Jessica Hilltout

My life started in Belgium. Thanks to my nomadic parents my world has been a wonderful mixture of East, West, North and South. Perhaps the extraordinary sights of my childhood persuaded me to study photography.

Art college in Blackpool, England was a time to immerse myself in the vast world of the image. I learn’t not just to see with my eyes, but to feel with them and to develop my own style.

After college in 1999, I stumbled into advertising, earn’t some money, yet felt frustrated.

Three years later, along with a friend, I bought an old jeep, left Belgium and headed east. The journey lasted two years. The jeep took us 80,000km through Central Asia and Africa. The money (or lack of it) forced us to lead a simple life. This was a time to drift and appreciate the countries that nourished our eyes and mind. I took photographs when it felt right, capturing FACES an PLACES, not quite knowing where my work was going.

In retrospect, that trip feels like the start of the way I see things today. I’ve often been attracted to ‘un western’ countries. A certain essential energy shines through everything where the spiritual far outweighs the material. I am interested in the poetic character of things; in the small, seemingly unimportant things. There is hidden beauty in the ordinary, and great beauty in the overlooked.

In 2004 I went back to Brussels to save up for my next project. A short three years later my bag was ready, loaded with film, my hasselblad, an 80mm lens and a few other essentials. I headed for Madagascar, traveling alone for the first time. My mind was full of thoughts. My work was starting to find a clear direction. I traveled by bus, foot, pirogue and ox cart, taking time to observe in silence. Many paradoxes fascinated me. Little things are Big. Less is More. Imperfection is Beautiful. After three months I met Fidsoa (king of the pin hole camera), without whom many things wouldn’t have been possible. He understood the nuances of the way I wanted to travel and work. He was a friend. We wondered in search of IMPERFECTION, trying to be open to all of life’s wonderful little quirks.

In 2008 I started a project called AMEN, two years later

My most recent and challenging project has been a book on grassroots football entitled AMEN. 15,000km through ten countries in Southern Africa and West Africa. AMEN remains true to finding beauty and joy where others may only see deprivation. AMEN above all else, captures the strength of the human spirit.

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