The African Photography Community : Inspiration, Hopes and Challenges – Hear from them
By Clinton Efe Akporherhe
Photography among many ways can be described as the total manifestation of Art. It gives us a better and distinct vision of the universe. If the universe is a screen, photos are like a screenshot. A photograph can reflect the world, so that we are able to see it through the eyes of a cameraman. However, we fail too often to acknowledge how powerful photos can be. A dazzling photo can force us to stop our racing thumbs from an endless scroll down the Internet. They make our eyes stop, stare and admire.
This enchantment becomes apparent on social media because at its very core is an array of countless images, each posted with the intention of capturing the interest of its viewer. Needless to say, the original idea of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook was people to create, edit and show the “perfect picture” to a global audience, which in recent times Africa has become an integral part of.
More than ever before, Young, vibrant and brilliant photographers are now emerging from Africa. All over the globe, there have been a great demand for artistic and culturally-inflected images of Africans and their way of life and a lot of young African Photographers have saddled themselves with the responsibility of revealing this lifestyle in quality and high res pictures.
African’s interest in photography was forged way back in the 19th to early 20th century. Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge became one of the foremost pioneers of African Photography when he was chosen to be an official court photographer by the Oba (king) of Benin – Oba Akenzua II in 1933. The pictures from Chief SOA remains an important relic till this day, showing that apart from being a form of Art, photography can also be an important source of historical and cultural heritage.
Photography in Africa has come a long way from the vintage Black and white photographs of the 19th century. Digital Cameras, modern computer software and other technology has improved African Photography generally. However, I needed to hear from the African Photography Community so as to learn about their desires, hopes and challenges.
For this article, my 7th for ExposAfrica Magazine, I interviewed three brilliant African Photographers – two from Kenya and one from Nigeria. I asked the following questions: How do they sustain their inspiration and desire to deliver? What challenges do they face? What is the most satisfying part of Photography? What future do they see for African Photography?
Here are their answers:
Reson Mwakandana, Founder of The 20th Photography, Nairobi Kenya.
The desire and inspiration to do what I do comes mainly from within. Inspiration from other creatives also boost my desire to be better at my craft. Challenges are always there and as creative we have to work our ways around. I think the main challenge in my profession is people undervaluing Photography. Undervalued work mostly goes unpaid and unrecognised. It is usually frustrating.
I think the most rewarding part is being able to capture life in its abundance and impact people’s lives just through taking photos and being authentic. Inspiration also comes from the unexpected of places. Photography in Africa is amazing. There’s no telling how broad it will grow, because the potential is agonisingly big for sure.
Alvin Mwaniki, Founder Barutti Photography, Nairobi Kenya.
I love being involved in activities that challenges my creativity. I like taking pictures of almost anything that I come across every day. One of the main challenges as a photographer is getting the right gear. Gears can be unavailable or expensive to acquire in my country due to taxes and shipment costs. Another is having a small target market. I specialise in portraits, concept and fashion photography which doesn’t have as big a market in my country as commercial photography.
I think that more African institutions should offer photography as a course and ensure that reading materials on the profession is made available to the students as well as offer scholarships to Africans that cannot afford the fee. African Photography have quite a lot in store for the world in the future especially in Afro-futurism based concepts.
Akinyemi Gbenga Stephen, Founder of Bella Negro Studios, Lagos Nigeria.
There is no substitute to being professional and proficient at what one does. I am good at what I do. Consequently, patronage is inevitable. The evolution of photography is another fire that gets me on. I evolve with advancement in the field, results of which are obviously improved than the former. I deal with humans, which means I deal with different personalities. Some admirable but others unreasonable. When I deal with the latter, it is totally frustrating.
When it is said that “black is beautiful”, it is not a mere saying or cliché. Black really is beautiful. Especially during my post-production of skin tones, colours from attires, frozen moments of cultural arts and activities. Those beauties are reproducible only in Africa.
Africa and western civilization are more of two parallel lines. Be that as it may, the future merge of western civilization and African culture is inevitable. Consequently, we photographers might need to start embracing Afro-futurism. Besides, it will be a novel aesthetic in the field of photography globally, to the glory of Africa.