Stance | Got the degree, still not a photographer

Words by Carol Kagezi

Photography by Ethel Nshakira

You might find it hypocritical of me to write about photography without having any accompanying photographs. So before you move on swiftly to the next beautiful piece of writing, I would like to remind you that it is 2016 and if you look around, everyone seems to be doing the things that we all find hypocritical. So in essence, chill and spare a few minutes to ingest and digest my ramblings.

Anyone and everyone who holds an account on a photo sharing platform; be it Instagram, Snapchat, or Flickr, will in some ways consider themselves a photographer. Whether or not you have dope photographs is for you to decide and discuss with your followers on any of the said platforms.

“Like many, I took photos of flowers in an uncomfortable squat, stood on tables to take snap shots of my food and curved my spine awkwardly…”

I took a photography course once because, like many, I thought I was the shit and all I would be doing in this course was polishing my “innate talent”. Boy was I wrong. Day after day, I produced the most boring and mundane photographs. I would show you my portfolio, but I cannot bare the shame of putting that out there. Like many, I took photos of flowers in an uncomfortable squat, stood on tables to take snap shots of my food and curved my spin awkwardly to impress my friends with the “interesting” angles I could take photographs from.

In class, we were still required to do all of this except, to me it seemed like I was back in a physics class — in those lessons about light and lenses. It is in this class that I discovered that it was not just about snap-shots but instead about the painting with light and scientific aspects governed by laws of physics.

Some of the visual artists I look up to are Zanele Muholi, a visual activist who tries to create awareness on the importance of black queer women in South Africa; Mary Sibande, whose work explores themes of gender, class and race through a sculptural representation of her alter ego Sophie, who is dressed in altered versions of the domestic worker uniform; and Malick Sibide, well known for his black and white photographs portraying popular culture in Bamako, Mali in the 1960s.

It is without a doubt that there are several photographers who are great at their craft. I however draw attention to these artists (note the use of the term artist instead of photographer) because they use light to paint a picture of the social issues of their time.

So in as much as there has been a rise of new-age photographers who take snap shots of day-to-day life, perhaps a line needs to be drawn between these and those that spend time and years constructing and creating those photographs that leave a footprint in the minds of consumers.

Is it then fair to refer to them all as artists?

This piece was originally published in Edition 10 of Ja. magazine.