Conceived as an education and conservation project, “Congo Tales” by Dutch photographer Pieter Henket looks at the Central African country through a probing, affectionate lens. The images, as they present humans and nature, beautifully balance the portrayal of an austere life with a sense of magic. The Congo Basin harbours approximately one quarter of the world’s rainforest. In the heart of this forest is Odzala-Kokoua National Park, an ecological wonderland that is home to untold numbers of rare gorillas, forest elephants, and birds.
It is also home to people who have lived vastly different from much of the rest of the world. In his stunning series, Henket shows the children of Odzala-Kokoua telling the oral history of the Congo in enchanting and creative ways. Shot over the course of one month, Henket documented the children of this remote region as they designed, planned, created costumes for, and acted out a series of myths—about their tribes, their landscape, and the animals and plants that they live among.
Their stories will educate others unfamiliar with a way of life that is so completely in harmony with nature. Filled with vibrant images that highlight the area’s magnificent flora and fauna, this photographic project, which was three years in the planning and execution, offers an exciting opportunity for people from different corners of the world to learn about nature and the environment from each other. It delivers an optimistic message about trust, cooperation, and conservation for the next generation of policy makers.
Born in Geldrop in 1979, Pieter Henket moved to the United States in 1998, where he studied Documentary Film at the New York Film Academy. After working for the renowned director Joel Schumacher, his fascination for capturing a story in a single shot pulled him towards photography instead of filmmaking. As a self-taught photographer, he is known for his alluring portraits of some the biggest stars in the world, both for his commercial work as well as in his personal, autonomous projects. He has worked for outlets such as The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire. His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and in 2013 he was honored with a major solo-exhibition at Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle.
Pieces from the “Congo Tales” have recently been acquired by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. 100% of book sales will go back to the “Tales of Us” initiative. A percentage of each print sold will also be donated to the same cause. “Congo Tales” will be on view at Kahmann Gallery in Amsterdam from January 18 to March 5.