Monday, 30 January 2012

A Congo Road Trip




The above picture is by Kiripi Katembo - it's from a project on flooding in Kinshasa. I saw it on  Narrators Photo,  a blog started by Vicky Cheape that is dedicated to providing a wider platform for African photographers. The video below is also by Katembo; it's his mobile phone tied to a kid's cardboard car then pulled through the streets of Kinshasa.




You can see more of Katembo's work from Bamako 2011.


Anyway, I thought the Narrators Photo was such a great idea that I fired off a few questions to Vicky which she very kindly answered. 


Who and what is the Narrators Photo?  

Narrators started for the purpose of opening up some lines of communication between photographers based in Africa and a UK (Europe and the West) audience.  It is currently a very basic website. However, the main site should be online soon as will it's first physical exhibition in Glasgow.

How and why did you get started?

I noticed an increasing number of images, especially in photojournalism but also in the contemporary art field, being produced about Africa but from non-African photographers. To me, this seemed to be quite absurd.  I don't object to people photographing countries other than their own but there seems to be an enormous imbalance when it comes to Africa.  There is no lack of good photographers from every country in Africa but there does seem to be something stopping these projects and artists having presence over here. That is something Narrators is looking to help with.  


How do you find photographers?  Do you have connections with African photographers/curators?

I started from the most obvious photographers who were getting quite a lot of attention, such as Pieter Hugo and Zanele Muholi and worked through networks.  African networks are not dissimilar to our own in the UK; everyone knows everyone.  Facebook was actually a real help in finding photographers with no website or contact details.  

I have made some good connections with photographers based in and around Africa and the response has been terrific. I am hoping to get some curators onboard for the web exhibitions and perhaps to start some discussion.  I am acutely aware that I am not African! So I can only curate and exhibit in so many ways.

What are the differences in perspective between African photographers and non-African photographers?

I think when it comes to African photographers representing their own countries the viewpoints are much more different and complex than say a Westerner who visits for a few weeks.  As a side note I don't think there is such a thing as an 'African' photographer when it comes to content, the idea that there can be one homogeneous view of a continent.   

Who are the major influences on African photographers? Has the recent focus on African portrait photographers/South African photographers had an effect?

When speaking to a recent photographer, whose work deals with political unrest in Cameroon, he told me one of his influences was Nan Goldin!  Yes I can see a lot of Zwelethu Mthethwa influence in some portrait work and also some of Ryan McGinley's style as well.  There is a lot of experimentation as well and mixed art, photographers incorporating sculpture sometimes.

What are some major themes that African photographers are looking at?

Without trying to sound too cliched, 'identity' is a big theme I have noticed. However, that may be because the forthcoming exhibition features young photographers dealing with that exact issue and also being young myself I tend to pick up on that theme more.

What events have you got planned at narrators.com?

Our first exhibition will be held in Glasgow from the 12th April for two weeks but details have yet to be finalised.  We should hopefully have some interesting talks in the gallery and online.  I would love to hear feedback or suggestions so please e-mail info@narratorsphoto.com

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