Thursday, September 27, 2012

Everyday Africa





 Corner kiosk, Dakar, Senegal, July 19, 2012

More even than the Middle East, Africa is arguably the most stereotyped region in the world. It is depicted over and over as a hopeless place with insurmountable problems. Images of famine, war, disease, and the latest coup dominate the Africa story in so-called "Western" mainstream media. We have a duty to report these life-or-death events, but I believe we also have the obligation to present a more complete picture of daily life. Human beings are more than just their problems.

To that end, photographer Peter DiCampo and writer Austin Merrill have started a streaming photography site called Everyday Africa. DiCampo and Merrill worked together most recently in Ivory Coast, where the idea of the project took root.

This New York Times Lens blog is a good synopsis of the premise behind the Everyday Africa project, but DiCampo put it best here: “I realized that I had to keep doing it, because there’s a constant barrage of imagery of misery, despair and hopelessness, and more than any of those things — helplessness, the idea that Africans need to be saved,” he said. “There are attempts out there to reverse this and tell empowering, hopeful stories about Africa. This is neither of those. This is an attempt at changing representation of Africa just by sharing things that are casual, that are a general stream of daily life.”

In my opinion, it's a pretty brilliant idea.

DiCampo and Merrill have made this a collective effort and have invited other photographers who are working on the African continent to post images to Everyday Africa. I became a contributor a couple weeks ago. Other contributors include Glenna Gordon, Shannon Jensen, Jane Hahn, and Laura El-Tantawy. DiCampo says he hopes eventually every African country will be represented by streaming images of daily life.

If you're interested in seeing the work, you can follow this project at everydayafrica on Instagram. For those of you who aren't into the smart-phone/photography-ap trend, you can also see the images on the corresponding tumblr site here: http://everydayafrica.tumblr.com.

One more thing. There is a lot of focus on the fact that these images were, almost exclusively, taken with mobile phones. A word of advice: don't worry about the equipment that was used to produce the image. Just concentrate on the picture. If the image works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't.

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