AfricaKnows: An African Photo Project

Where do you go to find quality and *real* African pictures? How about the non-tourist ones, the ones that show everyday Africans, work places, bus stops and the lives of your neighbors?

AfricaKnows - Pictures of Africa

AfricaKnows is a new project by TED Fellows Josh Wanyama and Sheila Ochugboju. Their job: to tell a different story of Africa, through big pictures that let you see directly into the heart of African cities.

Africa Knows is about the challenges, triumphs, dreams and nightmares of being an African in a 21st century city that is straddling several revolutions at the same time; the technological revolution, the agricultural revolution, a democratic resurgence and a post-colonial identity crisis complicated by old ethnic tensions.”

If you like an image that you see, you can buy a print or a card of it.

An Airplane Lands in Eldoret

Sourcing

I talked with Josh and Sheila about the site this last week. Right now they get the majority of images by taking them themselves and from other African photographer friends who have good shots of their locale. One of my first suggestions to them was that it would be wonderful if there was a submission page for others to add images in easily. The curating of what shows up on the site would need to be maintained.

There are two reasons why AfricaKnows is a good site:

Quality
So far, the images on the site are pretty good. They’re not all “professional” quality images, but they’re much better than average. A purely open site where anyone could dump images (a la Flickr) wouldn’t work as the noise would quickly outdo the signal, so quality is important.

reality
The reality of the images is the second big reason, it’s why I care to visit and get the feed. If I want to see what the world thinks of Africa I’ll go to a newspaper. If I want to see how Africans view Africa, I’ll go to AfricaKnows.

Traffic at a roundabout in Nairobi

Suggestions

As mentioned earlier, there are others who have good quality shots that would be worth the team looking at. A simple submission form that allowed for me to send in images whenever I took one would be useful – for both me and the editing team.

There’s a real possibility of taking this platform further, making it into a place that is focused on African images and highlights African photographers across the continent. I’d be interested in seeing some images from Teddy Ruge (Uganda) and Nana Kofi Acquah (Ghana) on the site, among others. This could be done by first just allowing them to showcase some of their best images, linking to them and putting contact information on the site (giving them a page).

If others are sending in pictures, then there needs to be a clearly outlined understanding of image rights and ownership.

Lastly, we live in a social web with social lives. There should be the ability to embed the image on another site. Images for this post I had to download (bypassing the javascript security features), and upload into it, which is way to much work for most people. Sharing matters, as it’s how people get found in our digital age. You have to learn to let go – of at least the lower res images. Plus, removing that security will allow more Google image search juice to send more traffic.

22 thoughts on “AfricaKnows: An African Photo Project

  1. Thanks for the post Hash. We have noted the suggestions which I know will help a lot in scaling the project. We are actually currently in talks with Ruge to see if he can bring his impressive skills.

    I am currently finishing up the submission area for photos. It should be up within the week. Our big challenge will be in getting photos that cover the breath of the continent. Our goal is to get a good product that professionals and good amateur photographers can consider as a great place for them to host their portfolios of African images.

  2. This web is a great idea, thank you for let us know what it is about and congratulations to the creators of AfricaKnow. I think it is very important to have information and day-to-day images done by africans, not europeans or others.
    Good luck with the initiative.

  3. Very interesting. I’ve worked on client/personal projects that needed good African stock photography so I know just how hard it is to find. Very welcome indeed.

  4. I love the site “AfricaKnows.” It makes me feel like I am THERE and captures lots of feelings and emotions that escape many photographers.

  5. This is excactly the kind of site I’ve been looking for. For a while I tried to set up such a portal myself (www.taswira.org), but this one works excactly how I the way I was hoping for an Afriacn daily photo site. Very good news indeed!

  6. Great project. One thing I would like to mention is that as an artist I have been struggling to get quality ‘un-stereotypical’ stock images of Africa. I am hoping that the project would also consider providing stock images for a small fee. It would definitely be a source I would want to tap into. Just an idea.

  7. In my opinion this project is a model of how all photo journalism works can strive to enlighten humanity through images and prose. The beauty of Africa Knows is the stories beneath the photos, which Josh so eloquently captures. They on the one hand are uniquely African , yet on the other hand they are quite universal.

  8. Not sure what java security you saw – a simple right click to “Copy Image” got me the image they have on the site. And not sure what real security is possible – “Print Screen” or its equivalent will get any photo off any site.

    Better would be the solution you propose – give away the low res- in fact I’d say make it a point of giving away low-rez images with a discrete watermark to drive interest in the site, and sell the higher rez images. I know there are a few I’d like hanging in my house already.

  9. @Wayan – the Javascript security was disabled shortly after I wrote this. :) I agree though, a not to ostentatious watermark for low-rez would do the trick.

  10. “If others are sending in pictures, then there needs to be a clearly outlined understanding of image rights and ownership.” – Indeed, because there are not terms about this on the website !

  11. This is a great idea. I like your comments regarding embedding, and particularly letting go a little. I think there’s quite a lot of evidence which would suggest that releasing more content can certainly benefit businesses with more traffic and awareness and subsequently more demand for tailored work.

  12. I have to interject again – this is a cool project and all these people are saying that they’d pay small fees to liscence images, yet now the javascript is disabled and it will not be necesary to pay a fee to liscence an image.

    If this site were monetized, it would be a great opportunity for photographers to make a bit of extra cash and encourage them to spend more time and energy taking pictures and sending the pictures in, which takes just as much time as the original snapping.

    This would also have the added benefit of ensuring that more day-to-day photos of Africa re in circulation.

  13. sadique ismael says:

    id suggest a weekly or monthly prize for the best pic, voted by users. the photographers profile and semi-monetization are good ideas.

  14. John says:

    Jepchumba, I think Africaknows may be taking a non-stock approach to their pictures. Kind of like fotomoto. For stock photos on Africa you can try upixes.com. They claim to offer ‘genuine african moments’ in stock, special and exclusive images. Photographers can also sign up and offer their pictures there.

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