Category Archives: African photographers

Portraits to last a lifetime

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews.

When South African photographer Alexia Webster visited Sudan in 2006, a specific situation opened her eyes. While on assignment for a big international media company she wanted to make a story about hiphop in the capital city of Khartoum, but her editors didn’t think it would fit into the image their audience has of the country as war torn and impoverished. On her next assignment, in a refugee camp in Kenya, a refugee came up to her and asked when he was going to see the images she shot. “I had to be honest and tell him, probably never. I knew that the photos would never get back to him.” The man became upset, telling her that he had been in the camp for over 15 years and didn’t have any images of himself or his family. “Foreign photographers had been coming in and out of the camp all the time taking photographs without sharing them”, Webster explains. “He was justifiably frustrated.” From this experience the idea for the ‘Street Studio Project’ was born. The project creates outdoor family portrait studios in public spaces and invites anyone to come have their portrait taken. Webster has a portable printer on site and prints the photographs for free for people to take home with them. She wanted to return these images, ‘treasures’, to the people she photographed.


“In the context of a refugee camp it can really mean a lot to have your photograph taken with your loved ones and to get to keep a copy”, Webster explains. About halfway through her photographic career she got frustrated with how her photography was reflecting her continent. She wanted to make a change herself and this project hopefully is the first step. “Especially in places where life is so disrupted, a family portrait can have such a big resonance and importance.” Creating open air studios in refugee camps proved difficult at times, but in the end it was always worth the effort. Webster started out in Woodstock, Cape Town with her first Street Studio. “People were lining up non stop for the two days I was out there.” After five other locations in her home country she managed to get funding and take the project abroad. Alexia has managed to bring her outdoor studio to Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


For Webster, who studied photography in New York and did a course at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, it’s not so much about what her audience thinks about her photography, but her subjects. “The intention is different; it is not for others to get a better understanding, but quite simply to provide family portraits.”

With documentary photography Webster sees the potential to transform peoples opinion about her subjects and the world around them. “I do believe that the more positive images we put in the media, the more optimistically people will look at the world and the more potential there is to transform things. Negativity feeds negativity and we don’t need more of that in the African continent.”

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sharing African stories

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews.

For the most part photography started as a love hate relationship”, Sam Vox admits. The Tanzanian photographer didn’t have an easy start in the passion that now means the world to him. But that all turned around after he left school and could do his own thing. “People motivate me to go out and photograph, I enjoy storytelling; people have so much to share. I’m curious about people’s lives, cultures, traditions, languages and food. It’s the means of life.”


For Vox it all kicked off in 2007 when he was doing my BA in Professional Communications in Malaysia. “Being far away from home and alone for the first time in a foreign country was an overwhelming experience”, he says. “One thing was for certain, and to most people’s surprise, I disliked my photography class which was compulsory during my foundation year. The class was very technical and consisted of lessons spent indoors most of the time. For that reason I never used my camera after class. Sadly, I have to confess it would just end up on my bottom shelf.”

By the end of his first year Vox had saved up enough money to join friends on a road trip to the outskirts of Malaysia. He took my camera with him; “the best decision I ever made.” At the beginning of his adventures the passion was reignited. “I documented our road trip along the way and took photos of people we met along our travels. I was attached to my camera for the full period of two weeks. For me my camera was so much more, it became my tool to connect with strangers, make new friends and share stories.” After graduating in 2012 and moving back to Tanzania, Vox never left his camera behind anymore.


“I don’t go out targeting specific people, for me everyone has something to share”, Vox explains. Joining the Everyday Africa project made that even more encouraging, and well worth the time. I don’t necessarily have an aim or try to educate my audience, but I’ve noticed that my photographs and stories have changed many people’s views on Tanzania and Africa in general.” For Vox his photography is a channel which enables him to share parts of Africa’s heart and her people. Ultimately his aim is to show the ordinary everyday life in an African country, by sharing stories of people, places and their different cultures and traditions.


