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Zanele Muholi was born in South Africa in 1972. Today she is one of the most prominent and accredited contemporary photographers in the world. An activist and a member of the LGBTQ community, she grew up in Durban, Kwazulu Natal during apartheid years.
Today her unique and extraordinary images reach out across the world, an engaging 'mix of intimacy and defiance'. Possessing a powerful cultural and political resonance, they reflect her own personal struggles but are also reflective of a collective community.
David Goldblatt the great chronicler of apartheid-era South Africa was a valued early mentor.
Through the lens of their cameras, these contemporary African photographers listed below are among many of those who offer unique and excitingly new perspectives of life in Africa... and beyond, as members of the African diaspora.
Leila Alaoui was born in 1982 in Paris, raised in Morocco and educated in the United States. Working out of all 3 places and acutely aware of the privilege of her freedom to travel, she produced a number of series of works from 2008 onwards.
Collaborating with a number of NGO's she used her photography to reveal human narratives, believing that photography and art could be used for social activism.
- No Pasara" ('Entry Denied'), 2008. Crises in migration and displacement of people. Black and white images documenting a group of young Moroccans awaiting their journey to Europe in search of a better life... including portraits set in landscapes.
- "Natreen" ('We Wait'), 2013. Set in Lebanon, documents the lives of fleeing refugees from Syria.
- "Les Marocains"(The Moroccans'), was an ongoing series amassed from 2010 until her death in 2016 - A series of life-sized portraits that capture the ethnic and cultural diversity of Morocco.
Her unfinished video "L'Ile du Diable" ('Devil's Island') drew on photographs, video, sound and testimonies of the stories of migrant, car-factory workers from post-war days west of Paris in France.
Her death in 2016 as result of injuries sustained in a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou was tragic and untimely but her powerful and sensitive images give face to the people who have been lost and misrepresented.
This Michaelis-schooled, multiple award-winning photographer uses his own body and self portraiture to explore the history of the black body within the South African context.
Represented through film, large-scale photography prints, installations and performances, his work engages race, militarization of society and the deep divides of post-apartheid South Africa and post-colonial Africa.
Modisakeng has participated in many exhibitions, both solo and group, and has represented SA at the Venice Biennale in 2017.
Mario Micalau first got hold of camera when he was 14 years old taking photos of his surroundings and the environment around him in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique.
While he has moved to digital photography he still prefers to present his images in black and white. Intense and moody he uses depth of field and natural light to give more nuance to his images.
His subject matters are always part of a process longterm projects that require commitment and trust between the photographer and his subjects. Micilau says his work is "a personal documentary and a constant exploration of how humans sustain themselves in changing environments".
'Growing in Darkness' is one of those series. Documenting Mozambique's street children he portrays how against huge adversity, these children carry on living thanks to their huge resilience and "the immensity of their hearts". In the poignant image above a 14 year old takes a shower on a Sunday in order to attend a hosted meal.
Born in Nigeria he studied law before moving into photography in 2012. Currently working out of the UK he delightfully fuses fashion and portraiture in enigmatic and wistful images.
Ogunbanwo said in CNN's article on leading photographers, "I have always been interested in images, from a young age, but actively started to understand them by making portraits of my sisters. My inspiration comes from everything, every day, and an innate need to capture beauty as I see it. I'm usually drawn to form, interesting shapes and silhouettes."
His iconic series of Yoruba men with traditional hats and headwear was a way of preserving his culture while adopting the present and showing how mixing garments has become a part of contemporary fashion.
Contemporary African photographer Namsa Leuba, was born in Neuchatel, the child of mixed race parents. Now living and working in Tahiti, Polynesia she remains intrigued by her natural heritage and most of her work explores signs and symbols of African culture, from traditional rituals and ceremonies to statues and masquerades to modern day youth, street culture and fashion.
Using documentaries, fashion photography and performance art, she creates mesmerizing and inventive images. She has spent her last 5 years of her artistic research focusing on visualizing African identity through Western eyes.
Her series Weke was executed in Benin, the birthplace of voodoo and animism and her photos explore imagined narratives around this theme.
Traore's work crosses urban cultural boundaries of 2 African cities, namely Douala the town of his birth and Dakar the city where he now lives and creates.
His 2 notable photographic series are "Political Bodies" from 2016 and "Voyages, Images and Corps" in 2017. They celebrate and capture the exciting and dynamic world of the youth culture of these 2 major African cities .... capoeira, street performance , hip hop ....
Born post 1990 this group of exciting, young photographers are pushing the limits in technique and subject matter... a constant, relevant exploration by these artists producing a vast array of arresting images, film and documentaries.
These photographers are utilizing present day, computerized techniques to give their work authority and to portray their individual visions, often using their mobile phones to take their photos.
Street photography reflects the changes of political and social government, the transitions of power, legal and illegal. Marches, riots, demonstrations are captured in the immediacy of events. Images and film can change the way people think.
Black and white images are still frequently used for all genres as is studio photography but these days its mostly all about modern youth culture and contemporary life in the cities.
Many of their projects are an attempt at decolonizing the portrayal of Africa. The African identity is constantly being challenged, diversity of cultures and identities are being explored. Topics explored include gender, LBGTQ, sexuality and socioeconomic status.
Other pertinent themes are all about borders, the diaspora, translocation, deportation and refugees. Humanity, giving face to the overlooked and the silenced, politics, oppression victims and documenting truth give African photography strength and power, enabling its citizens.
Portraiture is still a favorite, inside or out the studio. They can be formal or informal but capture style, status and fashion of 'the now' continuing the archiving of fashion, textiles, clothing and attitude. Streetwear and dance moves surely bump up the attitude!!
Born in the North of Morocco this self-taught, contemporary African photographer move to Belgium with his family as a child. Experimenting with creating his own fashion style of photography he eventually fused his birth culture and roots with the Western culture he experienced growing up. The inspiration he gets from his rich, homeland heritage is very evident and seemingly endless.
He expertly splices together symbols from his Muslim faith together with Western pop culture and brands in his bright, joyful portraits. Aiming to shift prejudices, his approach is often humorous, exuberant and candid.
Ruth Ossai was raised in Nigeria and Yorkshire in the UK. She is the genuine product of the influences of a combined culture and environment.... A leading fashion photographer, she takes her inspiration from Nollywood, the films of her youth. The vibrancy and fervor of her Nigerian community also plays a role in the creation of her fabulously colorful and hyper-stylized aesthetic. Many of her images are joyful and celebratory.
She has invested herself into an integrated role in society, supporting the welfare of its members and never compromising her work or her principles. At the same time she can take very intimate and personal photographs of family and cultural or pop icons that really engage with the public and manage to touch people.
She has collaborated with film makers and fashion houses as well as showing her work at PhotoLagos and Red Hook Labs, New York.
Alice Mann was born in Cape Town and currently lives and works between CT and London. Trained in Fine Art photography she mixes formal and documentary portraiture in her work. She is the worthy recipient of a number of prominent photographic awards including Lensculture's 2018 emerging photographer prize and the 2018 Taylor Wessing portraiture prize for her series titled "Drummies".
This series was shot in marginalized areas of her hometown and despite the day to day harsh reality of these girls and young women, what we see captured in these delightful images is strength and joy and a sense of self-worth.
Her latest series is called 'Khanyi's Dance' which sees Mann back in CT again, this time filming the coming of age of a young girl as she prepares for her prom night or matric dance, art of passage for many South African teenagers.
For Wallpaper magazine she teamed up with a performance group to take these lyrical fashion shots taken in architectural surroundings.
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