Meet Sarjo Baldeh, the 21-year-old rising star of sports photography at AFCON 2023

Sarjo Baldeh, a 21-year-old sports photographer, known by her brand name Baldezz, has emerged as a formidable talent, capturing the essence of athletic prowess and emotion through her lens. 

Hailing from Lamin, a village in west Gambia, Baldeh’s journey to becoming a renowned photographer is marked by determination, mentorship, and a passion for her craft.

Baldeh’s introduction to photography occurred during a summer program by Starfish International, a non-profit organization empowering girls in the Gambia. 

Assigned to the media class by chance, she borrowed a camera from Starfish and began documenting daily life in her village. 

Encouraged by her mentor, she delved into wedding photography, eventually transitioning to sports photography with guidance from established photographers, including an American mentor she connected with on Instagram.

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Baldeh’s breakthrough came in 2022 when she covered a match between the Gambia and South Sudan during the AFCON qualification in Senegal. 

Real de Banjul noticed her talent, offering her a freelance position in 2022, while Fortune FC provided her with a full-time role in 2023.

However, it was her role in AFCON 2023 that truly elevated Baldeh’s profile. Accompanying the Gambia national team as the sole female photographer in the group of four, she garnered attention not only for her captivating images but also for standing out on the pitch with her distinctive style – adorned in bright colors and a pale-pink headscarf.

Despite the team’s exit from the tournament after losing their last group game to Cameroon, Baldeh’s presence and impact were undeniable. 

Renting professional camera equipment sponsored by Fortune FC and enjoying accommodations covered by the Gambia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, she showcased her talents on social media, providing live updates during matches in Yamoussoukro and Bouaké.

Baldeh’s journey highlights not only her individual success but also the increasing presence of young female photographers in the male-dominated sports photography realm.

Alongside photographers like Weam Mostafa Elsayed from Egypt, iLa Yeboah from Ghana, Justina Aniefiok from Nigeria, and Khady Sy from Mauritania, Baldeh stands as a testament to the growing diversity in the field.

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Baldeh’s trajectory in sports photography is on an upward trajectory, leaving an indelible mark on the industry and inspiring aspiring photographers, particularly women, across the African continent.

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