Yet he certainly doesn’t go out with the intention or pursuit of finding images that would change the worlds view on Africa or Tanzania in particular. “I go out to connect with people and share their stories. That is what is most important to me, and most likely what could set my photography aside from other photographers out there. I have the advantage of connecting well with the people I photograph, especially in Tanzania.” Vox think they are more likely to share with him than a foreigner, mainly because he doesn’t treat them as my ‘subjects’ rather than a new friend he’s made. “As mentioned before, personally it is the focus of having that connection which is is important and I feel like I can reach out to people that can be easily ignored, it could be a coffee seller on the streets or taxi driver. If I had a task, it would be to show a little fraction of a person’s daily life.”


Though his work revolves around people and places, Vox tries not to limit himself when it comes to photography. “I experiment with different styles and enjoy the whole process of learning new things as it is a never ending journey of learning and growing. At the moment my strong hold would be portraiture, I like the whole process of engaging with the person and trying to reflect that into my images. I also experiment a lot with fine art photography and double exposures, it keeps my creativity flowing and sparks more ideas.” Quite aware of all the struggles people face in their everyday life, he still likes meeting the ones that are actually trying to make a change, either for themselves or the community. “There is so much to learn from the continent, the different languages, cultures and traditions. Africa is growing rapidly and an outsider may not be able to see it as we do. I think once the deeper meaning behind storytelling is met by more viewers, a greater respect and interest will arise for it.”

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“I’m an African storyteller”

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews.

For the past two decades French – Malagasy photographer Guillaume Bonn reported on conflict and social issues in Darfur, Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, and Mauritania mainly for The New York Times and other media like Time, Newsweek and The Guardian. He was one of the first journalists to cover the Darfur crisis from within Sudan, bringing world-wide attention to the crisis. Together with a journalist Bonn also uncovered the sexual abuses committed on children by UN peace-keepers in Congo. No wonder the International Center of Photography in New York graduate received several prizes and awards, amongst which a grant from the Pulitzer center in 2014.


“My first adventure started at the age of six in the Danakil desert and has been going on ever since”, Bonn says. “I’m a storyteller who wants to tell a story that hasn’t been told yet, or one that in his opinion should be told differently.” Though based in Nairobi, where he grew up, Bonn spends most time in Paris nowadays. Yet he is an international citizen, East Africa being the place he lived most and South Africa a country very well known to him. Very few countries in Africa have secrets for him.” Usually working together with writers send from Europe or the United States, he tries to teach him something about the continent. Tries to make them see beyond the preconceived ideas and cliches that most have of the African continent “I want to make them understand and realize that the situation is not that simple.”


A lot of what Bonn does these days is spent on personal work, trying to tell stories that have not been told using all the experience he has acquired over the years. “It bores me to death when other photographers, usually foreigners, come to the continent and do a story that has already been done not knowing it has been done before and without doing their research first. They might want to use the time they have on the continent to bring something fresh and offer a different view, but most of the time they’re in and out.”


Instagram is a whole different story for Bonn, describing it as a “window to where I am”.. Everyday Africa is an organization I’m very glad to BE workING with, because it’s great exposure and also because they publish some beautiful and interesting work on it.” For Bonn, having fun in doing photography is very important. Staying creative is of the essence. “Being present online is very crucial these days, but they also say that the more followers you have the more important you are,  I really don’t think that really means anything. Look at all the accounts that are followed by millions just posting pictures of pizzas or sexy women without clothes on; at the end of the day it should be about quality. Even if it’s just for Instagram. I’m not ready yet to post my in-depth stories that take a lot of time to produce and finance until someone figures out how we photographers can earn a living from that.

Le Mal d’Afrique

Bonn is the author of three photographic books, including his first monograph ‘Le Mal d’Afrique, a journey into old and new Africa’, which was exhibited at the Nairobi National Museum and from which some photographs are now part of the permanent collection of the museum. He edited and also photographed with twelve other photographers for the book ‘Nairobi’; an exploration of a city published in 2009.

