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New Book Uses Photographs to Fight Stereotypes of Africa

Images from the new book, "Everyday Africa".
Images from the new book, "Everyday Africa".
New Book Uses Photographs to Fight Stereotypes of Africa
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A new book tries to show what life in Africa is really like after one removes misinformation and some stereotypes found in western media.

The book, called “Everyday Africa,” presents the major and minor events in life through the images of 30 photographers. It is now available in bookstores across Europe and the United States.

The book started as a feed on the social media photo-sharing app Instagram. It was a project of two Americans, Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill. Now it belongs to a community of Africans across the continent.

Showing an Africa most do not see

DiCampo says the project dates back to 2012, when he and Merrill traveled to Ivory Coast to report on the end of its civil war. While speaking with refugees and soldiers about how the country was recovering, the Americans found that daily life was fairly normal for most people. However, they felt this information was not coming through in the story they were preparing.

"We were seeing all these other moments that were much sort of truer to our daily life experience in that part of the world.”

To capture those events, Merrill said they started using cellphones to take pictures of what they saw around them.

“…You know, pictures of people going to work, or eating breakfast, or hanging out with their friends; things that were just more normal everyday scenes and we felt like there was really something to that, and that might be the most important thing we had to tell about that place, at that moment, instead of the crisis story."

The creators of "Everyday Africa," Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill.
The creators of "Everyday Africa," Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill.

DiCampo said he feels it is difficult to have an understanding of the world when all you see are extreme stories. The “Everyday Africa” Instagram feed was a way of seeing what daily life looks like in Africa from many different perspectives.

The project is popular, and still growing. The Instagram account has over 360-thousand followers and an active community of photographers sharing pictures of the continent.

“We've had lots of African photographers join, non-African photographers join, but we've also got some skilled amateurs. In Cape Town Barry Christianson is a computer programmer. Mahmoud Katub in Caro just finished medical school. I think that there's something about that mix of people that strengthens the community and that makes the work better.”

Training students for better media understanding

With the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, DiCampo and Merrill are using the Everyday Africa name to help educate students. They visit middle school classrooms in the United States to train students on how to document their lives and recognize stereotypes.

In their visits with students, DiCampo says, they use the story of Everyday Africa’s creation to discuss how media representation affects them and their communities. They also show the students how to improve their own photography, with the goal of helping them create their own school or community “everyday” project.

DiCampo and Merrill say their dream is for Instagram communities to be formed all over the world, documenting their everyday life. They hope that the book will give them the chance to reach more people and to show an underrepresented side of African life to the world.

I’m Phil Dierking.

Zoe Leoudaki wrote this story for the Phil Dierking adapted her story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

amateur - n. a person who does something (such as a sport or hobby) for pleasure and not as a job

app - n. a computer program that performs a special function

perspective - n. a way of thinking about and understanding something

moment - n. a precise point in time

stereotype - n. an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic