African Photography

Images of Africa by Western photographers have been plagued by photographs of starving children, war, wildlife photography, tourist landscapes and portraits of African tribes exoticizing the “dark continent.” But Africa for the past few years has been immersed in digital technology and culture and the digital age in Africa can now be witnessed through art and photography.

Key Questions

Is there an ‘African’ style?? subject matter, perspectives, colours, line

or just individual photographers who happen to come from Africa?

Hotshots: Africa’s most exciting new photographers 

Jepchumba 2013 Jepchumba, originally from Kenya, is founder and creative director of African Digital Art, which is dedicated to African digital media and art. 

Zanele Muholi, South Africa: “visual activist.” Her photography often takes on subjects that are taboo and unspoken in parts of Africa and Muholi is renowned of her groundbreaking portraits of the lives of gay women in South Africa.

Hélène Amouzou, Togo: series of self portraits taken in the attic of her home.

Nii Obodai, Ghana:  “Who Knows Tomorrow?”  book offers his take on the contemporary visual representation of Ghana.

Mutua Matheka, Kenya: one of the founders of Kenya 365, a 365-day project inviting Instagramers to take photos of Kenya, chronicling the changing Kenyan landscape and how economic and technology growth has influenced the country.

Lakin Ogunbanwo, Nigeria: visually provocative imagery of fashion culture in Nigeria.

Dillon Marsh, South Africa: travel throughout Southern Africa where he documents various places, experimenting with the strange uniqueness of familiar neighborhoods and landscapes.

Emeka Okereke, Nigeria: founder of Invisible Borders, a road trip project that invites artists and photographers to go on a journey to explore new images of the continent throughout West Africa.

Michael Tsegaye, Ethiopia: Traversing through remote parts of Ethiopia, Tsegaye’s portfolio displays wide ranging social issues that affect the people in the country. Tsegaye has done many fantastic photo series, including “Working Girls,” a photo essay on the lives of sex workers in Addis, as well as “Future Memories” — a series that chronicles the urbanization of various neighborhoods in Addis Ababa.

 Encounters PICHA Biennale 

2010: selected by Simon Njami: Adama Bamba (Mali), Dimitri Fagbohoun (Togo), Jellel Gasteli (Tunisia), Kiluanji Kia Henda (Angola), Kiripi Katembo Siku (D.R.Congo), Mouna Karray (Tunisia), Pierrot Men (Madagascar), Zineb Sedira (Algeria), Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa) in photography; Bili Bidjocka (Cameroon), Jimmy Ogonga (Kenya), Kader Attia (Algeria), Moataz Nasr (Egypt), Myriam Muhindou (Gabon) in video art.

 Bamako African Photography Encounters (French: Rencontres africaines de la photographie) is a biennial exhibition in Bamako, Mali since 1994. website links to photographers do not work. But under each biennial you can find lists of prize-winners.

The 6th annual African Photography Encounters  2005, with the theme of “Another World.” The prizes awarded were:

The jury also honored Ranjith Kally (South Africa) for his life’s work.

Assessment

There is here a clear difference between photographers who are really engaged – with privileged and deep communication with their subject and environment, They are able to get very raw and moving images.

And others who are obviously from a more sheltered social background and tend to follow Western voyeurism and exoticism – but often less technically adept.

Images of Africa by Western photographers have been plagued by photographs of starving children, war, wildlife photography, tourist landscapes and portraits of African tribes exoticizing the “dark continent.” But Africa for the past few years has been immersed in digital technology and culture and the digital age in Africa can now be witnessed through art and photography.

Marcus Bleasdale

Marcus Bleasdale (born 1968) is a photojournalist, born in the UK to an Irish family. He spent over eight years covering the brutal conflict within the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and has worked in many other places. Much of his work is linked to fundraising for aid and human rights agencies and there is often a link to ways t donate. His videos are extremely powerful and also discuss what people can do to change the situations the are seeing.

His images are in both black and white and colour and he also does video. They get their power because he is well informed about what he is shooting and knows why he wants hat shot and also has access to people and situations most outsiders would not. But he also has an extraordinary sense of composition and tone. Some of his images at composited (no examples available for download) but I generally find these less powerful.

http://www.marcusbleasdale.com/sources/ipad/index.php#home

Rape of a Nation.    http://mediastorm.com/publication/rape-of-a-nation

Joel Meyerowitz

Google Images for Aftermath

Reflections on Ground Zero : BBC Documentary

Compare with the way another photographer – a policeman John Bott whose health was seriously damaged by the photography work he did. Unlike Meyerowitz he did not profit from the photos he took.

Discussion Exercise 3.3 ‘Late Photography

Biography Wikipedia

Joel Meyerowitz (born March 6, 1938) is a street photographer and portrait and landscape photographer.

He began photographing in color in 1962 and was an early advocate of the use of color during a time when there was significant resistance to the idea of color photography as serious art. In the early 1970s he taught the first color course at the Cooper Union in New York City where many of today’s renowned color photographers studied with him.

In 1962, inspired by seeing Robert Frank at work, Meyerowitz quit his job as an art director at an advertising agency and started photographing streets of New York City with a 35 mm camera and black-and-white film. Garry Winogrand, Tony Ray-Jones, Lee Friedlander, Tod Papageorge and Diane Arbus were photographing there at the same time. Meyerowitz was inspired Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Eugène Atget.

After alternating between black-and-white and color, Meyerowitz “permanently adopted color” in 1972, well before John Szarkowski’s promotion in 1976 of color photography in an exhibition of work by the then little-knownWilliam Eggleston. Meyerowitz also switched at this time to large format, often using an 8×10 camera to produce photographs of places and people.

Meyerowitz appears extensively in the 2006 BBC Four documentary series The Genius of Photography and in the 2013 documentary film Finding Vivian Maier.

He is the author of 16 books including:

Cape Light, considered a classic work of color photography.

Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive (2006) – he was the only photographer allowed unrestricted access to its Ground Zero immediately following the attack.

 

 

 

Dana Lixenberg

My work is partly about the inevitable downside and consequences of capitalism which can result in a sense of alienation…actually I am part of it, and even people I photograph are part of this system and keep it going. I think [capitalism] has become a given because you can see how former and current communist countries are going the same way. I’m really aware of that, and want to face the realities and the downsides of that system that I find also attractive.

I find that the [documentary] portraits and landscapes are really about slowing down, cutting out all the noise and really taking time to contemplate the world around me every time with new eyes. The plain and the everyday is often very exciting to me. It can reveal a lot about life. I’m really inspired by details and I am usually more inspired by non-dramatic settings. Some of my images may seem boring, where there is nothing obvious going on, but I like playing with that, being on the fringes of boring.

While I have no expectation that I can influence social change or that I can ever make a concrete impact with the photographs, I do feel it’s kind of empowering to give the people you photograph a timeless presence in the larger world.

Google images

 

Interview for Mossless magazine

Overview: http://www.thelastdaysofshishmaref.com/shishmaref3/cms/cms_module/index.php

Film presentation:  http://www.thelastdaysofshishmaref.com/shishbook/shishbook_release-1.1.11/MainView.html 

The Last Days of Shishmaref (2008) by Dana Lixenberg mixes landscape with formal portraits and still life to create a dynamic portrait of an Alaskan community that is under imminent threat from the sea due to the increasingly later freeze of the protective permafrost that encircles the island. The traditions of this community, mostly of Inuit origin, are just as much under threat as the precarious strip of land. The images in the book are informed with essays by geographers and environmentalists.

Lixenberg’s trademark is a 4×5 camera and tripod. This gives an intensity of experience between the photographer and those she photographs that she feels is not there with other types of cameras. She enjoys illustrating contrast in her work and portraying people in pure form.

Biography

Dana Lixenberg (born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands,1964) lives and works in New York and Amsterdam. Lixenberg originally went to New York to become an au pair and then discovered photography at a night school class. She studied Photography at the London College of Printing in London (1984-1986) and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam (1987-1989).

Her breakthrough in the U.S. came in 1993, when she was awarded a project grant by the Fonds BKVB (The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture) for a series of portraits at the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Los Angeles,CA. She was soon getting commissions from a wide variety of magazines such as Vibe, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Newsweek and The Telegraph magazine amongst many others.

Lixenberg continuously worked on long term personal projects, mostly focused on individuals and communities on the margins of society. Lixenberg has been the recipient of several project and publication grants in the Netherlands.

  • 1999 she was the subject of a documentary titled: Dana Lixenberg, thru dutch eyes 
  • 2005 she was featured in an episode of the documentary series ‘Hollands Zicht’ (Dutch Vision) both for Dutch television.
  • 2005 Jeffersonville, Indiana was awarded Best Dutch Book Design,
  • 2008 The Last Days of Shishmaref, was also awarded Best Dutch Book Design, 2008.

Since 2008 Lixenberg has been revisiting the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Los Angeles for a follow up to the series from 1993. In spring 2015 Huis Marseille, Amsterdam will organize a large scale exhibition of Imperial Courts coinciding with the release of a publication.

Other work

Lixenberg photographs people from all social classes.

I’ve never taken a different  approach between photographing celebrities and un-known individuals,  The fragility of life is experienced by all. ..When shooting people who have had a lot of media exposure I’m not interested in reinforcing their public image. I try to really see the person that’s in front of me, the way they are at that particular moment stripped from all the surrounding distractions like their entourage and to slowly bring them to a place where they don’t present a persona basically where they don’t try to hard. 

In addition to ordinary people, Lixenberg has photographed a number of American celebrities, including Prince and Whitney Houston.

Lixenberg is also a film director and directed the Dutch singer Anouk’s 2005 video ‘One Word’

 

Martin Parr

Martin Parr (born 1952) trained in photography at Manchester Polytechnic.

Described in the past as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite  photographer, Parr caused a stir when he tried to join

Magnum Photos. The issue was one of integrity. Photographers within Magnum’s ranks guarded their territory jealously and felt that the work that Parr offered was voyeuristic, titillating and
meaningless. Parr was eventually accepted at Magnum in 1994 and went on to become one of the leading authorities on photography in the UK.

Parr has an ability to turn the snapshot into art. There is however something of the satirical about this work – many of the images raise a smile. Parr worked mainly in colour and his approach was to over-light with fill-in flash, causing a frozen moment in time to be even more false yet far more real.  His work is quirky and opportunistic. He makes no bones about the latter; invited to an event, he takes the opportunity to produce images that will lead to further projects. His approach is direct. He doesn’t ask permission and if someone sees that he is photographing them he will continue on the basis that it’s his job to photograph them, record their reaction, etc. The characteristic Parr style is still there 30 years on.

Listen to Martin Parr talking about his images and practice:

 

Parr has produced a wide range of work.

  • Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton (1986). One of his first
    major colour pieces.This style was to become synonymous with Parr and his ability to create from the ordinary. The little girl could be the focus of the image but the boy is also interesting. The car and the lighthouse are both essential to the composition.
  • A recent project in the suburbs of Paris depicts ordinary
    life within a diverse, mainly immigrant, community.
  • St Moritz series shows the rich at play in a way that only people who work there would normally get to see.
  • Luxury – a recent Martin Parr project where he looks at the rich and their pastimes.

The Parrworld (2008) show exhibited some of Parr’s extensive collection of kitsch souvenirs and other disparate paraphernalia: a watches with pictures of Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, bubblegum pop pin-up wallpaper. He compares photography to collecting: the world is out there for the having.

Parr has edited three volumes of his collections of postcards:

  • Boring Postcards (1999)
  • Boring Postcards USA (2000)
  • Langweilige Postkarten (2001).

The subjects within Boring Postcards are what we judge to be mundane or prosaic, such as motorways, service stations, tower blocks, school and other modernist municipal buildings – structures that we take for granted and might even consider to be ‘eyesores’. They weren’t necessarily photographed for their beauty in any traditional sense, but because of their novelty value as photographic subjects. [Many of the images in the UK edition are attributed to the Frith photographic company.] They are in fact often quite unusual and remarkably intriguing.

 Exercise: Getting the Parr ‘feel’

For this exercise, photograph people engaged in a fun or social activity outdoors. For example, you could go to a seaside resort and photograph people having a good time. Or photograph people at an outdoor party or function. Try to capture the Martin Parr ‘feel’.
Use your camera flash or a flash gun to balance the daylight. You need to take light readings from the ambient light and then set the flash gun to produce a small amount of flash – not enough to turn the scene into night – running the camera at a slower speed than the flash would normally synch at.
Getting the flash /ambient light balance right is the key to the technical side of the whole look.
This is the camera’s reaction under normal circumstances. A slower shutter speed than the recommended flash setting may help a lot.
This will work very differently for a range of cameras and you may need individual support and advice for this relative to your personal camera equipment.
Produce a set of eight colour images. Ensure that the colour is bright and reflects the nature of Martin Parr’s work. How does this lighting effect change the nature of your images? Make
some notes in your learning log.