Vanity Fair

As a contributor to Vanity Fair magazine since 2002, from whom he has been covering a range of stories, from the conflict in North Uganda, with the late Christopher Hitchens, and the murder of conservationist Joan Root near Lake Naivasha, with Mark Seal, to the haute couture shows in Paris or being the only invited photographer at the wedding of the son of the Maharaja of Jodhpur.

His last story is the now famous ‘Agony & Ivory’ on the African Elephants and the ivory trade, which brought needed attention worldwide to the genocide elephants are facing on the African continent. Bonn is currently working on two books. His next body of work ‘Mosquito Coast, travels from Maputo to Mogadishu will be published by Hatje Cantz in November next year and launched at Paris Photo.

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking the cycle of negative stereotypical images

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lenses. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews. 

It is lucky that South African photographer Barry Christianson got bored on vacation when he was younger, otherwise he might never have picked up a camera. From the moment he did, back in 1998, and spent all his pocket money on buying and processing film, he was hooked. “I was just sixteen back then, but I knew right away I wanted to keep on doing photography”, he said. “But because film and processing is expensive I needed to get a part time job, next to studying, to keep on shooting. Luckily I had the chance to buy a digital camera in 2011, which gave me the opportunity to shoot as much as I wanted.” Though he doesn’t yet work as a professional photographer and his work is not being published or shown in galleries, he plans to do so in the future and is currently part of the ‘Everyday Africa’ network, which provides his photography with a wide reach via the social media platform for images of daily life on the continent.

barry-135508 barry-170022

No conscious effort

Christianson, who has always lived in Cape Town, is now working as a web developer, which helps fund his photography. While walking the streets of his hometown he likes to capture intimate moments quietly; moments that otherwise would go unnoticed. He tries to reveal something unrecognized with his photographs of the deeply familiar.

“On the one hand I rarely make a conscious effort to go out and photograph. I enjoy photographing situations I just encounter, in environments I’m familiar with. So if it’s foggy outside, I will take a stroll and make some photographs. Other times it’s basically just what catches my eye in an everyday moment. By doing this I try to have people look at familiar situations differently I suppose, but that doesn’t happen on purpose.”




According to Christianson, it’s very easy to live in Cape Town or look at pictures of Cape Town and actually never get a proper sense of the city. He tries to show his images of everyday people using the city for their own needs. Not only does he upload them to his own Instagram, but he also runs a separate channel to show this view of Cape Town.  “I avoid perpetuating stereotypes that get perpetuated all too often. I have become aware of how certain images get burned into our imagination. And so when we see those images while photographing we reproduce them unconsciously, and we in turn perpetuate that cycle of bad stereotypical images. I try to show images that people from Cape Town will recognise as being from here, not the kind of marketing that is aimed at overseas visitors.”


Mitchells Plain

Growing up in the coloured township of Mitchells Plain, Christianson recently saw a bunch of images made by an overseas visitor in a predominantly coloured area. For the first time he felt what it was like to be objectified as a so-called coloured person. “I found the experience really interesting. Cape Town is a very racially segregated city. During Apartheid you had white, coloured and black areas with no mixing. Since the end of Apartheid the restrictions were lifted but the economic barriers remain as the economy is still divided in terms of race. So you still get predominantly coloured, black and white areas.” Back in 2013 he photographed the Marikana protest and afterwards decided he wanted to see the site Capetonians – consisting of two remaining shacks and a tent – for himself. He didn’t want the people to look like victims, but Christianson had the intention to show their sadness and trepidation, caused by the Anti-Land Invasion Unit that illegally demolished their dwellings. “You can see the outline of Table Mountain, the city’s claim to fame, in many of the photos. In this case it is a reminder that the City of Cape Town’s slogan ‘This city works or you’ does not apply to all residents. As a photographer I can only try to portray a truer narrative.”

