If I wanted to go on a safari to Africa, planning a trip would be relatively straightforward and simple. However, while a safari is a possibility, my main objective is to go to the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and if luck and funds hold out, Chad. You might ask, "Why go to these places?" There are a number of reasons and none of them are, "I want to somewhere dangerous to get my adrenaline flowing."
Reasons for going:
1. This is the sort of photography I want to do. Conflict, culture, humanitarian...with a little street photography mixed in.
2. These are places most people will never see.
3. I should be able to get editors to take notice simply by virtue of going to these places.
4. I have done many things in my life but this journey would be the challenge of a lifetime. I want to see if I have what it takes to get great photos and come back alive.
Some of the negatives:
1. It's extremely expensive to get to these places and to stay there. A tentative budget for a three-week trip to the D.R.C. and C.A.R. is between $12,000-$15,000. I can come up with 20-30% of this. The rest I need to raise. Not easy and fundraising is almost as painful as my Plantars Fasciitis.
Airfare - $2250
Hotel @$150 a night x 22 - $3300 - Hotels are vastly overpriced and while I may be able to save depending on the location, these are not the sorts of places where you budget $50 a night for a hotel.
Fixer @$100 a day x 20 - $2000 - This is a must, especially since my French is limited to a few words.
Bodyguards - 2 @$25 per day x 10 days = $500. I do not foresee needing bodyguards every day.
Food / Water @30 a day x 21 - $630
Land Transport - $1000
Bribes - $1000
Visas to the D.R.C. and C.A.R. - $400
Buffer / Emergency - $1000
Total - $12,080
Violence in Central African Republic Has Reached Terrifying Levels
This is what I view as properly prepared - and minimally so. From what I know, what I've been told by those who have traveled there, to simply go to the C.A.R. with an airline ticket and a smile is probably the worst thing to do. I might be able to get by on less but...would you risk your life for a couple thousand dollars? Prices are often at the whim of the particular person one is dealing with so...more money, less stuff.
2. It's dangerous. I would be lying if I said this didn't worry me. I can travel around with a fixer and a bodyguard(s) but in the end, living depends a lot on luck.
3. The threat of having equipment taken from me. Bribes might help. This is another one of the many expenses one needs to consider while in Central Africa.
Preparation for Trip to Africa
There are numerous other destinations where I can travel, all far less dangerous then the Central African Republic. Some I am considering:
Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Japan, Indonesia, India, Kashmir and several countries in Europe. Anytime I go to Europe I always feel the need to go to Amsterdam. I could go to Rome, Paris, Prague, or any number of other places. Will they meet my photographic needs? Sure, but in a very different way. Maybe this is part of the problem. In the past, I took photos of boxing and travel. Now I am more interested in travel, culture, conflict, and human rights. I am always interested in street photography.
Part of me wants to go to Africa. I definitely want to go to Africa - eventually. Without a doubt, photographing the Central African Republic will drain me. It may even change me. It is that sort of a place. And I'm not sure it would change me for the better.
Another part of me wants to go elsewhere. Maybe I could go to Tokyo and get drunk with Daido Moriyama. Making decisions has never been my strong suit and I know I am wasting time over thinking things. I could put up a poll and go where readers and viewers decide. There was a guy who used to do this. But it's probably best if just play pin the tail on the map, buy a ticket, and go.
One thing is certain, my patience with myself is running thin. It won't be much longer before I throw my arms up and say, Okay, I'm going here!
Available on Amazon
in Print and Kindle formats