Instagraming Africa

Is Instagram the new face of photojournalism? What meaning can minimally saturated photos make of minority subjects? You’ve probably never asked yourself these questions when your snapping pics of your homemade meal or new shoes to share with your friends. However, a recent article from argues that in this age of mediated mass sharing, these questions will be unavoidable.

Hipstamatic Revolution” meditates on photographer Peter diCampo’s project Everyday Africa: a Tumblr full of Instagramed photos from around the African content. This sounds trivial, but consider this: For the past 20 years (and really for centuries), representations of Africa in the west have been controlled by the west. Falling prey to ethnocentrism and geopolitical culture wars, these representations  relay an “afro-pessimism” narrative: war, starvation, disease, poverty and barbarianism are the motifs of the west’s visual library of Africa. Now, in the wake of globalization, “Afro-optimism” has taken root and suddenly, Africa is celebrated for its modern progressions: cell phones, iPads, skyscrapers and prosperous economies. Both narratives are over-generalizing, disempowering and a continuation of “othering” African nations and culture.

Everyday Africa seeks to contest that. While some, traditionalists mostly, cry out “farce!” to the idea that smartphone Instagramed photos qualify as effective photojournalism, diCampo and his colleagues use the technology to normalize images of life from a country typically viewed as everything but normal (including inferior-than.) “If iPhones are supposed to be for photos of my family and my girlfriend, then there is no better tool for what I’m trying to say about Africa,” diCampo states in the article as the author argues that Instagram’s popularity as a sharing app and its nostalgia-inducing filters help create a sense of familiarity with the photos of “everyday” life across Africa. In addition, the fact that users have more access to Instagramed photos shared publicly through social media (Tumblr) makes the photos far more accessible than if they were in a traditional photojournalism medium, such as National Geographic. This also aids in ridding the photos of exociticizing connotations.

Check out more photos from Everyday Africa by visiting its Tumblr and decide on your own if they help change your perception of the diverse continent. You can read the Guernica article here.

Follow Everyday Africa on Instagram: @everydayafrica