Extract from ‘The Journey: New Positions in African Images’ — an introduction

The Journey: New Positions in African Photography profiles 17 photographers who handed via the Photographers’ Masterclass, a decade-long skilled mentorship based by Simon Njami along with the Goethe-Institut in 2008. Numerous in type, format and outlook, the work of those photographers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan encapsulates some — not all — of the ambitions, enthusiasms and prospects of images being made on the African continent. 

Collectively, the 17 portfolios occupy almost two-thirds of this ebook. It couldn’t be in any other case. Complementing this numerous showcase of observe are 13 essays. Equally different in type and technique, every essay grapples with a leitmotif related to understanding images on this specific historic second. A lot of the essays had been written by masterclass mentors, being trade professionals who had been prepared to share their ideas and concepts on images with a choose group of younger photographers. 

Funeral coach for lease alongside Avenue Bypass, municipality of Lemba, 2013 – 2015 (Sammy Baloji)

Bookmaking, very like exhibition making, is a dynamic exercise. As this ebook venture developed from uncooked idea right into a printed artefact, concepts had been stress-tested and parameters tweaked. Being a ebook about new positions in modern African images, halfway into the design and formatting of The Journey it was determined to ask youthful writers to spar with the concepts and/or works emanating from the masterclass venture. This invitation expanded the scope of the ebook, particularly by introducing further themes, concepts and trajectories. For essentially the most half, this ebook stays a showcase of masterclass alumni, nevertheless it additionally contains work by non-participants, photographers whose work is nonetheless emblematic of the zeitgeist and discursive spirit of this itinerant change venture. 

Intense dialog was central to the workings of the masterclass and knowledgeable its first publication, Simply Ask!: From Africa to Zeitgeist (2014). The place this ebook is rooted in proof and evaluation, Simply Ask! was purposefully didactic. What’s a panorama? What’s a narrative? What’s a body? The solutions to those questions had been proposed in an alphabetical itemizing of key phrases and ideas related to understanding images. The Journey additionally goals to be instructive, albeit to a bigger neighborhood of readers, being anybody within the nice flourishing of images throughout the African continent. 

Kayebe Kilombo, from A Life after Dying (2012), by which Georges Senga imagines a recent life for Patrice Lumumba. (Georges Senga)

It’s a truism of images globally that autodidacts are as quite a few as formally skilled photographers. However what does it imply to be a self-taught photographer on a continent with so few images faculties? Is images merely a set of technical procedures that may be learnt from a YouTube tutorial? How essential is writing to seeing? Which writing issues? Are there discourses specific to images from Africa?

The masterclass was by no means pitched as a proper faculty; relatively, it served as a cell academy the place these and lots of different questions might be rigorously debated amongst established and rising professionals. Talking and listening carried equal weight. The strain between historical past and reminiscence is essential to appreciating the ambitions of The Journey, which is greater than mere doc of a venture. In her essay about reminiscence, photograph critic and masterclass mentor Frédérique Chapuis quotes French poet Charles Péguy. Historical past is longitudinal, thought Péguy, whereas reminiscence is vertical. “Historical past primarily consists of passing alongside the occasion. Being contained in the occasion, reminiscence primarily and above all consists of not leaving it, staying in it and going again via it from inside.”

Regardless that this ebook seems after the completion of the ultimate masterclass, it isn’t an adjunct or adjunct to that energetic venture. This ebook can’t be decoupled from the drives and enthusiasms of the masterclass. It’s, we suggest, written from contained in the occasion of reminiscence.

This text is taken from The Journey: New Positions in African Images, edited by Simon Njami and Sean O’Toole (Goethe-Institut/Kerber Verlag). The ebook is on the market from Bridge Books