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.

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