My trip to Mali was not intentional, and you could say that I found myself as an accidental tourist. A chain of events that began at my local brasserie took me half way across the world and into the Sahara Desert. Armed with a yellow fever shot and four cameras I flew to Mali as a volunteer for The Festival Au Desert, the annual gathering of the Touareg Nomads. I had no expectations, only vague ideas and I knew next to nothing about my destination. If I had, I might have opted for a beach, sunscreen and a good book.
There is something about the air in Mali that makes you feel content; it is a warm sweet breeze that lulls. The terrain changes constantly bringing into your field of vision different trees and flowers every few miles, camels, sheep and goats wander freely and you feel blessed to be a part of it for just a few moments.
The hardship that undoubtedly exists there is not the first thing you notice as everyone seems happy. Not resigned or angry, but courageous and grateful.
I constantly felt that they could teach us all a great deal.
There are a thousand pictures that I did not take that I wish I had, driving out of the desert and into the sunrise with the moon behind me. Shooting stars in the Sahara, sitting with new friends around an open fire and sharing stories of how we all came to be in that same place. These are precious memories.
With this collection of photographs I hope to show the incredible beauty of Mali, the elegance and pride of its people.
View the full collection by Bryony Shearmur:
I am a London born, LA based, fine art, concept and portrait photographer. My passion for the visual arts was apparent from very early on and at age 10 I saved up to buy my first camera, a Nikon FM2 that I still use.
I was raised and educated outside London but left school to attend St Martins School of Art to study photography. I followed this with a chapter working as a costume designer and photographic stylist, broadening my creative horizons and discovering an interest in, and love for textiles which play a huge part in my creative and photographic expression today.
Of course in my twenties I had to start a band so I left costume and took to the road spending several years touring and playing music, traveling around Europe and Scandinavia, always with camera in hand of course. I returned with a new body of images and turned my back on music in favour of photography.
In 2001 I re-located to Los Angeles and immediately began to document my new city. I had my first one man show 6 months after arriving in LA, a collection of Fine Art nature and urban landscape pieces.
My second show was a complete departure and my first real experience shooting people, it was a turning point for me. Inspired by the work of photographers like George Hurrell and Yousef Karsh I dedicated my time to shooting editorial portraits.
My work has been featured in magazines such as Vogue, Uncut, LA Weekly, London Times Magazine, Q, Vice, Talent Monthly and many more. My years writing and performing music made for an easy transition into the LA music scene shooting live performances for artists like Radiohead, Kate Nash, Dido, Nine Inch Nails, Radio 4, Saadiq Raphael, Jonelle Monae and a host of visiting and up and coming bands.
In 2007 I was awarded an honorary mention in the International Photographer of the Year award for my portraiture.
In 2008 I was invited to visit Mali to shoot a music festival in the Sahara. This was life changing and definitely altered the way I shoot. I discovered a new artistic voice and this body of work is a portrait of both a country and its people.
Since returning from Africa my creative horizons have changed again to include more ways of translating myself. I always wanted to present the images in as many different ways as possible so I started printing on silk, weaving photograpahs from beads and finding new ways of marrying old and new technologies, I wanted to incorporate writing and other arts and crafts disciplines, in short, I have returned to some of my artistic roots.
These days creating is less about a technical ability or commercial value, but about my own voice which for now is firmly rooted in a commitment to simplicity and above all expressing an idea. I want my images to radiate my experience as I live it, I aim to create really beautiful things that reflect this world in all of its glory.
Nature, people, architecture, found-things, balloons, words, thoughts and feelings; they all inspire. I hope these images inspire you just a little too.