Canadian photographer and filmmaker Devin John Tepleski was working on an archaeology dig in Ghana when he was asked by villagers, 2,700 of whom would soon to be displaced by the Bui Hydroelectric Dam, to tell their story, which they felt was being ignored by the government and media. The result is a surreal series of portraits of men, women and children standing knee-deep in the Black Volta river taken in 2009, before the river was dammed to flood a 440-square-kilometer gorge.
A student in his last year of a degree in visual anthropology—think Margaret Mead’s films—at the University of Victoria, Tepleski was drawn to photography after seeing Masahisa Fukase’s Solitude of Ravens. Tepleski initially struggled to find a way to combine the two passions. “Anthropology has an appalling history when it comes to representing people from far away places,” says Tepleski. “And anyone working in photography would be keenly aware of the representational issues that have plagued that form as well.” But Tepleski realized as an anthropologist he had the potential, unlike photojournalists, to make a long term commitment to a community, and take a more collaborative approach.