Opening photographer Jessica Antola’s first monograph, Circadian Landscape, is not one of the countless eye-opening images that fill the book, but a statement explaining that “one of my earliest life lessons: never stand in one place”. This statement becomes clear when you begin to see the context of Jessica’s monograph which documents “the beauty and vibrancy of everyday life,” across Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Togo and Ethopia over a three year period from 2011–2014.
For Jessica travel has always been the main factor in her life. “My parents believed that travel and exposure to other cultures was one of the best forms of education so, from a young age, I travelled extensively with my family,” she explains. “I learned that, while I could never walk in someone else’s shoes, with compassion and quiet observation I might learn from another’s experience and find common ground.” This openness to the world, to culture and all its offerings, was coupled with photography from the age of 13 when she “looked through the lens of a camera and realised that it was a took for communication and artistic expression,” says Jessica. “Behind the camera, I did not feel separated by the lens; I had a way to connect and engage with people I did not know. It was a way to enter into people’s lives, not just be a spectator.”
Within Circadian Landscape this attitude towards photography is shown through personable portraits which showcase individual style and attitude from one shot to the next, reflecting “the astonishing variety of ways people create and define themselves daily, over and over again, through dress and ritual, work and play.”
Jessica already knew the landscape of Africa considering she’d already travelled there four times previously but “after each trip, it became clearer that this journey would have to continue,” she says. Drawn back time and time again “by the people I met, the experiences I had, and the creative inspiration I felt," Jessica’s photographs portray a level of understanding. Several details also seep out of her photographs; from “the rich wooden sound of the Sudanese balafon interrupted by motorcycle horns, the red soil nourishing a low hanging calabash tree,” to “buses piled with soccer fans precariously circling a roundabout, vibrant African wax textiles drying on a line, liquor bottles filled with petrol for sale along the road.”
Although carefully curated into a book format, back when Jessica was taking the photographs, she followed no formula and no photographs are posed or curated. “At times, I spent just minutes with a subject, making only a fleeting connection. In other cases, I spent hours with them to relate on a deeper level.” Rather than documenting a specific place or person, all of Jessica’s above descriptions are the content in Circadian Landscape. After all, she’s “always been captivated by how people around the world express themselves in relation to their environments,” says the photographer. “This book is a reflection of that”.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.