Odyssey is photographer Alexander Mourant’s awe-inspiring series tracing a road-trip he took down the length of Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town. “Odyssey was born through an editorial assignment titled Cairo to Cape Town: Africa’s Plastic Footprint with RAW Foundation. We set off to track and document Africa’s plastic footprint,” Alexander tells It’s Nice That. Camera in hand, Alexander’s aim was to shine a light on the enormous scale and wide-ranging reach of the plastic pollution problem while photographing the interesting individuals he met on the way. Once he returned home, the London-based photographer evaluated his shots, selecting and compiling his personal favourites into the final series.
Born on the small Channel Island, Alexander says his rural upbringing played an integral role in shaping his photographic language. “My family have lived and farmed in Jersey for generations so a relationship to landscape, space and experience, is embedded in my psychology. Whilst at school, my attraction to photography emerged naturally as a reference point for my ceramic sculptures. I wanted to pursue its practice and concepts further, which led to me to study photography at university,” he says. Odyssey is exemplar of Alexander’s intuitive photographic approach; his breathtaking river shots and photographs of fields stretching for miles are characteristic of his landscape-led visual language.
Alexander and the rest of the RAW Foundation team travelled by car for five months, documenting the plastic debris, cluttered wastelands and beach pollution they saw along their way. “We explored quite extensively; Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. I created my Odyssey series from a tight edit of personal photographs. My practice to date stems from the resonance of these photographs,” the artist reveals. Shooting mainly on film, Alexander’s photojournalistic images reveal a thought-provoking objectivity. Remarkable and expansive nature shots are compiled side-by-side with rubbish dumps; Odyssey’s contrasting content is a poignant comment on the environment’s current state.
The five month trip was, however, not without its challenges. Alexander recollects the difficulties they encountered when their camping equipment was to facilitate and host them during extreme changes in temperature and environment. “My work is imbued with the nomadic feeling that each town beckoned a differing attitude or way of seeing. At times my photographs represent an African idyll, disclosing tales of resonating moments, awe and seduction from an entirely varied and fascinating continent.”