More than any other continent, Africa’s development has been dictated and perverted by foreign greed, and likewise its image has been defined by the foreign lens. That is the cage of stereotype which the best African photographers have fought to escape for the past 60 years: often rejecting the Western obsession with traditional ceremony and costume, rejecting similarly the associations with violence, poverty and mayhem, sometimes rejecting even the notion of Africa itself—insisting instead on the vast array of identities that have germinated in the continent’s soil.
Photography invites and facilitates the process of appropriation and re-appropriation of identity, in a continent where post-colonial or post-apartheid identity are major themes for artists. It naturally engages with social and political issues that compel many artists; telling stories that need to be told.
As much as the “Africa is a country” thing is an annoying Western ignorant viewpoint, I found that it worked in this case. The commonality of having to deal with resolving cultures after Europe messed with things in the continent makes sense to me. The presentation wasn’t about how all Africa was the same but rather how different African artists dealt with the cultural whiplash of being unleashed from colonialism and set loose in the global economy.
This auction/collection totally fits in with this idea of reappropriating culture in the midst of a post-colonial world. It’s why I fall into the creation side of the “what democratized photography” debate.
This is one Carleton Watkins picture printed four different times. It’s The Domes from the Sentinel Dome, Yosemite (1865-66). Different prints of the picture are in about a dozen different collections around the world.
This post also whets my appetite for the giant Watkins show at Stanford. It’s one of the most must-see things on my summer itinerary. Heck, I’ve already acquired the catalog since I know I’ll love this show.
In a new series called Off the Radar, LightBox asks celebrated photographers to write about image makers whose work they admire yet may be unknown to a wider audience. Here, Mark Steinmetz celebrates a group of women who documented life in the Northeastern United States in the 1980s.
I would like to call attention to some remarkable photography made in the late 1970s and early 1980s by nine women in Massachusetts.
So this is cool and important. It’s always nice to find out about new photographers and I really like the “off the radar” idea. It’s also great that the off-the-radar choices are a different demographic than the person doing the choosing. All too often we pick someone like ourselves in this situation so props to Steinmetz for not doing so.
All that said, I’d still like to see women photographers get featured who aren’t primarily taking photos of people.