Tekserve, New York City’s Apple Macintosh, iPod and accessories specialist, recently hosted a photography exhibition featuring images from Chester Higgins Jr., a staff photographer from The New York Times since 1975. Outside of his work for The New York Times, Higgins has visited Africa more than 30 times to capture photos of the people, ancient cities and small town life in various African countries including; Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal and Ghana.
Higgins grew up in Alabama and started traveling to Africa in 1973. During his first trip, he visited for a week but for the last 12 years he has visited the continent for six weeks at a time. He often brings his wife and their children to visit as well. In an effort to fully embrace all that was around him, Higgins began hiring a driver so he could enjoy looking around as they traveled. Higgins has traveled through various villages and towns, often camping out and building relationships with the people in the areas.
“The photographs that I do are very personal and in order to do that people have to feel really comfortable with me,” he said. “When I go to a village, I present myself because the thing in Africa is; they question what your mission is. So I sit down and try to answer that question.”
Higgins began traveling to Ethiopia and was intrigued by the country’s history and culture.
“Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has never been colonized by Europeans and the people have a sense of ancient pride and a very ancient culture,” he said. “It’s a very different kind of place.”
Through his experiences and travels, Higgins believes the media often does not show an accurate depiction of Africa. His photographs and artwork are meant to counteract that.
“In New York City we live in a very artificial environment and the message most people get about Africa is that everything is bad,” he said. “I’m just trying to connect the people on a very spiritual level and to take you out of your artificial environment and take you to Africa — a very natural environment. I’m trying to show people here that there is a whole other reality.”
Higgins’ fine art books include “Feeling the Spirit: Searching the World for the People of Africa,” “Elder Grace: The Nobility of Aging” and “Echo of the Spirit.”