Liberia occupies a gloomy place in the Western imagination. Ask the average American what they picture when they think of the country, and they might say child soldiers, the murderous dictator Charles Taylor, or Ebola.
While working in the capital Monrovia for several months during 2014, photographer François Beaurain saw something else entirely. Children were playing. Adults were working. People were making music, going to school, and generally just trying to live good lives. In hopes of getting to know the strangers she saw in the streets, Beaurain started creating GIFs of daily life. “The more I was shooting, the more people I met, and the more I understood about Liberia and Liberians,” she told Hyperallergic.
The GIFS that resulted are charmingly playful, colorful, and hypnotic. But they’re also more than just eye candy, breaking past the never-tired tropes of silly cats and models stumbling on the runway to describe life in a real community. In Monrovia Animated, Beaurain has produced an unusual form of GIF-as-documentary photo, one that brings to life a far-off locale and makes us consider it in a way we’ve rarely been asked to before.