemed so out of place, postcards of Grace Kelly in the shop window. As I bent to make a quick snap of them, my Toureg guide approached the window from the outside to look at his reflection and adjust his ‘shirsh’ (scarf), and that became the picture. I felt to me this was a good representation of the dichotomy that exists in modern Libya: the glamour of the West and the traditions of an Arab nation within which the youth are raised. I retitled the story when I got back to NYC and I showed it to Melissa Harris the photo-director to – This is Libya.”

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