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Dying in Africa

I do not want to see another photo essay, multimedia or any visual on dying Africans. Never, ever again.  Enough. I understand that it makes for compelling images, that it seems that the photographers cares, but it present such a distorted vision of this beautiful continent. Not every country is at war, not every African is an orphan dying of aids or malnutrition. Not everyone lives in a broken down shaft wearing nothing more than rip jeans.

But from here, from the United States of America, a country which is still very much struggling with its very, very  racist past, it is just not sending the right message. It is actually saying “look, Africa is this continent full of malnourished savages with hatchets dying of aids because they are uneducated”. It is the biggest, longest, most powerful brainwashing operation that photojournalists have gladly contributed to with open arms.

This ongoing belief, supported by photo festivals like Visa and others, that photojournalism is all and only about blood, decay, despair and endless wars has found in Africa an endless feeding ground.

Although most of these images do not lie, it is not the Truth. This is not Africa. It would be like putting a loupe on a beautiful dress and  only continuously showing its one flaw.

The reason is clear. It is mainly because of NGO photojournalism. Rich people give money to NGO’s who then hire photographers to document their work. And since they operate in poor, war and disease stricken area of Africa, that is all we get to see these days. And because of the continued lack of funding of the editorial press, we will probably see even more, not less.

Just imagine your perception of America if all you would see were images of  9/11, Katrina, Detroit, urban ghettos and nothing else. Don’t laugh Europe, we could do the same with you. Would you ever consider going there on vacation ?

Africa, or at least it’s despair, has become the playing ground of the new photojournalists. Like a badge of honor, you’re not a real photojournalist if you have not covered at least one desolate part of the continent. The results is thousand upon thousand of reportages , essays, multimedias, especially online, repeating the same stories to a saturation point. No wonder magazines will not publish them even if some are extremely brilliant. They are, as the readers, fed up.

In  a way, photojournalism is killing itself by over repetition. Ironically, it is also deforming our view of the world by being so stubbornly surgical and mono sighted. It is replacing reality with cliches, destroying what it tries to explain.

So please no more images of half naked dying soldiers full of flies under an imponderable sun, no more death looking eyes on top of an extremely malnourished 3 year old, no more images of Kalashnikov-wearing tweens walking barefoot on dirt pathways amid the empty Savannah. It will end up making everyone look the other way, if it hasn’t already. Make us hope, make us want to get involved. Don’t disgust. You are not better, or more useful, because you took pictures of it and we didn’t. If you keep this up, it’s not Africa that will disappear first, but those who try, so poorly, to make us aware of its plights.

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