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Flo Ngala

Work / Photography

Flo Ngala on photographing one of America’s biggest Caribbean carnivals

Earlier this month, over 50,000 people travelled to Miami to attend the city’s annual Broward Carnival in celebration of Caribbean culture and West Indian traditions. Among them was Harlem-born photographer Flo Ngala. Flo, whose earlier work includes shoots with superstars Gucci Mane and Cardi B, journeyed to Miami to capture, in the artist’s words, the “raw emotion, energy, joy, and essence of so many great moments, as well as the beauty of the attire.”

After spending the day with fellow carnival-goers, Flo accumulated over 2,500 pictures. From there, the photographer edited and cut down her collection to the strongest 30 images she felt best told the story of the day’s events. These include shots of men and women proudly performing in ornate costumes, and images of grand parades that illustrate the day’s dynamic atmosphere. “The series does not only bring me back to my roots as a photographer,” Flo tells It’s Nice That. “It also gives me an opportunity to, as a woman and as a person of colour, to capture events in my community and abroad, in an honest and authentic way.” The vast majority of carnival-visitors were women, she goes on to explain, but the number of female photographers documenting the celebrations were an obvious minority.

Yet street photography isn’t exactly new to Flo. A couple of years ago, for example, the artist photographed New York’s African American Day Parade, which has been taking place annually for the past 49 years in honour of African American culture, heritage and unity. Flo’s striking images of compelling individual celebrators are inspired by the likes of Gordon Parks, Martin Parr, Bruce Davidson and Mary Ellen Mark among others. “It was through seeing their work that I first fell in love with photography,” Flo says. “I am particularly interested in street photography because of its technical dimension. It is the art form I respect the most because it is so difficult.” Urgency and precision are at the core of street photography, two traits that Flo has mastered through her poignant photographs of passers-by.

In the context of Trump’s divisive policies, Flo’s celebration of marginalised communities serves as a reminder of the emotional significance and political value of people coming together. “Community, culture, heritage and pride” are the most important aspects of Flo’s Broward Carnival series. “But also a sprinkle of style and beauty. I don’t just mean the beauty of the masqueraders, but the beauty of human interaction,” she adds, highlighting the aesthetic dimension of community. “It is so powerful to see how all these elements can bring people, strangers, together. Eh, but then again are any of us really strangers to each other?”

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