Issues in African Photographies

Instructor: Allison Moore

Although photography reached Egypt and West Africa soon after it was patented in 1839, the history of photography in Africa has only recently begun to be written. Africa is a vast, sprawling continent of fifty-five diverse nations, yet because of these nations’ shared history of European colonialism, “Africa” tends to be considered – at least by outsiders - as one continuous, consistent place. This seminar will oppose that perception, acknowledging political, historical, socio-cultural, and ethnic differences across the continent. We will examine different types of photography in different regions of Africa, sketching an overview of major genres in their historical and socio-political contexts, and we will discuss philosophical problems about what photography is, and why Africa is our focus. Topics will include the relationship of colonialism, anthropology and photography; self-representation and studio photography; ‘struggle photography’ under apartheid and art photography in the “Rainbow Nation”; censorship and repression in post-independence government photo agencies; Afro-pessimism and Western photojournalism; ritual uses of photography and crossovers with other mediums; feminism and the representation of women; diasporic displacement and identity; and the globalization of African photography and biennials on the continent.