The uncanny

Pongo Léonard

2011 - Ongoing

Democratic Republic of the Congo

I needed to start doing this work about Congo out of a lot of anger. Anger for not feeling fit for Belgium, for not having any idea of what living in the Congo was, what it was in me that could actually be called Congolese. I saw this project as an all-inc answer to this struggle, that I can't identify with clear elements too easily, that I have little sense of home and always have to remain critical and distanced from where I am. Working in the Congo didn't help me change that or find an identity. Instead it showed me that this stance is my identity.

When I started shooting, I covered the same places most photojournalists were covering for the elections. I tried to play their games and become part of my heritage, documenting, making proofs, analysing, as if photography could be the right tool for explaining the world. But the more I did it, the more conflictual and angry I got. Because I couldn't translate a truth, because I wasn't truly interested in living or sharing what I was seeing. I quickly realised that photographing Kamerhe (a big candidate to the presidentials of 2011) filling up his voting sheet in the poll had very little to do with reality as I see it, was not representative in any way of the intensity of what I was going through and seeing. What was hurting, shocking, impacting me was actually very little. It was to see an exploded family, humility, patience, aggressiveness, injustice, care, love and be able to see it all, look at it, be part of it despite who I was and where I came from.

The hardest blow is always to look at the images after I come back and realise the story I shot, not factual pieces but experiential ones. My attempts to produce visual mistakes, blurs, flashes, repeated failures serve to translate the congolese experience and the multiple blows in the face.

That is the Congo i wanted to tell, and which I believed to be eventually much more true than any well built analysis supported by visual evidence…

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