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Nabil Boutros: creating awareness with poetry

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews. 

When talking about the photography of Nabil Boutros there is a distinctive turning point to be noted, exactly ten years ago. Before 2005 the Egyptian photographer was trying to show good sides of a difficult present by being close to people, to their faith, to every day life and by trying to introduce some beauty or dreams. “But since, I am making and using pictures (even my own archives) to bring consciousness awareness of what is happening socially with a distance that I can call poetic, or may be philosophic. Hopefeully at least”, Nabil explains. “It’s clear to me that I cannot make the same pictures as before; my point of view have changed. Before, I was aware to show empathy with people, situations, beauty. But now I am more looking to find formal approaches of some ideas or ironic comments.”

Monastère de Deir Baramos - Wadi El Natroun - Egypte Les Coptes12

Nabil’s most recent works are not only conceptual: form and shape are also very important and make up an essential part of it; they have to pull sensations in the same direction. Conceiving a new project means for him conceiving the appropriate form. “I have my commitments with my projects, but no formal style, brand or trade mark which are mainly concerned by trade, buying and selling. My main concern is about Egypt and the Middle East, trying to raise problematics on a human level.”

Moine dentiste, Monastère Saint Paul du Désert - Mer Rouge- Egypte
 Les Coptes23

Dark and hazy

Having studied decorative arts in Cairo and painting in Paris, Nabil has a broad background. “At the time I was studying I was feeling very close to classic painting and drawing. I started making conceptual paintings with classical techniques with the help of photographs I was taking, but was not really satisfied. So I started making photos, trying to catch emotions, instants that were giving me immediate feeling of truth.” He was getting pleasure out of working in the lab and the craft side of black and white photography. Funny thing is that the photographer he is today has more to do with his first conceptual work as a painter than his first experiences of photography thirty years ago. “Since my beginnings, I didn’t like to show and describe everything. Dark and hazy pictures leaves enough space for the viewer to project himself, to dream in the picture. That’s why I never became a reporter in a journalistic definition. Newspaper and magazine photographs are showing easily understandable situations to illustrate subjects, which doesn’t interest me as photographer.”

He even went the opposite direction, trying to combine pictures beside each other to transcend resistance to a quick and consummative reading of the images. “Photographic techniques have changed and the relationship with images too. Meanwhile, continuing to resist consuming images, I slowly slipped to my recent conceptual works.”

Les Coptes45
 Les Coptes55

Witch hunt

Because Nabil is focusing on his own subjects, whatever is the success, or non success that it gets from audience, he is determined in his task: giving shape to thoughts and feelings and putting them on a public ground like little bricks. Trying to give an intimate image of Egypt, from inside, on different subjects for the Egyptian and foreign audience. Before he didn’t meet particular difficulties for shooting pictures, but since a year and half, it is even difficult to show up a camera. “There is a real witch hunt for any kind of recording, not only from authorities but also people who are sincerely convinced that any photographer or cameraman is working for with a foreign agenda to demolish the Egyptian state.”

The Egyptian photography scene was and still is very rich, according to Nabil, but was actually enhanced by two combined phenomenons: a digital revolution and street revolution. A young new generation learned very quickly what is reporting, making good images. That was really missing due to police surveillance for long years.

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Unstructured Image of South Africa

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews. 

To be honest, Graeme Williams actually became a photo journalist by default. He was always more interested in doing his own documentary (long term) projects, but the situation in his home country of South Africa dragged him into a flow in which he suddenly found himself working for Reuters. That was back in 1989 and after having spend a year in London, the Cape Town born photographer was covering South Africa’s transition to ANC rule. “The plan was to go to Joburg for two years, but I’m here for over two decades already”, Graeme says. He moved there because it’s the place to be when things are happening in South Africa and you can be sure that if they happen there, they will spread across the nation. “Of course in that time it was also the place for great political change and a turning point for South Africa as a whole.” He admits that Cape town is a beautiful place to live, but for a photographer Johannesburg is much more interesting.

