Monuments des Martyrs, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso by Tom Pointon

monument des martyrs burkina faso

This guest post comes from Tom Pointon, who describes himself as a slow photographer based in Marseille, France.

It features a few shots of a building I’d never heard of but am glad exists now that I have – the Monument to National Heroes (in English) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Tom also shares some of his thoughts and experiences of shooting, both in West Africa and in general. So I’ll get out of the way, let him do that, and come back with some final comments later.

Over to Tom.

Monuments des Martyrs, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

“I started taking photograph­s in 1982, at the age of fifteen, and I’ve always been drawn to deserted buildings and ruins. This is the ‘Monument aux Martyrs’ in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

This series was taken in March 2011 using a compact digital Ricoh Caplio GX100. I’ve since moved on to mirrorless compacts with interchangeable lenses.

Trying to understand why my enthusiasm and interest has waned in recent years I’m evolving a philosophy of photography.

Time and budget constraints make me reassess and reevaluate the thousands of digital and film images I have. Now I’ll either devote myself entirely to photographing something or experiencing it. Otherwise I find the presence of a camera inhibiting and distracting.

Does the world need any more images? Do I need to take any more pictures? Maybe I need to work with what I’ve got, and to that end I’ve started selecting my best work and getting it printed and properly presented.

I’d like feedback and because I enjoy looking at other peoples work and reading their comments decided to share and contribute.

West Africa presents unique challenges such as the light which can be hazy and indistinct – here you’re almost in the Sahara and in these interior shots you get some idea of how much dust had blown into the building.

Delicate digital equipment isn’t suited to extreme heat – another reason I favour lightweight, inexpensive compacts.

Days are relatively short closer to the equator. It’s dark by 18.30 and you must work quickly in the late afternoons, hence these were taken fairly early one morning.

interior of Monuments des Martyrs Ouagadougou
Monuments des Martyrs Ouagadougou

Ouaga 2000 is a proposed business / upscale district North East of the city centre, most of which was still yet to be constructed in 2011.

This tower, visible for miles, surrounded by wide empty boulevards going nowhere caught my attention. I love the incongruity of a martyrs monument referencing some quirky manga style future.

I studied film as a mature student, and sometimes I try to create a narrative when I approach a subject – establishing shots, medium, close in shots and then a final concluding shot.

Thanks for looking, hope you enjoyed.”

Wrapping Up

Nice thoughts and some lovely photographs of a very interesting place from Tom there.

I’ve read up a little on the Monument aux Martyrs myself since receiving this submission. You can see more images and read more of its story here and also here.

Both mention how the structure is said to resemble the Eiffel Tower, which it clearly doesn’t. Not even close, like the Patuxai Monument in Laos looks a bit like the Arc de Triomphe.

One of those articles does describe Burkina Faso’s as looking like a 1960s spaceship too though, which I think is a more accurate claim.

I don’t do much exploration of disused buildings myself, although I like to look at the photographs shot by those who do. I like the little ‘windows’ series in Tom’s set, especially the one where the ladder is duplicating the pattern of the window frames.

I’ll end with my thoughts on two of Tom’s questions.

  • Does the world need any more images?
  • Do I need to take any more pictures?

For me, the answer is yes to both but in different circumstances. I’d have perhaps never been aware of this Martyrs Monument in West Africa without these images, despite others already existing online.

That’s not the case with, say, the aforementioned Eiffel Tower. But while countless photographs of it already exist, if you’ve never shot any yourself, photographs of it by you don’t.

I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do. I just think whether I’m at a place nobody has heard of or a place that nobody hasn’t, if I want to shoot some photographs, then that want to really does become a need to. For me.

I’m glad Tom, who has no social media but said you can contact him at topenglish@fastmail.fm if you want, saw the need to shoot some at the Monuments des Martyrs in Ouagadougou too.

… p.s. if you enjoyed this guest post by Tom or got inspired by it and think others will too, why not share or pin it?

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