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Features / Photography

The wheels on the tro tro: Charlie Kwai captures Ghana’s spirited public transport

Photography:

Charlie Kwai

Last year, photography collective Tripod City travelled to Ghana to document the people and places they saw from three different perspectives to form one story. Made up of Charlie Kwai, Chris Lee and Paul Storrie, the trio found that the west African country provided everything they were looking for: “Ghana was a place we didn’t really know much about,” says Charlie. “We only knew of the stereotypes and perceptions we’d grown up with and seen in the media.”

While Gold Dust was the trio’s main focus during their time there, Charlie also worked on a side project that captured Ghana’s public transport system, and more specifically its tro tros. “Tro tros are transit vans converted into public buses. There’s a ‘driver’ and a ‘mate’ – the mate sticks his head out of the window and shouts where they’re heading with an accompanying gesture,” Charlie says. “They’re notorious for being loud, uncomfortable and unsafe, but my experiences were all positive.”

Taken in Charlie’s signature style, many of the drivers and mates captured didn’t realise they were being photographed until “they were already half way up the road”. This sense of action, movement and personality is felt throughout the series and stems from the photographer spending so much time in the tro tro park. “I’d get lost in the maze of tro tros for hours just chatting to the guys in between shooting their vans. They never did quite understand what I was doing.”

This article first appeared in Printed Pages AW 16, click here for stockists.

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