Johannesburg. From the series A city refracted. 2013. Johannesburg. From the series A city refracted. 2013. Johannesburg. From the series A city refracted. As the grass grows 08

A city refracted

Everyday was a nice challenge back in those days and the work he did during that period is not housed in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian, The South African National Gallery, The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Cape Town University amongst others. “In 2013 I was awarded the POPCAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography as well as the Ernest Cole Book award for the series, ‘A city refracted’.” The fact that photographic assignments have taken Graeme to fifty countries and that he has been published in major publications worldwide like National Geographic Magazine, Time, Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine, didn’t change his passion for South Africa though. Nowadays he finally has time to work on his own projects, to show a side of his country he wants to shine light on.

As the grass grows 09

Soweto 2006. From the series, The Edge of Town
 Graeme Williams13


“Where in the nineties it was about hard news, I now focus on aspects of society in an abstract way. I try to move away from what is happening at the moment and show more of a global view that evokes a feeling with the viewer.” It’s not a direct story Graeme is after, rather than it step back and look for a visually aesthetic way of portraying aspects that interest him. Take the series ‘A city refracted’ mentioned earlier for example. Instead of focussing on a single situation that occurred in the inner city of Joburg, he tried to capture his own feeling on being an outsider in a neighborhood that is less then ten minutes drive away from his home. Capturing the increasing social polarization isn’t something that can be done in a single shot; Graeme actually had to change his viewpoint from that of a local to that of a foreigner. “The images are unstructured and the content of the frame is at times seemingly random”, he explains. “Many of the images are blurred by movement or have a limited field of focus. The images therefore take on a dreamlike appearance resonant with the sense of disorientation tourists might experience when finding themselves surrounded by a foreign culture.”
Glen Cowie, 2005. South Africa. From the series: The Edge of Town.

Graeme Williams20
 Hanover. 2006. South Africa. From the series: The Edge of Town.

Born Frees

Reason for this way of working is the visual overload that makes us numb to feel emotions, according to Graeme. “There is too much information available. Therefore it’s losing it’s impact because of the intensity.” His own projects aren’t linear, but evolve around something bigger than a single subject. For another series ‘As the grass grows’, he focuses on young South Africans, who were born after the end of apartheid in a democratic South Africa. Therefore this group of young voters have been nicknamed ‘Born Frees’. “Paradoxically, the country’s unemployment rate has increased steadily over the past two decades providing little hope of employment for many millions of young South Africans, despite being born free. I wanted to give people a look into the lives of this group, to understand and learn.”

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Conveying experience, emotion and sensation

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews. 

Born to Congolese parents in Liège, Belgium, it’s no surprise that Léonard Pongo feels a connection with the country of his origin. He has long wanted to work in the DRC, but in fact had never visited before he started his first documentary project ‘The Uncanny,’ back in 2011. “I wanted much more to see, live and understand the country than give a specific opinion about it. More than trying to convince people of seeing Congo in a certain way, I wanted to complete my understanding of what life in the country was like.”

uncanny01 A car accident in the Golf neighbourhood in Lubumbashi - 2013 A young woman dances at the Lubumbashi golf open - 2013


Pongo doesn’t see himself as a journalist and though he considers himself a documentary photographer, he is critical towards the use of photography to convey specific or complex ideas. “Photography is a very flawed medium which seldom delivers any obvious truth or translates any clear reality without the use of additional tools. The camera transforms reality, it is both limited and incomplete in what it can show to convey a complex reality. It works better to create abstract containers than informative objects.” His Congo project ‘The Uncanny’ is heavily influenced by his subjective experience and personal relationship to the country and the people. As such, he gives more credit to emotional truthfulness in this work than to informative value. “I therefore see it more as a biased and partial view of life in the country than a social analysis of the country. My work related more to using photography to convey experience, emotion and sensation, than to deliver ‘truth’.”


