Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Photography and Africa

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Photography and Africa

Article excerpt

Photography and Africa, by Erin Haney. London: Reaktion Books, 2010. 197 pp. ISBN 978-1-86189-382-6. £15.95.

The volume under review is part of the publishers' series 'Exposures' - 'a series of books on photography designed to explore the rich history of the medium from thematic perspectives. Each title presents a striking collection of images and an engaging accessible text that offers intriguing insights into a specific theme or subject'. Readers of ARD will also be interested in Photography and Cinema, Photography and Literature and Photography and Egypt.

Erin Haney is Visiting Scholar at National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. and a curator and author working on several projects dealing with historical and contemporary photographers from Africa. Confidence is inspired by acknowledgements which include John Picton, Gus Casely-Hayford, Elizabeth Edwards, Christaud Geary and David Easterbrook as well as less well known names and by the comprehensive bibliography. I was disappointed that SCOLMA's Images of Africa (ARD no. 68, 1995) did not rate a mention, but delighted to see that the Royal Commonwealth Society's pioneering but now almost forgotten Commonwealth in Focus: 130 years of photographic history (compiled by Donald Simpson and Peter Lyon, 1982) is cited.

Haney stresses that African photography is not a recent phenomenon. Images survive from as early as the 184Os. The book showcases a range of technologies from daguerreotypes to digital and shows the complexity of the history and interpretation of photography in and from Africa. It pays much attention to questions of agency, negotiation and spin stressing the role of African photographers and consumers.

The opening chapter 'Towards a wider history' "points to the different conditions of the medium's emergence and to the conditions of instability, momentum and innovation which characterize early photographic practices and the photographers themselves. …

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