Sun. Jan 19th, 2020

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The Big Picture – Behind the Lens of African Photographers

The likes of the late Malick Sidibe from Mali, Nigerian Solomon Osagie, and South Africa’s Alf Kumalo are just some of the pioneers of African photography who have gone on to garner international acclaim, and help set a precedent for the younger generation of emerging African photographers. We present a snapshot of some of the photographers whose work captures audience both locally and abroad.

MÁRIO MACILAU – MOZAMBIQUE

MÁRIO MACILAU – MOZAMBIQUE
PHOTO CREDIT: mariomacilau.com

Mário Macilau’s family struggled to make ends meet, causing him to drop out of school and take on odd jobs at the age of ten. A few years later, a lifeline emerged in the form of photography when a friend lent him a camera. Macilau taught himself how to take pictures, photographing people from the townships bringing goods to a market in the capital Maputo, where he worked.

Through his enigmatic black and white images, and expert manipulation of light, shadow, and texture, his photographs draw you in a way that makes you feel deeply connected to the subject. Since becoming a professional photographer in 2007, Macilau has won several awards, and his work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions both in his home country and abroad.

JOANA CHOUMALI – CÔTE D’IVOIRE

JOANA CHOUMALI – CÔTE D'IVOIRE
PHOTO CREDIT: joanachoumali.com

Joana Choumali’s work is a combination of staged and documentary photography. The Ivorian was born in 1974 in Abidjan, and later went on to study Graphic Arts in Casablanca, Morocco. Her passion for photography was sparked at an early age when her parents hired a professional photographer to do a traditional family portrait at home, and was further fuelled when she received a camera for Christmas when she was 13-years-old.

Gazing at Joanna’s exceptional portraits, one understands the purpose of her work: to educate and enlighten about the richness of African cultures and traditions. Take her two recent projects Hââbré, the Last Generation and Resilients. The former chronicles the last generation of Abidjan citizens with facial scarifications, a dying tradition practiced by a variety of tribes in West Africa. The latter documents modern African women wearing their family’s traditional clothing, allowing the subjects to connect with and showcase their ancestral history.

LAKIN OGUNBANWO – NIGERIA

LAKIN OGUNBANWO – NIGERIA
PHOTO CREDIT: lakinogunbanwo.com

Lakin Ogunbanwo is one of the continent’s finest fashion photographers, known for creating bold and moody portraits of men and women, usually laced with a sensual undertone.

The Nigerian photographer studied law at Babcock University in Nigeria, and Buckingham University in England before pursuing a career as a fashion photographer in 2012. His work has been featured in several international publications such as Vogue, British GQ, Riposte Magazine, and Times New York. Lakin has also shot some of Nigeria’s prominent figures, including acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. He has exhibited in Lagos, Johannesburg, and London.

EMMANUEL JAMBO – KENYA

EMMANUEL JAMBO – KENYA
PHOTO CREDIT: emmanueljambo.com

Born in South Sudan and based in Kenya, Emmanuel Jumbo is famously known for taking Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s official portrait, and subsequently being named his official photographer.

Jumbo made a few career shifts before courting photography at the age of 28. He first studied Computer Information Systems at Harold University in Chicago on a basketball scholarship, with a dream of playing in the prestigious National Basketball Association, and later accepted a IT job in Atlanta.

When not working with politicians and celebrities, he creates eye-catching fashion, wedding, and commercial portraits.

ZOHRA BENSEMRA – ALGERIA

ZOHRA BENSEMRA – ALGERIA
PHOTO CREDIT: bensemra.com

Algerian photojournalist Zohra Bensemra is fearless, brave and dedicated to providing in-depth coverage of conflict, humanitarian issues, and stories about women in politics. Born in 1968, her love for photography developed as she watched her brother take photographs when she was just six-years-old. She later started to imitate him and began taking pictures of her classmates at school, planting a seed for what would be her career.

Bensemra’s work has taken her to various parts of the over the world, often times to places others avoided. Some of the prominent stories she’s worked on include the 1997 Algerian civil war, and the conflict between the Albanians and the Serbians in 2000. She was also assigned to Iraq in 2003, covered the South Sudanese independence referendum that same year, and in 2012 documented the conflict in Syria. Of all the stories she has covered in her lengthy career, Bensemra says that the Tunisian Revolution left the biggest mark on her.

In her biography on the Reuters website, Zohra states that she takes photos with the goal to “promote a better understanding of the conflict in order to push those who have the power to improve the situation and find a solution to the problems.”

MICHAEL TSEGAYE – ETHIOPIA

MICHAEL TSEGAYE – ETHIOPIA
PHOTO CREDIT: michaeltsegaye.com

An allergy to oil paint saw Michael Tsegaye move from being a painter to photography in 2003. Exploring remote parts of Ethiopia, Tsegaye’s work depicts a range of social issues that affect people in his homeland. Some of his astonishing photo series include Working Girls, a documentation of the lives of sex workers in the capital, Addis Ababa; and the Future Memories photo essay that chronicles the development of various neighbourhoods in the Ethiopian capital.

“As a photographer I try as much as possible to escape being pigeonholed. I place myself among my peers across the world. While the spirit of my culture – its traditions in music, poetry and literature – informs my photography, my goal is that of any artist: to understand my life and standpoint in the 21st century, and express these through art,” says Tsegaye.

LAURA EL-TANTAWY – EGYPT

LAURA EL-TANTAWY – EGYPT
PHOTO CREDIT: lauraeltantawy.com

Born in England to Egyptian parents, Laura El-Tantawy’s work explores issues of identity, which also touching on religion, social, and environmental issues. With degrees in journalism and political science, the 36-year-old artist started out as a photojournalist in 2002, before pursuing personal projects as a freelance photographer in 2006. She began documenting lives of everyday Egyptians, taking photos of people in publics spaces.

As the 2011 Egyptian revolution intensified, Laura documented the historical political upheaval – her work culminating in an arresting photobook, In the Shadow of the Pyramids. which explores memory and identify amid the country’s political uprising. The photographer describes the book as “a personal exploration; dark, chaotic, sentimental, and passionate.”