Images of Current Affairs – Press Photography and Archives in Africa

University Library, Basel, Switzerland
28 Apr 2017 - 26 Aug 2017

Images of Current Affairs – Press Photography and Archives in Africa

The exhibition Images of Current Affairs. Press Photography and Archives in Africa is based on the “Press Photo Archives Buea, Cameroon. Long-Term Protection, Preservation and Access” project, which was carried out between 2013 and 2015 by African Photography Initiatives.

It shows the importance of preserving Africa’s press photo archives and offers everyone interested in historic photography the opportunity to get to know and enjoy these photographs and archives. If Africa’s visual heritage falls into oblivion and is no longer put to use, there could be the risk that these press photo archives will literally disappear.

The exhibition takes you on a historic walk and focuses on the content, function, use and organisation of government-owned press photographs, and, in particular, the Buea Press Photo Archives, Cameroon. On display are also some magnificent press photos from South Africa that – due to the anti-apartheid movement – have developed quite a specific dynamic. As we want to highlight how relevant press photography is in Africa today, we also show photographs of the winners of the Uganda Press Photo Award of the last five years. Works from the project “Reinterpreting Historical Photographs”, which was also initiated by African Photography Initiatives, are also part of the exhibition showing the various ways of current artistic explorations of historic photographs.

Images of Current Affairs looks back on the past, lives in the present and takes a glimpse into the future. The exhibition highlights important developments and changes that have shaped press photography in Africa.

Public interest in independently working photographers on the African continent is still relatively new. It mainly concentrates on (West) African studio and portrait photography, however, contemporary art photography is becoming increasingly popular. Other genres, which are similarly important and fascinating such as press photography, remain largely unexplored. However, state press photo agencies have played an important role in the formation of national identities in the post-colonial era. Without such press photo archives the history of these nations would not be accessible to the next generations, no matter whether at home or abroad.

Since their emergence in the war and post-war period, African state press and photo agencies have been deeply influenced by various political and technological changes. These changes concern the transformation of colonial information services into institutions serving these new and independent nations. Others concern technological developments such as the arrival of colour and digital photography, as well as the Internet.

These changes have a lasting effect on the archives, the place and institution where press photographs are collected, stored and arranged, and from where the pictures are distributed to the public. Under which political, social, legal and material conditions this is done and regulated has a direct and long-term effect on the access to the photographs, their use as well as their circulation. In short, their public presence and long-term material survival depend on these factors.

Vernissage: Friday, 28 April 2017 / 6 – 10 pm

Basel University Library
Schönbeinstrasse 18-20
4056 Basel. Switzerland




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