“Lake Volta is the largest man-made lake in the world. Spanning across half of Ghana, its surface is scattered with eerie tree trunks emerging from glassy waters. The trafficking of children and child labour in this region has a lot to do with the complex economic and social history of the Ghanaians residing around the lake. Young children are targeted for fishing because of their mobility and small hands for untangling nets. This series hopes to capture some of the solitude and innocence of young children entrapped in this reality.”
This is how Jeremy Snell, a New York-based photographer and cinematographer from Hawaii has chosen to introduce his latest project titled “Boys of Volta.” Known best for his humanitarian work, Snell has photographed numerous campaigns for NGOs such as Water and The International Justice Mission to help bring an end to the world water crisis and modern-day slavery, alongside other global campaigns for brands such as Apple, Facebook, WWF and UNICEF.
Drawn to portraiture from a young age, Jeremy Snell enjoys the process of visual storytelling through alluding to each subject’s personal backstory, whilst never fully being in control of each outcome – In fact, the artist himself once said, “Telling stories of culture and populations not often seen around the world is my greatest desire in photography. My hope is that viewers begin to ask new questions and have new perspectives.”
Boys of Volta is a series of photographs of local children set against the backdrop of Lake Volta. The project, which follows shortly after his anti-trafficking campaign with non-profit organisation International Justice Mission, showcases an eerie and otherworldly quality of Lake Volta as it glows in a gradient of blue, orange, teal and pink throughout the day and night.
As beautiful as it may appear, beneath Lake Volta’s placid surface lie the skeletons of once dense forests, and every so often the presence of worn tree trunks rise up, out of the water whilst intermittent storms stroke its surface and flashes of lightning tear through the sky. The boys sit submerged, sometimes covered in fishing nets that extend their silhouette, with meditative expressions in the perpetually warm lake.
They [the boys] traverse the vast body of water on wooden boats as the horizon looms in the distance, creating a sense of vastness that serves as a counterpoint to the deeply intimate portraits. “Once I arrived I was profoundly affected by the beauty and the character of the lake,” Jeremy recalls. “3000 miles of dammed water encompass what used to be large forests and hillsides, so the trunks and tips of thousands of trees can be seen as you drift through its waters. There were massive thunderstorms in the afternoons that would light up the vastness of the lake and strike awe into all those who were on it. Even midday on the lake seemed to have a certain eeriness that accompanied the heat and the floating trees.”
Through facilitating a sense of mutual security and respect with the kids, Jeremy Snell has successfully highlighted the immense beauty and complexity of life in the area and the treacherous situations some of these kids find themselves in. Boys of Volta is available now for an estimated £40 via Setanta Books. Individually signed images from the collection are also available starting from £85.