Recap Photography September 5, 2019 Addis Ababa Hilton
Our September event was one for the books! We were joined by four phenomenal local photographers that came from different backgrounds and accolades. From the conventional to the unconventional, it was an inspiration to see their work, learn about their passions and what it takes to be a good photographer and more. Please read on and get to know our panelists and how they photography as a social transformation tool.
A fine art photographer, Konjit wanted her pictures to raise questions? She showed pictures taken in a hospital that depict how food given to the sick reveals what kind of attitude people have for the sick which is different from what is experienced in a hotel. Her pictures raise a question about the difference between individuals who have the need to eat. She said, “everyone has a stomach to feed; does it mean a prisoner or a sick person doesn’t deserve to eat good food. It is not because we are poor, it’s because hospitals foods have problems all over the world.” She said even if someone is not in prison and his/her mind is not free the mind has nowhere to go.
Konjit is fatigued of the clichéd images that portray Ethiopia, as what we mostly see are images like Lalibela and Axum. She asks, “What is our perspective? Something that is typical of Ethiopia? For many it seems to be a woman carrying a pot, the rural community or the low income society. Photographers/Artists don’t document real life. We need to ask ourselves as photographers why photography could be a tool for many things such as advocacy, social, political tools and more.”
One of the few Ethiopian natural explorers and wildlife photographer, presented a video clip and pictures of breathtaking scenery and dauntless interaction with animals including crocodiles and lions. Aziz talked about his passion for wild life that stemmed from going to the wild at an early age with his father, who was unfortunately killed by a Lion. Aziz stated that although being in the wild has a high risk, he enjoys spending most of his time there. He cannot live in the city for more than a few days. Aziz sold his condominium and bought a pick-up track to accommodate his travel. Given the fact that Ethiopia has amazing people, different languages, cultures, wild life and so much more to offer. He is disheartened to know that many Ethiopians don’t know how rich of a country they have. We, as a society, do not promote the richness of our country and is also not prioritized by the government. Aziz, as a dedicated citizen, is promoting Ethiopia through his book and TV programs. You can find his work on his Instagram account on ethiopian.wildlife.
Martha a humanitarian photographer and a Photo journalist presented pictures that are different from the usual NGO pictures. The pictures tell the story of Sifirash and her family’s humble beginning. The story begins with Sifirash in labor for four days at a health facility in Maksegnit established with the support of UNICEF. The pictures show Sifrash and her entire family who came to give her emotional support all the way from her home town. Sifrash was accompanied by her husband, mother, father and even friends of her mother and father. Martha followed Sifrash and her family when they returned home with their new bundle of joy. There was a huge party to put together to celebrate the new arrival.
After sometime, Martha followed-up with the story by visiting Sifrash and her family for the second time during the christening of the baby and documented the party. While she was there, Martha discovered that Sifrash and her husband wanted to work in a small shop but didn’t have money to stock up the shop and start selling. Martha took it upon herself to mobilize her and her friends to raise funds and support the young couple open-up a shop by using social media. Martha said, “We have something that connects us. I wanted to show the community, their hope their future. I documented the story, to show their life behind the scenes.”. You can also follow her work on her instagram page and on her website www.marthinolly.com.
Aaron is a Portrait and documentary photographer. He has over four years’ experience as a full time photographer. He is now the official photographer of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad. Aron is currently documenting Ethiopian patriots who fought for their country to ward off colonial powers. He said, “the national Patriots day celebration will be marked without patriots very soon. But I am documenting the series while they are alive now as they don’t have long to live.” He is also documenting the story of Asmaris. He said, “Photography affects our daily life. It can narrate people’s history and shape the direction of one’s life. It has the power to make the story line of an event change. There is a big responsibility entrusted upon the photographer as he/she makes a decision. He takes time with the people he photographs to build trust and create a clear line of communication. Aron said, “I have documented what I can. Historians should participate it is beyond our capacity. They are better in documenting history.”. You can follow his work on Instagram and on www.aronsimeneh.com.
Quick Tips on How To Take Good Pictures from our panelists:
- Clean your lens
- Put off your flash
- Don’t zoom, use your feet to get closer to an object
- Take as many pictures as possible, have patience, we all are learning it is an everyday lesson
Here is a glimpse of some of the Q&A at the event:
Aziz: How is it that you are not afraid of the wild?
Our creator created all wild animals to be afraid of human beings. Buffalos, hippos and snakes are a bit aggressive.
There was a time when I happened to stand in front of a lion. I was shaking and what I did was not to look into his eyes. Then it left. I know the nature of animals and how they behave; and I interact accordingly. I can’t stay in the city for long. When my mother found out that I go to the wild, she said she will never forgive me if I ever go to the wild again. Obeying her wishes, I stayed home for a week and she observed how much I suffered and was suffocated to live in the city. She had no choice but to let me go and do what I love.
Is photography an art, at a time when anyone can take a picture on their phones? How can your passion be embraced by ordinary people? How can we capture moments and sharpen our perspective?
Aron: Everyone can take a picture but photographers are photographers. The mind is involved in selecting, shots, light direction, composition, how a picture can tell a story showcasing the different aspects of the picture like the place and more. I draw the picture first. Imagination comes first then I take a picture. Our eye is a camera. Taking a picture is art. Everyone’s perspective is art.
Konjit: At present, we just keep taking pictures. But we need to think. Always ask why? Why do I take this picture? What is my relationship with the picture I take? What is it that I do repeatedly? So it will help us discover ourselves too.
When bringing it to kids and photography, give them a project so that using the phone is not just meaningless exercise. Kids take pictures with their unique perspective. When my daughter was 7 she wanted a camera, she loved taking pictures of food. The project you can give your kids could be to take a picture of a flower for 10 days and see the progress of the plant. Or to take a picture of their own room every evening for 10 days (it could be organized or disorganized etc); then they develop the capacity to observe and the relationship they have with the pictures. Then that will be a discussion point.
Marthe: I did not know I love taking pictures and writing stories of people. I started with my dog but ended up discovering my passion.
When it is human interest history, is it ethical to have it public who is the object and who is the subject?
Martha: We photographers have the responsibility to be ethical enough to keep the dignity of the person in the photograph. We make sure the people in the picture sing on a consent note
We learnt about love, history, identity, environmental consciousness and responsibility. It was a fantastic event of learning.
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