Surely photographs are presented to convey a message, and if there’s anything I remember from my introductory photo classes as a youth, is that a photograph is all about the “frame.”  In a post called “How to Photograph Africa“, John Edwin Mason, a photographer and history professor at the University of Virginia, plays with the framing of a photo essay on Africa to question the types of messages that are continually portrayed about the continent.   Mason criticizes Getty Image grant winner Stefano de Luigi’s photo series “This is Africa” by offering the essay up as an example of satire, in the vein of Binyanvanga Wainaina’s “How to write about Africa,” and shows that the way the images are presented reinforces negative stereotypes.

I have to admit Mason had me fooled at first, so if there’s still any question: Stefano de Luigi’s photographs aren’t meant to be a satire, they’re serious, but John Mason’s re-framing is satire, and a brilliant critique of the photo essay!

For more examples of the re-framing of images from Africa in photography, see this post at the Africa.Visual_Media Blog.

Further Reading

Detritus of revolution

Nthikeng Mohlele’s novel Small Things (2013) provides a rejoinder to J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999), depicting a black man’s perspective on the failures of South Africa’s transition.

At the edge of sight

Ambivalent: Photography and Visibility in African History is one of very few books to have come out of the continent about photography where the majority of contributors are African scholars.

Music is the weapon

During Christmas 1980, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba performed at a concert in Lesotho that deeply challenged and disturbed South Africa’s apartheid regime. The record of that concert is being reissued.

Carceral colonialism

On the United Kingdom’s attempts to finance the construction of large-scale prison facilities in former colonies, to where it wants to deport undocumented migrants.

Fanon’s mission

The works of Frantz Fanon can be read as architectural renderings of rights, futures, and generations toward a “very different Afro-futurism.”

History time

The historical novel is in vogue across the continent, challenging how we conceive of the nation, and how we write its histories.