Photojournalist Sadak Souici, from IMAGO partner Le Pictorium, is curious about areas and subjects often excluded from mainstream media. Even reporting out of places like Ukraine where the mass circulation of images of shelling and destruction seems to define the conflict, Souici focused on the economic consequences and personal accounts. His recent project out of Makoko, Nigeria on the other hand, sheds light on a forgotten community and its people.
For our Local Heroes series, IMAGO spoke to Souici about these two projects, his relationship to photojournalism and its significance in today’s world.
“We are image journalists who must report stories as close to reality as possible. In recent years, hundreds of images have circulated on social media about conflict, politics and the environment. Our role is to verify the information and the images that are in the field.”
What first drew you to photojournalism and what is important for you to show in your stories?
Photojournalism has attracted me since my childhood thanks to the photos of James Nachtwey, Gilles Caron, Larry Burrows and Catherine Leroy. I remember the first time I saw the photo of Gilles Caron during the Biafra war with the soldier and the shells strapped to his head. I thought, ‘I want to be here and tell this soldier’s story.’
The most important thing for me to show in my stories is to be as close to people as possible to inform them of their situation.
How do you see your role as a photojournalist and why do you think it matters?
We are image journalists who must report stories as close to reality as possible. In recent years, hundreds of images have circulated on social media about conflict, politics and the environment. Our role is to verify the information and the images that are in the field.
Photos of the war in Ukraine are everywhere now, but your project focuses on a very specific consequence — What made you choose this as your focus point?
I often develop my subjects alongside the news to focus on countries where the press is lacking.
What are some of the most telling moments that stood out to you throughout your time reporting?
The things that struck me are the openness of people despite very difficult situations and also the respect for our work as photojournalists.
Can you tell us a bit about Makoko? How did you come across this story?
The Makoko slum is located in the megalopolis of Lagos, 22 million inhabitants, and the economic heart of Nigeria. It is infamous for housing some 200,000 people, without running water or electricity. I discovered Makoko during my research on the situation of impoverished people in West Africa. I have been working on these subjects for several years, like in Guinea Conakry or in Dakar.
How did you approach the subjects and how were you received by locals as a photojournalist? What are some of your most striking moments from this project?
The angle of my subject was the consequences of inflation on education. The repercussions are catastrophic in Makoko’s families – families had the choice between eating and sending part of the child to school. The clan leaders were very reluctant to see me take pictures of this situation.
The highlight was the interview with a father who explained to me that he had to choose between these girls and these boys to go to school. He told the girls to stay home and work with their mother.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your work?
The more I progress in my life as a photojournalist, the more I think it is important to support it and explain it to the rest of the world.