A Wedding Photographer in Sierra Leone, West Africa
Bouncing across the water at 5am. Cheap energy drinks, with may too much sugar in them, were being handed out while an old episode of Mr Bean played on the TV in the corner without sound. The sun had only just started to rise but already you could feel the warmth and humidity on your skin. The smell of the sea mixed in with that unique blend of woodsmoke and cooked meat. It had been just over 3 years since I was last in Sierra Leone and dam it felt good. On my last trip I had spent 6 months living in Freetown (the capital of Sierra Leone) working for an NGO. It was here that I’d first found my passion for photography, fuelled by the people of Salone themselves. As my journey to become a wedding photographer started here, it seemed only fitting that it should also be the location of my first destination wedding celebrations. An awesome way to combine my two loves of travel and photography.
The water taxi from the airport pulled up to the dock in Freetown where I was welcomed by Sharron who’s wedding celebrations (the first part to be help in Sierra Leone and the second in Ireland next Summer) I’d come to photograph. I’d met Sharron (originally from Ireland) and her husband to be Samson during my last time here. Being a fun and relaxed couple they weren’t interested in formalities and just wanted their day captured as it happened which suited me perfectly.
After enjoying a couple of days refamiliarising myself with Freetown and catching up with some old friends, it was time for the celebrations! Things kicked off at their house with Samson’s family driving in from around the country. Energy levels were high with drums playing and beers flowing. A huge feast was laid out which was mouth wateringly good. In the evening the party was moved over to one of the local bars. After a short ceremony the party kicked off with loads of entertainment and partying. What a day! As a true example of Salone hospitality I was welcomed by everyone like a brother. Being quite a private couple I’m only sharing a small selection for this one, but hopefully it can give you a nice taste.
Sierra Leone has gotten a lot of bad press over the last few decades. First the civil war that ended in 2002 and then the Ebola Crisis which was finally whipped out at the end of last year. Although both these things are history, they are sadly still what first come to people’s mind when you mention Sierra Leone. When I told people earlier this year that I would be visiting the country, the high majority replied “really? Is it safe?”. Sierra Leone is actually one of the places I’ve traveled to where I’ve felt most safe, even relative to areas of London. I felt more than comfortable walking down a dark street at night (they get a lot of power cuts) in the centre of the city with my laptop and camera. The people are also some of the most hospitable I’ve ever met. Ask anyone else who has visited the country and I’m sure they’ll tell you the same. So I hope when you look through the below photos you see Sierra Leone the way I see it – a country full of amazingly resilient, hospitable and fun people that has so much to offer those that visit.
Thanks again so much Sharron and Samson for inviting me to share in your awesome day and for the opportunity to return to a country that has a special place in my heart. After a week that flew by way to fast I boarded a flight for my next destination wedding location on the other-side of the African continent – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Sierra Leone Wedding Photography by Matt Badenoch Photography.