Review of My Eastern Africa Portraits by LensCulture
I find this work visually compelling. I love your use of color and light and the painterly quality that you bring to the images. I like that the subjects are shown as full human beings. I love how your lighting makes the subjects appear as if they are perhaps in a studio and that there is this vague sense of performance in the pictures. I think this is really important and counter-acts the usual pictures of African suffering we are used to seeing. I find it so exciting to see work like this. So often I find myself highly critical of the ways in which we from the West tend to view Africans as needing our pity or that the photographer feels that it is his/her job to show people how awful things are which often creates sympathy and a certain kind of awareness at the price of the humanity of the subjects. I found myself recently reading Susie Linfields Cruel Radiance which you may find interesting. As always I do think its important to consider what it means to photograph people who have been victimized in a way that gives them agency. I suggest you pick this book up if you haven’t already, a companion piece with a quite different but I believe complementary perspective is Susan Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others”. I am finding myself wanting to see a lot more of these pictures, I want to enter these pictures and their richness and beauty the way I want to enter a beautifully illustrated book. I
I would however like more information and more pictures, I feel that if these are to be connected to the idea of the micro grants I’d like to know more, perhaps not specifically related to the photos, but I would love a poetic text that could give me some more information about this area and these people and what is happening with them. Perhaps you would consider working with a creative writer? I don’t know its just an idea, your pictures have a poetic aspect to them and it would make sense to have a good poetic writer.
While I can see the editorial use of this work I would encourage you to put your work forth within a fine art context. I would suggest that you do this aware of the complexities of post-colonialism and the western view of the other. I would love to see this work extend to other cultures and people (without ending up as some kind of Disney view of the world). I think there has to be more awareness of what happens in Africa and somehow more connections. I think your work helps. Really the bottom line is that I want to see more and to see you paired up with a poetic (ideally central African) writer.
If you haven’t you should read “The Fisherman” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/books/review/the-fishermen-by-chigozie-obioma.html?_r=0