– March 3, 2013
After more than 25 years as a photographer, David Pace says a 2007 visit to Burkina Faso – a small, rural, and poor country in West Africa – changed his life.
"A week in the remote village of Bereba opened my eyes to a whole new world of photographic possibilities and projects,” he says. “The people were warm and welcoming. The landscape was stark but compelling. The culture was a complex mixture of tradition and modernity. Despite the logistical problems and the personal discomfort, I was determined to return to the village and explore it more in depth."
And he has, every year since.
A series of his photographs, Burkina Faso: Night and Day, is featured in the Main Gallery of the Griffin Museum January 17 through March 3. An opening reception is January 17, 7-8:30 p.m.
"Everything began to change after I started photographing in Burkina Faso,” Pace says. “I soon switched from shooting film to using a digital camera. I began working in color instead of black & white. I started to feel at home in the village and comfortable with this lifestyle."
He helped create a study abroad program through Santa Clara University in California that allows him to spend part of each year in the region.
"I have earned the trust of my friends and neighbors in the village and been allowed to photograph freely as a member of the community," Pace says. "I have become a participant in the life of the village rather than an observer."
He began attending weekly dances at a small outdoor club in Bereba, where he ventured on to the dance floor and began taking photographs. The series, called Friday Night, “has become a central component of my exploration of village life,” Pace says.
Paula Tognarelli, executive director and curator of the Griffin Museum, observes, "David Pace’s very kinetic Friday Night images triggered a corporeal response in me as I viewed them for the first time. I could imagine the heat and sounds of bodies dancing in the dark on the small dance floor of Le Cotonnier against the rhythmic beat of music."
The exhibit also includes photos of the Karaba brick quarries and the Tabtenga brick basin.
Tognarelli says the images "hover between performance art and land art as workers carve a bounty from the land…The workers and brick cubes move indiscriminately across the landscape forming temporary installations against a backdrop of rich earthen hues."
Pace says his goal is to be a "witness for the community of Bereba, to document the changes that are occurring at an ever faster pace and to create a visual record of the time we have shared."
"Life in Bereba never ceases to be challenging,” he adds. “The constant heat, the insects, the poor roads, the lack of electricity and running water – all of these things require patience and firm resolve. But the vitality of the people, the austere beauty of the landscape and the sheer intensity of every moment keep me engaged day and night."