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.”

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | Yuri Sapronov, an oligarch from Kharkiv. As war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, some economic actors and locals are concerned about the long-term consequences of the conflict on the attractiveness of territories close to Russia. 18 July, 2022.
IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | Janvier Houedouto, the co-founder of a small school made of wood and metal sheets in the heart of the slum in Makoko. Lagos, Nigeria. 20 January, 2022.

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.

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | The Covid-19 Pandemic has financially strangled Makoko where prices of basic food (oil, rice, flour, beans) have skyrocketed and led many families to give up sending their children to school. 20 January, 2022.

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.

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | "Of our 200 employees, only half a dozen are still in Kharkiv," says Oleksii Kholodenko from Kharkiv. As war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, some economic actors and locals are concerned about the long-term consequences of the conflict on the attractiveness of territories close to Russia. 15 July, 2022.

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.

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | Anna Brus, Head of Trade Credit for Eastern Ukraine at OTP Bank. As war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, some economic actors and locals are concerned about the long-term consequences of the conflict on the attractiveness of territories close to Russia. 19 July, 2022.

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.

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | Sylvain Hounkpe, the principal of the Keys to Success school, notes, like many others, a wave of dropouts in the schools of the slum in Makoko. Lagos, Nigeria. 20 January, 2022.

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.

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | More than 10 million Nigerian children are not in school. In the few schools in poor neighborhoods, the fruits of years of progress are threatened by a wave of uncontrolled inflation. Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria. 20 January, 2022.

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.

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | More than 10 million Nigerian children are not in school. In the few schools in poor neighborhoods, the fruits of years of progress are threatened by a wave of uncontrolled inflation. Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria. 20 January, 2022.

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.

IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | A couple passes the military section of the cemetery nº18 after burying their son who died on the front line in Kharkiv, Ukraine. 16 July, 2022.
IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | As war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, some economic actors and locals are concerned about the long-term consequences of the conflict on the attractiveness of territories close to Russia. 15 July, 2022.
IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | The north wing of a shopping center in Kharkiv, hit by two Russian rockets in mid-July. As war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, some economic actors and locals are concerned about the long-term consequences of the conflict on the attractiveness of territories close to Russia. 15 July, 2022.
IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | A destroyed commercial building in the suburbs of Kharkiv. As war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, some economic actors and locals are concerned about the long-term consequences of the conflict on the attractiveness of territories close to Russia. 14 July, 2022.
IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | According to the latest figures released by the UN in January 2022, nearly 635 million children worldwide remain affected by full or partial school closures. In low-income countries, learning losses have left up to 70% of students under 10 unable to read simple text, up from 53% before the pandemic. Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria. 18 January, 2022.
IMAGO/Le Pictorium
IMAGO / Le Pictorium / Sadak Souici | Nigeria faces a huge demographic problem, said Charlie Robertson, a British economist. By 2050, the country's population could surpass the 400 million mark. Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria. 23 January, 2022.
All photos by Sadak Souici as part of our Local Heroes series.