The Uncanny

Pongo’s long term project required a lot of energy and time, and he wanted to develop his own visual language to tell stories that are relevant to his experience in the DRC. The documentary project was conducted in the provinces of Kinshasa, Bas-Congo, Bandundu, Kasaï and Katanga after the political elections of Autumn 2011. Léonard photographed family members, political personalities, religious leaders and local TV presenters in order to document the events that give rhythm to the lives of the country‘s inhabitants. By doing so he tried to understand Congolese society and recover part of his own identity.

“This story tries to show the collateral impact of the war instead of the direct hits. My need to see my country from a different point of view than the so often depicted crises, combined with the openness of people to share their most intimate moments with me and my willingness to be accepted as part of their lives, allowed me to depict my country intimately and subjectively, not trying to deliver a truth, but striving to understand people‘s realities and to reconstruct my own.”

 A fanillly poses during a familly reunion in the suburds of Lubumbashi - 2013


During his work in Congo, Léonard Pongo didn’t try to follow a political agenda. His work is not an attempt at settling scores or reclaiming anything. “I believe people will define themselves for, rather than against, fashions, or values, and I think the Congolese art scene has enough to say on its own, without the need to justify it against history. I think artists can convey more powerful works when they don’t try to justify them through a discourse of guilt or shame.” Befittingly, Pongo’s work is the result of many interactions in chosen places where he has been able to work. It’s not manufactured to serve a specific claim or to support a specific image of Congo.

“What transpires from the series is a certain energy of strangeness, a feeling of being observed as much as observing, and a certain tension. Conflicts have been very definitive parts of creating connection with people and that also transpire in the series.

This work does not rely on a clear narration but rather a loose discovery of a world filled with various characters who shared their lives with me.

A woman poses at the Kananga Hospital - 2011
 Disco Ntemba, a club of the Gombe neighbourhood (Kinshasa) - 2011


Pongo, who now lives in Brussels, thinks his photography is greatly influenced by western values and western tastes. He believes that bringing different values together produces conflict, but this conflict also generates content. “In that sense, my conflict has more to do with the fact that I am shared between identities that I cannot really bring together. I don’t define my identity as ‘African’ or anything else, but the mixing together of elements is what drives me. In the future I definitely want to do more projects in Congo, however, digging deeper and continuing to live through and digest more of its reality.

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The rich photography of Egypt

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews.

“My photography is always evolving. In the past few years my work has been increasingly introspective”, Laura El-Tantawy says. “It’s about timing and the journey I happen to be on in my life at the moment. Generally my work explores social and environmental issues that have some attachment to my own background. I think this will always be the backdrop in my work”, the Egyptian photographer says. Although born in the United Kingdom, she identifies more with her Egyptian heritage and focusses her work accordingly.

image1 image2


“I almost never photograph what I’m actually looking at. I read, talk to people on the street and feel so when I’m in any given situation, I am usually photographing the amalgamation of these things. It’s an approach that sides with the idea that photography is not objective. I don’t believe in neutrality in pictures”, Laura explains. Her starting point is to inform herself; she cannot relate information if she doesn’t understand it. “In going out on the street and exploring places I would not have been to if not for my camera and meeting people I would not have otherwise come upon, I am expanding my own horizons. This is the starting point. Ultimately I hope when people see the pictures they will relate, understand or even better, change their perception.”



Laura thinks there has to be a larger goal than something within herself. She has a personal conflict though because she is skeptical about photography’s power to change perception or get people to take action. “There are some historical instances where pictures did that, but it is rare. This makes me look at photography, and my work particularly, from a narrower point of view.” In that perspective it’s also good that she doesn’t live in Egypt full-time, she says. “I can look at things from a distant eye and I find that this gives me clarity and a fresh perspective. I always work on my own long-term projects.”



