Die Fulani gehören zu den letzten großen nomadischen Völkern der Erde. Ihre Gemeinschaft besteht aus rund 35 Millionen Mitgliedern, die in 15 westafrikanischen Ländern leben: von der staubigen Sahelzone bis hinunter zu den üppigen Regenwäldern. Als Hirten folgen sie mit ihrem Vieh dem Takt der Jahreszeiten.
Bis vor wenigen Jahren pflegten sie ihren Lebensstil weitgehend unbemerkt vom Rest der Welt. Nun hat sich alles geändert: Verteilungskämpfe, Dürren, Modernisierungsschübe und andere Herausforderungen bedrohen den Lebensstil der Fulani. Den Alltag in Zeiten des Wandels hat der spanische Fotograf Luis Tato für die Agentur AFP in eindringlichen Bildern festgehalten.
First of all we’d be interested to know what did you experience during the photo shoot and what made you pick that particular theme ?
This Project was initially born as an special AFP’s investigative report about the Fulani people in West Africa. The Fulani, one of the last nomadic people of the planet are a community of some 35 million people scaterred accross 15 countries in West Africa region. Until a few years ago, they pursued their ancient lifestyle largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. Currently, all that has changed. Conflicts over land, droughts and ecosystem variations due to climate change and other challenges are threatening the Fulani lifestyle creating a crisis of interests and identity. It is an interesting project with some of the main global challenges of our time are involved: climate change, overpopulation, cultural globalization, religious extremism, inequality, etc.
I was very glad when AFP News Agency decided to choose me as the photographer to shoot the Nigeria’s part of the project and they sent me on assignment to work on this reportage. My experiences while shooting were very diverse and intense, I realized how complex is the story and the complicated and intense challenges that the Fulani and other groups in the region are facing. On the other hand, despite working adn shooting in tough conditions during exhausting day I had an incredible time while shooting, being able to discover the Fulani culture surrounded by kind people that allowed me to enter in their lives and shared with me everything they had.
When and where were you born, where have you been educated and what are stages of your professional career?
I was born and raised in the rural Spain and I didn’t study photography. I was interested in visual arts and graphic design and my studies went in that direction. While I was studying visual arts almost accidentally I started to take pictures with an old digital camera and suddenly discovered a visual language that attracted me. I’ve been always an enthusiast of story telling and a journalism consumer from a very young age so naturally, I started to explore documentary photography and photojournalism as a way to develop those interests and discovered an exciting way to tell stories that allowed me to explore my own narrative. Eventually, it became my full-time profession when I shot a reportage that was awarded with a prestigiuos grant in Spain that allowed me to start working as an intern photojournalist in one of the leading and most important Spanish newspapers. After working in the paper for two years, I decided to move to Nairobi, Kenya, where I currently live and work as a stringer photojournalist for the prestigious news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) covering features and general news in Africa – mainly East Africa region-.
What is your standard camera equipment? Is there any special or favorite gear?
I work with two Canon 5D Mark IV cameras currently. I normally use two bodies with a 35mm and a 50mm lenses. Depending on the story I have to cover I can use my 24-70 and my 70-200, I always carry those lenses with me too while on assignment because covering certaing topics in photojournalism sometimes you need a zoom to work properly – for instance sports or press conferences when you can move from the spot you are shooting. I am a big fan of prime lenses though and specially my 35mm 1.4 is a lens I couldn’t live without.
How do you process/edit your images? What particular darkroom technique, software or apps do you utilize?
In photojournalism and specially working for a serious news agency the postproduction of images is very simple and limited so you don’t create any sustantial change from the original file. My postproducion technique is very simple, I normally shoot in Raw and I edit my images with Photo Mechanic 5 and Adobe Camera Raw. I do the selection of my favorite frames with PhotoMechanic and I postproduce those selected images with Adobe Camera Raw, just creating some basic adjustments in terms of white balance, contrast, levels and clarity.
Do you have photographic role models?
I have a lot of them. More than models I would say references. When I started to shoot pictures, I was very inspired by the work of the Magnum’s spanish photographer Cristina García-Rodero, she is just brilliant. After that, as a color photography lover I started to explore some other documentary photographers shooting color that inspired me like Tomas Munita or Daniel Berehulak. I’ve always learned a lot from my close colleagues both in the newspaper and currently at the news agency – it is great to ask questions and interact with colleagues with long experience in this profession. For example, lately I’ve been truly inspired by the work of some of my colleagues at AFP News Agency like John Wessels, Gulshan Khan or Marco Longari.
Is there a portfolio or photobook that inspired you?
Some of my favorite photobooks ever are Alex Webb’s ‘Istanbul’ and Cristina Garcia Rodero’s ‘Transtempo’. The last photobooks that I bought and loved were John Moore’s ‘Undocumented’ and Jonas Bendiksen ‘The Last Testament’ – such a cool book!
Where can one find more of your photographic work?
My website is www.luistatophoto.com