A Fresh Look at Africa through Nigeria’s Largest Photo Festival

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When Lagos Photo Director Azu Nwagbogu, and other members of the African Artists’ Foundation, were setting up Nigeria’s first ever photo festival, they had a pretty broad goal in mind: to provide a platform for photographers to tell new stories about Africa. But perhaps an even more important part of their mission was to empower artists to remedy what Nwagbogu has termed “Afro-pessimism,” the tendency for visual representations of the continent to be negative, particularly in the western media.

“If I think about what documentary photography, in the traditional sense, has for done Africa, it hasn’t really empowered the continent,” Nwagbogu tells TIME. “Africa [is often seen] as a hopeless continent where it’s almost like nothing can be done.”

But he knew a different kind of work was out there, he says. And on his travels, he would often come across refreshing visual stories documenting various African countries, but ones that had never been shown in Africa. “I realized there was an abundance of talent,” he says. And so the festival was born.

The annual Lagos Photo fund-raising gala dinner will hold on October 31, 2014 to raise support for the artists whose images continue to push the boundaries of photography.

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Outdoor exhibition, ocean view Lagos Photo 2013.

Now in its fifth year, the show sees photographers present work under the theme Staging Reality: Documenting Fiction. Fiction here not necessarily indicating invention, Nwagbogu stresses, but rather how storytelling can represent reality. Indeed, fiction in Nigeria, and in many cultures, can often be used as a conveyor of truth, he says.

The festival has been running since July this year when it was flagged off with the World Press Photo Exhibition and the Etisalat Photography Competition tagged “Mastering the Selfie.”

“If we engage and empower local and international photographers to embrace a newer narrative I think, maybe, we have a better solution,” he says. “We don’t need to define ourselves as who we are not anymore, we can now define ourselves as who we want to be.”
(Reference: allAfrica.com, lightbox.time.com)

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