“My ideas are inspired by the news, the vibe I am feeling on the streets or something someone said. The starting point is the idea itself and it has to be something that I believe is relevant, visual and I have something to say about. If I see pictures in my head, then I know this is going to be something I can do. Egypt and the African continent are full of life. They are also full of hardship and years of terrible corruption and injustices. This overlap of beauty and hardship is in itself inspiring for me.” She takes her country as it is; disliking the difficulties of everything in Egypt because it’s unnecessary, but again, the fact that she does not live there full-time gives her an advantage over people who live there all the time and have to deal with these daily stresses. “Photographically speaking, Egypt is much richer for me than most other places.”



She has a good explanation for the limitations of photography in her home country, a multitude of reasons: “A lot of it is cultural. We are conservative people by nature and I don’t mean religious, I mean character wise. We are used to protecting ourselves because we grew up in a society where there were always people telling us what to do. We follow rules, follow conventional educational and career paths. So we are taught to conform and all these factors make us a closed up people. This of course is changing, slowly. I also feel as a people we have not moved beyond the perception of photography as something that is done in the studio. So seeing the camera out on the street is a fairly new phenomenon.”


Long way

According to Laura the photograph scene in Egypt is growing. It is geared more towards photojournalism, but the fact it is growing is very positive. “I think it has a very long way to go. You have to educate people that photography is worthy of respect. You can just look at the front pages of any local newspaper and you see how poorly pictures are treated. We are still very much a culture of spoken words.”

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating familiarity with portraits

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews.

“My aim as a photographer is to use my portrayals to re-image the African continent by show showcasing the continent in a more positive light, laying more emphasis on the positive. I focus on our African identity in all it’s diversity and the aesthetics of been African in the 21st century.” Nigerian photographer Jumoke Sanwo knows what she wants to show her audience. As a graduate of English Studies from the Obafemi Awolowo University in her home country Jumoke also knows how to communicate this to the outside, a power that she uses with great success. Her work has been exhibited far and wide, from New York, Brussels and Dubai to Lagos, Sudan, Addis Ababa, Benin, Chad and Ghana. “My work addresses aesthetic concerns as well as concerns on identity, which fosters the discourse on re-imaging the African continent”, she explains. “I will continue to push the envelope with my unique take on the lifestyle of Africans with projects that celebrate the rich cultural diversity within the continent.”

FishermenoftheCongo_2013_jumokesanwo-2 FishermenoftheCongo_2013_jumokesanwo-3


Jumoke wants to address social issues that in her opinion ‘ravage the continent’ with her imagery. Her view on the continent is what sets her apart, she believes, and her images are proof of that. “My portraits are quite intimate in a way that you are able to have a glimpse into the soul of my subjects.  I never shoot a subject until that window is open. The feel to my images is that of familiarity. For you the viewer has got to get the feeling to know the subject just by simply looking at the image.” What motivates her is the simple fact that she thinks these stories need to be told. Told by Africans. By doing so she wants to shed more light on her and her fellow Africans lifestyle. “For too long we’ve been subjected to objectification, almost to a point of spectacle. I feel that in the midst of all that are people living their day by day lives, doing normal things. They’re just surviving and going on; that’s what I want to show through my lens. African as a whole is a fascinating place for photographers, but most outsiders just come here to search for pictorials that illustrate the ideas they already have. I therefore focus on sharing stories without an agenda, unbiased. The focus is on my subject, not on me as a photographer. I simply witness the persons’ story and capture it.”




Black & White Project

Though Jumoke started off as a writer, she realized along the lines that words where not sufficient enough to express her artistic flair. Photography turned out to be the perfect tool as an extension to her views. She became a member of The X-perspective, Black Female Photographers Association, American Photography Association and Invisible Borders Trans-African Photography group to share her experiences with others and a broader audience. Like many other photographers in those association she wants to contribute to the discourse to consciously document stories that challenge the existing notions about a subject. “Last year I came up with an idea called the ‘Black and White Project’, to be presented in two parts. The first was the ‘Retrospective’ project to create an archival image bank. I believe we have a wealth of photographic history in private collections currently. The idea is to create a central body to digitally archive these images. The second part of the project is called the ‘Perspective’ and the idea is to consciously document ongoing occurrences pertaining to our lifestyle in the current day. I am still at the stage of fine-tuning the idea, but hope to be able to carry it out some day.”




