In 2016, a surgical error in a German hospital led to a life-altering tragedy for my father: he lost seventy percent of his blood and did not receive a blood transfusion. As a result of negligent care, he suffered irreversible damage to his nervous system. This left him blind and radically shifted the course of his life. Once a computer scientist who reveled in reading and coding, he was suddenly confined to his home, navigating a new reality without sight and full of inescapable pain.
In October 2020, I began a photographic documentation of my father's life, hoping to capture his journey of adaptation and recovery in his apartment near Frankfurt. After years of declining health, he decided to seek alternative treatment in Ghana, his homeland, which he had not visited since 2015. Under the care of a herbal medicine specialist, my father experienced a resurgence of well-being; he was able to exercise and even began to discern the outline of my fingers one evening.
But this progress was short-lived. Just before our planned return to Germany, his health took a sudden turn for the worse. On August 8, 2021, my father passed away in Accra, leaving an indelible void.
This body of work is the foundation for DELIRIUM.
Published in National Geographic, Jockeys of Accra is deeply rooted in my own personal history. My passion for horses started at a young age, evolving into a side gig as a racehorse trainer and competitor in endurance horse races covering long distances up to 120 km. When I planned a trip to Ghana for my main project, Resilience, I knew I wanted to explore more during my time there. A search on Facebook led me to Michael, a local jockey in his twenties, and thus began this story.
In early 2021, a group of enthusiasts in Ghana founded the Horse Racing Association, aiming to secure a place on the international equestrian map—a significant feat for a country rarely associated with this sport. This initiative works to correct the historical underrepresentation of Africans in the modern horse industry, which is predominantly shaped by class and pedigree.
Most top-performing racehorses come from esteemed lineages, which dictate not only their care but also their athletic potential. In Ghana, however, jockeys work with horses available at a mere fraction of the cost of their high-pedigree counterparts. These Ghanaian jockeys are committed to rebuilding the sport in their country, unassisted by Western influences or institutions.
The project adopts a hybrid photographic approach, employing both analog film and digital full-frame cameras—the latter of which I generally use for filming. This duality mirrors the blend of traditional and modern influences that these jockeys navigate as they forge a new narrative in the world of equestrian sports.
Cocoa is more than just a commodity; it's a lifeline and a legacy for many in Ghana, including my own family. Ghana stands as the second-largest producer of cocoa globally and saw record crops in 2021. Yet, the prosperity of this multi-billion dollar industry seldom trickles down to the very farmers who cultivate the land. My quest to unravel this discrepancy took me to various touchpoints in the cocoa production network: from the bureaucratic halls of COCOBOD in Accra to the sprawling seedling farms in Oyoko and Tafo, and finally to the modest cocoa farm of Ebrahim Mensah in Essueshyia—a farmer who ekes out a meager living from his harvest.
My father, who was born in Bekwai and raised in the Ghanaian countryside of Sanfo, was no stranger to the hardships and hopes tied to cocoa farming. He had to start working at a very young age due to the untimely death of his father and his mother's illness. Cocoa farming became one of his primary sources of income for a time. Therefore, this project isn't just an investigation; it's a personal journey that echoes the labor and aspirations of my father and countless others like him.
Published in Bloomberg Markets, this reportage aims to shed light on the disconcerting imbalances within the cocoa industry. It also speaks to broader efforts for economic autonomy, as a staggering majority of Ghana's cocoa beans are processed abroad—draining much of the value chain away from the country.
In 2012, as a young art student with a passion for equine life, I found myself in Pululahua, one of only two inhabited volcanic craters in the world. Located in the north of Ecuador's bustling capital, Quito, this tranquil haven presented a stark contrast to the academic world I left behind for a few months to lead equestrian tours on sturdy Criollos in the Andes. It was here, in the caldera, that I took my first steps into the realm of photography.
Having just purchased my first camera, a Canon A1, I loaded it with Kentmere film and set out to capture the essence of this unique ecosystem. A decade later, that very Canon A1 would serve me in projects across continents, but Pululahua holds a special place as a fertile ground for my beginnings in the darkroom.
The micro-climate within the crater lends itself to rich agricultural activity, enabling the local community to live in near self-sufficiency. Clouds fill the crater in the early evenings, amassing into thick layers of fog, embodying the Quichua meaning of Pululahua: Cloud of Water. These natural phenomena not only offered a surreal setting for my monochromatic approach at that time but also signify the quiet that define life within the crater.