Photography, memory and place

“… in Photography, I can never deny that the thing has been there. There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past. And since this constraint exists only for Photography, we must consider it, by reduction, as the very essence, the noeme of Photography.” (Barthes 1982,p.76)

Photographic images affect the way we remember moments we experienced ourselves, and our impressions of things we experience via the image alone. Barthes also proposes how the photograph can act as a “counter-memory”, aggressively blocking impressions formed by our other senses as it “fills the sight by force” (ibid, p. 91 quoted Alexander 2013p107).

Many practitioners have engaged with idead of personal memories (family albums, holidays) in one form or another:

  • Trish Morrissey
  • Gillian Wearing
  • Joachim Schmid.
  • Peter Kane goes back to places depicted in his family’s photo album and re-photographs and superimposes the images.

Photography has also been used to explore and challenge the construction of collective memories (eg documentation of ‘early’ or ‘late’ photography as well as events unfolding)

  • Shimon Attie uses contemporary media to explore relationships between space,time, place and identity working with communities to find new ways of representing their history.
  • Jeff Wall produces large tableaux of events, or staged events, referencing the way history painting interpreted and often glorified historical events.
  • Luc Delahaye also references history painting, using large format analogue cameras to document meetings, political ceremonies and war zones.

But as Bates cautions (see also my reaction to Meyerowitz):

“As sites of memory, photographic images (whether digital or analogue) offer not a view on history but, as mnemonic devices, are perceptual phenomena upon which a historical representation may be constructed. Social memory is interfered with by photography precisely because of its affective and subjective status…in terms of history and memory, photographs demand analysis rather than hypnotic reverie’ (Bate The Memory of Photography pp255-256)

The matter of ‘reality’ is an important aspect to consider in relation to all areas of photography: who is recording what, why, for whom and why?

3.5: Local history

3.6: ‘The Memory of Photography

Jacob Aue Sobol

Jacob is a member of Magnum Photos. Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, Rita Castelotte Gallery in Madrid and RTR Gallery in Paris also represent him.

Jacob was born in Denmark, in 1976 and grew up in Brøndby Strand in the suburbs south of Copenhagen. He lived as an exchange student in Strathroy, Canada from 1994-95 and as a hunter and fisherman in Tiniteqilaaq, Greenland from 2000-2002. In Spring 2006 he moved to Tokyo, staying there 18 months before returning to Denmark in August 2008. He now lives and works in Copenhagen.

After studying at the European Film College, Jacob was admitted to Fatamorgana, the Danish School of Documentary and Art Photography in 1998. There he developed a unique, expressive style of black-and-white photography, which he has since refined and further developed.

Sabine: In the autumn of 1999 he went to live in the settlement Tiniteqilaaq on the East Coast of Greenland. Over the next three years he lived mainly in this township with his Greenlandic girlfriend Sabine and her family, living the life of a fisherman and hunter but also photographing. The resultant book Sabine was published in 2004 and the work was nominated for the 2005 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.

Gomez-Brito family: In the summer of 2005 Jacob travelled with a film crew to Guatemala to make a documentary about a young Mayan girl’s first journey to the ocean. The following year he returned by himself to the mountains of Guatemala where he met the indigenous family Gomez-Brito. He stayed with them for a month to tell the story of their everyday life. The series won the First Prize Award, Daily Life Stories, World Press Photo 2006.

I, Tokyo: In 2006 he moved to Tokyo and during the next two years he created the images from his resent book I, Tokyo. The book was awarded the Leica European Publishers Award 2008 and published by Actes Sud (France), Apeiron (Greece), Dewi Lewis Publishing (Great Britain), Edition Braus (Germany), Lunwerg Editores (Spain), Peliti Associati (Italy) and Mets & Schilt (The Netherlands)

Bangkok Encounter:2008

2009 Home, Copenhagen.

Arrivals and Departures – a journey from Moscow to Beijing – in co-operation with Leica Camera.

Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado (born 1944) was educated as an economist and produced his first book in
1973 about the poor of Latin America. Other Americas was in the true tradition of documentary.
In one interview he commented, “It’s not my intention to give people guilty consciences, just to
make them think.” Subsequent books, including Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age
(1993) and Migrations (2000), have received worldwide recognition. The images are without
doubt factual – they are not enhanced or done in a newsworthy manner. Yet at the same
time they are ‘sensational’ – mud-soaked prospectors in Brazil living and working in hellish
conditions, hoping to find a nugget of gold in the bucket of earth they carry up huge rickety
ladders, or the suffering of ordinary people fleeing war and famine in Exodus.
For a discussion about the photographer as activist, visit:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6fRykp6nRQ