In order to give a truthful image of her home country Nigeria she uses her native knowledge of the environment. Interacting with the space in a way that reveals a sensibility and understanding she tries to capture the story from the perspective of an interpreter, simply to share the stories from her subject’s perspective. It’s not always easy to do some in a city like Lagos, she admits. “It’s very challenging to survive as an artist here with the lack of an enabling environment for anything artistic. We see the future in ways how we can generate innovative ideas that can sharpen growth and development, but the government doesn’t understand this and therefore doesn’t support it. There is a rise in popularity of photography in Nigeria, but more in a commercial aspect. I don’t think we need more magazine type portrayals though, because this doesn’t add real value to the art of photography. Unfortunately the artistic practice is not lucrative enough for investments or support here.”

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Capturing the change

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews. 

She believes in the reality of existence and want to capture that story. Seeking to explore the world and herself, document everything around her. That is what Ghanaian photographer Teresa Meka does. “The changing times, the joys, the pain, the highs and lows”, she explains, “I capture it all. I’m a detail-oriented person driven by the philosophy that photography, thus the photographer, is a tool of change, a tool to inform and question.” For her photography is a way of showing people the little things that we ignore everyday, the beauty that’s all around us, including the issues that affect us. “It’s an agent of change and discovery, it helps change stereotype about the continent and its people one image at a time. I seek to document my relationship with the society and how that evolves with time.”



Teresa’s love story for photography began with her uncle’s camera at the age of ten. “He lived abroad and every time her came over he let me use his camera”, she says. It fascinated her, but didn’t imagine herself a photographer. After high school however it was clear for her: she needed to do something with a camera. “I got a job at a small photo studio in Accra and there I got to work with cameras every day. Meeting so many photographers also inspired me. Eventually my uncle paid me a course in South Africa about the fundamentals of photography and from there I just started photographing everything I saw.” Apart from that basic training, Teresa is completely self taught. To earn a living she does commercial photography: weddings, funerals and the like. But it’s her personal projects in which she can show the Africa through her own eyes.



“Time is going so fast – everything is constantly changing”, Teresa says. “There is always something happening and I feel the urge to document that. I see it as a preservation of memory. Therefore I consider myself as a documentary photographer; I want to draw attention to aspects of life that people missed out on.” Teresa admits that she is always capturing her journey, especially because there is always a part of her in the image. With that she also shows that she is part of the society she lives in; part of the bigger picture. “Before I went out with any specific idea though, now I work more and more within a concept. I have goal with what I’m photographing now and that requires some research. It’s a constant learning curve for me.” She sees that photography is becoming more and more popular in Ghana, especially on the commercial side, but rather looks to Nigeria or South Africa for inspiration. “The art photography scene is much bigger there. There are a lot of photographers from other countries that inspire me, that’s why I participated in the Invisible Borders project as well.”



While photographing with the goal to educate her audience, Teresa also learns a lesson herself. Whether it be cultural, economical or political aspects, she always discovers something new that changes her opinion or view. “During the ‘Bed’ series for example, I learned that in Sudan beds are part of the furniture. They’re not just used for sleeping like in Ghana, but to sit, eat and chill on. It’s those aspects that can change your view and what I try to show.” She does admit that what she photographs is just what she sees, a very subjective vision. Yet it’s what she sees through her lens and not what sells, tells a story already told or keeps stereotypes alive. Her work is what she can relate to, without an agenda. “Ghana is not like this or like that, Ghana is what I see”, Teresa explains. “I don’t have a quest per se, but do want to let my audience into my world. It’s what they do with it afterwards that matters, but that’s all up to them.”

Read the original article on This is Africa

Posted in African photographers, This is Africa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment