From Stephen Tayo, who is known for turning his stylish lens on everything from celebrities to deceptively mundane aspects of Nigerian culture, and Aida Muleneh’s searing images of her native Ethiopia, some of which are a part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, to Yves Sambu, who captures the inimitable swag of sapeurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya’s cityscape specialist Mutua Matheka, the range of their work is as diverse as the continent itself.
With so many disparate styles, motivations and backgrounds, why are the photographers who make up this new wave of African photography having a collective and global impact now?
Because of “the growing economic might of Africa, growing internet penetration and connectivity, social media, education. All of that,” said Helen Jennings, Editorial Director of Nataal, a media brand focused on contemporary African fashion, visual arts, music, travel and culture. “But mainly, it’s that the new generations have the tools and confidence to do it for themselves. They are not looking for outward validation and [are] creating work that speaks to their own cultures, heritage and contemporary experiences.”
Beyond the growing notoriety of the photographers themselves, the impact of their imagery is far-reaching even though the photography business on the continent requires more investment to become truly sustainable and allow photographers to gain more commercial success as artists.