Proverbs, Ducor Hotel, Monrovia, Liberia

Unsurprisingly for a society recently exposed to unimaginable cruelty, hardship and human suffering, religious graffiti in Liberia often strikes a decidedly desperate (and sometimes menacing) tone. Like almost all Sub-Saharan African countries, religion is a massively important part of Liberia’s daily communal life, Christianity is the most widely practiced of the major religions, followed by Islam. In practice, religious observance in West Africa is often a highly syncretic mix, which may incorporate familiar mainstream ritual, animist beliefs, superstition, and even traditional witchcraft.

This picture was taken inside the shell of the Ducor Hotel. High on a rocky promontory above the city, it was once one of Monrovia’s grandest buildings. Until at late as 2007 it was home to a large community of several hundred, otherwise homeless people. Clearance of the building debris began in 2010, readying it for its redevelopment as a hotel. However, given that the lease for redevelopment was signed by the now deposed Government of Libya, the project is in a very uncertain state.

Technique: the challenge was to rescue an interesting but rather low key, low contrast, digital negative. Post-production involved making the image black and white, in order to be able to ‘push’ the negative harder for exposure (together with contrast and saturation adjustments) whilst still retaining a naturalistic image.