2018 #25

Chronicles of the Lake Chad Basin

by Bénédicte Kurzen

Selected by
T J Boulting,
London, United Kingdom

Bol – Buduma

Selected by T J Boulting,
London, United Kingdom

Driven by a desire to reveal the turbulent history of The Lake Chad Basin in Africa, Bénédicte tells untold stories of the region and its people with empathy and compassion.


In my most recent work, I focus on the largest closed basin in Africa; the Lake Chad Basin. Because of its specific geographical location, it’s been witness to centuries of fascinating and turbulent historical episodes. Due to the presence of Boko Haram over the last seven years, there has been an increase in violent activity.

The images encapsulate my obsession with making sense of places that are in friction, and my favoured approach of exploring multiple story angles. In this particular chapter, I investigate, at a micro level, the different survival mechanisms of inhabitants in the face of apparent chaos and bloodshed. To address the complexity of the situation, chaos must be shown to be wrapped up in the continuity of history. The work is defined by its deliberate use of stark blacks and colours, with close-ups that look beyond the picturesque and bright scenery that characterises the Sahel region.


Ten years ago I based myself in Africa to be near areas where collisions and tensions define societies and the identities of their inhabitants. It is an ongoing project of self-awareness about Western preconceptions, and how photography became, for me, a tool to challenge and confront them.

To understand present-day Africa is to place the disruptive influence of colonisation alongside the missed opportunities since independence and the attraction of globalisation. I immersed myself in Nigeria some five years ago and believe photography has offered me a way to contribute to a more general narrative and dialogue about this vast and opaque country.


Empathy is the cement that binds me to the other photographers of NOOR agency; a photojournalism and documentary storytelling collective that focuses on contemporary global issues. It is the force that triggers my questioning, but doesn’t necessarily provide answers; it defines my approach but not always my content.

I find that there is a coldness to the photographic medium and the illusion of potential objectivity as we create documents. But my photographic moment is moved by an ongoing openness to the world and its complexity. It is a feeling that constantly allows me to be surprised and curious.

Read more (1 min read)

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Bénédicte Kurzen

Lagos, NG

Benedicte Kurzen

Bénédicte Kurzen

Lagos, NG

Always guided by a clear sense of ethics, Bénédicte Kurzen (b. 1980, France) feels a sense of urgency to confront the troubling realities of our world. For the past thirteen years, the photojournalist has provided in-depth visual coverage of conflict and socio-economic changes in the African continent where she has been based since 2008. In 2012, Kurzen became a full member of NOOR Photography Agency, which seeks to contribute to a growing understanding of the world by producing independent visual reports that stimulate positive social change and impact views on issues of global concern.

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