When photographer Michele Sibiloni moved to Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, in 2010, he was struck by the buzzing atmosphere at nighttime as people spilled out of bars, clubs, parties and night churches and congregated on the streets. It was two years before Michele started taking pictures of the city’s midnight dwellers, no longer able to resist the “excuse to experience new adventures,” and feeling as though he was now “more a part of the scene.”
The photographs taken over a two year period have just been collated together in a book published by Edition Patrick Frey, titled Fuck It, which takes its title from a tattoo emblazoned on a woman’s leg that Michele photographed. Kampala’s bars and venues stay open as long as customers are still drinking and the series captures the vibrancy and off-duty moments of people who live, visit and work in Kampala. Kabalagala is an area Michele was drawn to many times during the project as it has the “strangest mix” of people. “There’s this tiny, dingy bar there that’s open 24/7 every day of the year with people playing pool, sleeping, taking drugs and talking to their dealers over reggae music,” says Michele.
Capturing security guards, taxi drivers, friends, teenagers, prostitutes and performers, Michele’s eclectic figures create a vivid portrait of a place that’s become known for its raucous nightlife. “For me it was important to tell a ‘story’ – not in a journalistic way, but through my personal experiences. I wanted something new to compare to what I did with photography before and I hope people get dragged into the adventure.”
With the project spread over a long time, it meant the photographer was able to be flexible with how he shot the series. “Sometimes I wanted to go out and take photographs with a plan, sometimes I was just moving around, but it was easy to join in and have a good time.” Aware of how photographers have been received in the past in Kampala, Michele was careful not to appear voyeuristic: “People were a bit worried at the beginning because Uganda as a country does not have a great relationship with photographers and often associates them with popular tabloids, scandals and horrid stories,” he explains. “This meant it was a bit unpredictable but the more time I spent taking images, the more it became a natural thing to do and I believe people felt that.”