Friday, July 27, 2007


Eritrea: "the country you want to come back every time you leave it!"
Eric Lafforgue.



Issayas: Can you briefly describe about your self?

Eric: I am French, 43 years of age and I manage a multimedia company (La Crea Multimedia) which provides content for web, mobile, and television. I started photography 2 years ago, and I like to travel a lot. Eritrea, of course, Yemen, Djibouti, Myanmar, China, etc. I like places which are not too touristy, not fake!

Issayas: You said that you started photography two years ago. The pictures that you take show experience. So it is kind of hard to believe that you have been taking pictures for only two years! Your pictures show that you have a good eye. You must have some experience with photography before.

Eric: Yes. I started to take pictures professionally two years ago after I bought a Canon 10D. Before that I just took pictures for souvenirs, personal and etc. And fourteen months ago, I started posting my pictures on the web:

Issayas: You have been to Eritrea five times. What keeps you going back to Eritrea?

Eric: Each time I go to Eritrea, I appreciate the quietness of the country, the kindness and hospitality of the people, the beauty of the countryside, the sea, and the unique architecture that you've kept. I haven't been everywhere because last time, roads were closed; therefore, I will have to go back. It's hard to convince my friends to go to Eritrea, though, but once they go, they will be mesmerized by the beauty and majesty of Eritrea and they would want to go back again and again.

Issayas: I am assuming that your friends might have seen your pictures, but why is hard to convince them to go to Eritrea?

Eric: It is because in Europe, Eritrea means war with Ethiopia. You know the media does not talk a lot about this part of Africa, so when they speak about it, it's generally for the problems, war, kidnapping, etc.

Issayas: Which parts of Eritrea have you been to?

Eric: Asmara, Massawa, Keren, Senafe , Dekemare, Thio, Barentu, and Agordat.

Issayas: Your pictures about Eritrea are the most beautiful pictures that I have ever seen. As I have mentioned to you before, the first time I saw the pictures, I felt the same tingling sensation that I remember getting from listening for the first time the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. 

Issayas: What kind of cameras do you use? Do you use film or digital? Do you use filters? Do you use Photoshop, etc.?

Eric: For my last trip, I used a Hasselblad H3D-39. It's a monster camera because it has 39 million pixels. Therefore, you can take pictures with lots of details, and millions of colors. I also used Leica M6 and Hexar for some pictures (the night images in Massawa for example, were taken at 1600 iso!) and Canon 5D. I used a little bit of Photoshop, but you do not need to use it very much with the Hasselad H3D, because the capture is already powerful.

Issayas: Your photographs of portraits, landscapes etc. are excellent. How do you make the people look so natural? In other words, how do you make them at ease?

Eric: With a big smile, it works every time! I had some difficulties in Keren, where some people didn’t want their pictures taken at all. It's new in the area. In the Danakil desert, the Afar people sometimes didn't want, but when I showed them the pictures on the back of the digital camera, they were very happy. I shoot a lot with the 300mm, even if I am close, because the depth of field is so nice. People are at ease because I do not hide when I take pictures. They know I am there, I stay around a long time, and many times they are happy that someone has an interest in them. 

Issayas: I have so many favorites. Do you have a favorite? And why?

Eric: Yes, the black and white picture of a girl from Senafe.

I shot the picture in Senafé. She came to me, and asked me to take her picture. She has incredible eyes. The picture is one of the most loved on flickr. Next time when I go back, I will try to find her and give her, her picture. When I went back to Massawa last time, I took back pictures that I had taken two years earlier and it was nice finding the people to give them back their respective pictures.

Issayas: Which picture(s) was/were the most difficult to take?

Eric: The Rashaidas! It was very difficult. I had to take the picture of the entire tribe with Polaroid and give them pictures. It was funny. And the Afar girls, very shy, but so beautiful! And the FIAT Tagliero garage from the big building...the office at the top didn't understand why I wanted to take a picture from the top. After long negotiations, the boss said yes and I thanked him. I believe it is an insurance company. I have lost the address. I need to send him the picture!

Issayas: The picture that you called "Sunset over Asmara" is incredible. How did you get that kind of effect?

Eric: There is no effect! There were clouds over part of the sky and the other part was clear. The sun stopped half the sky, and the other part was blue. I had never seen such a scene in my life! Perhaps it is because of Asmara’s high altitude! 

Issayas: I am surprised because in almost all the pictures you seem to be there at the right time and place, with people cooperating with you and etc.? How do you do that?

Eric: It takes time to take a good picture. Sometimes I would stay for one or two hours in a place, knowing that the light is nice, the people around interesting, etc. I know that next time when I go to Massawa, I will have to stay 3 days just to take the best pictures at sunset where the light is incredible.

Issayas: When are you planning to go back to Eritrea?

Eric: I think this winter, as it is the best time to visit.

Issayas: Even though the pictures tell their own stories, if you are asked to say in a word or two to describe Eritrea, what would you say?

 Eric: Eritrea is a country where you want to go back every time you leave it.

Issayas: Thank you for your time. I hope to see more pictures of Eritrea from you.
Eric: Thank you.

For further pictures of Eritrea by Eric Lafforgue:

and his official website: