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Kibera Stories

Kibera Stories is a blog, Facebook page and Instagram account set up by Brian Otieno to document the everyday in Kibera, Nairobi. Brian is a freelance documentary and press photographer and grew up in Kibera. He is also part of the Everyday Africa network of photographers. I asked Brian a few questions about the fantastic Kibera Stories project.

When and why did you start the Kibera Stories project?

I started KiberaStories in 2013 just when I was about to start college. Every day I walked around my neighbourhood trying to discover new places and with me, I had my cellphone which I used always to capture casual moments of ordinary life during my daily encounters along the way. One day while I was sitting at a vantage point near the railway line that passes through Kibera, I started searching for images of Kibera on Google and I was frustrated by the images because they only depicted misery, and abject poverty, unlike the usual moments I was seeing every day. It was at the moment that I opened a Facebook page and started posting images of Kibera, according to the way I was seeingit. Images that were normal and ordinary and represented reality.

Tell us a bit about your background/education as a photographer

I am a freelance photographer, I studied journalism at Multimedia University of Kenya and in 2016 I was among the 12 selected visual storytellers for the World Press Photo East AfricaMasterclass which took place in Nairobi. It was at this masterclass that I started understanding the ways of being a professional photographer and met other artists from the global photography industry and this marked a new beginning in my photography career.

You say that the account helps to “understand the diversity, the dynamics and the disparity” of Kibera. Can you give us some examples…?

This is mostly to outside, the first images that people always have in mind when they come to Kibera are poverty, misery, hopeless, garbage. But this is not the case to a person born in Kibera. Despite poverty, there’s also prosperity, there is talent and potential, there are people trying to make their way out and through. There’s a side of the slum that is unseen, unknown that goes beyond the stereotypes of the slum as its always viewed. Through this project I try to show the many different faces of Kibera, I try to show the people and their positions in the community, and paint an honest picture of not just poverty and misery.

Please share your 4 favourite images and tell us a bit about each one

Elsie Ayoo, a ballet dancer, trains on a busy street of Kibera. The first time she tried on a pair of pointe shoes, she fell in love with ballet and now she dreams of becoming a professional dancer. While I’m hoping she’s on the right track to make it in life, the dreams of kids growing up in Kibera are just the same as anywhere else in the world.

Stephen Okoth, also is known as Ondivour, is a 25-year-old filmmaker, photographer and model known for his self-styled colourful and vintage fashion. He has made it his mission to stand out in bringing joy and happiness to the streets of his hometown. His signature bright clothes bought from the local second-hand markets have turned him into a local personality and a source of inspiration for the youths in the slum.

Men hang out the door of a commuter train that passes through Kibera daily, carrying passengers to and from Nairobi’s city centre. The railway line built in the 1900s which passes through Kibera is an important landmark in the community. Most people who use the train work in the industrial areas of Nairobi and the train provides a cheap alternative to transportation to and from their places of work.

Contestants at the annual Mr. and Miss Kibera fashion and beauty pageant. The event which started as a beauty pageant has grown to build dreams of the youthful population by promoting their talents and nurturing them to be responsible leaders in the community and beyond.

Kibera Stories has obviously benefited you, how has it benefited Kibera?

With KiberaStories, I have partnered with other organizations in Kibera, to offer photography training to the youths in Kibera, I have had exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles to fundraise for a school and an organization offering scholarships programs to students in Kibera. Recently I have also partnered with another organization to help bring books to a community library in Kibera. I think this is highly beneficial to the community and I am still aiming to do more than that.

What advice would you give to other African photojournalists wanting to document everyday life across the continent?

Follow your dream and your passion, without the passion I would have given up a long time ago. The best stories are right here at home. Keep shooting and shooting.

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Facebook Africa 2018

On 18th December Facebook Africa posted that “More than 139 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa come to Facebook every month, of which nearly 98% come back on mobile.” They published an infographic (see below) to highlight projects and publicise how they connected people, brands and organisations in Africa throughout 2018. These initiatives included rolling out Marketplace in South Africa, designed to ensure safe trading for users, and South Africa NGO Day  which brought together 100 NGOs who received training workshops designed to share social media best practice.

They also hosted a roundtable in Accra, Ghana which brought together people working on women’s safety.

You could read more about some of their initiatives in the infographic below

 

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Radi-Aid Research

I was recently the lead researcher for a study in collaboration with Radi-Aid about the use of imagery in charity / NGO communications.  In the study, participants in six Sub-Saharan African countries spoke about their perceptions of aid campaigns and other visual communications from international NGOs (INGOs) and development organisations.

The research involved 74 people from 12 focus groups in aid-receiving communities in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. They discussed imagery from campaigns by Amnesty International, Care International, Cordaid, The Disasters Emergency Committee, Dubai Cares, Oxfam, Save the Children, Unicef and War Child.

Key findings from the study include:

• The majority of respondents thought the images in adverts offer an accurate representation of the situation in Africa.
• There is a need for aid communication to show more diversity in terms of age and race.
• Respondents acknowledge that aid communication is complex, with no single solution.
• It is important that respect and dignity is preserved in the portrayal of people in aid communication.

The frequent portrayal of Africa as a continent in need prompted sadness among the respondents in the study. Such campaigns often depict black children in need, and several of the respondents wished that these stories could be complemented by showing children of other colours or backgrounds, or black doctors, professors or aid workers. They would like to see portrayals of people with agency in their own situations and results of their accomplishments.

I was extremely pleased to be part of this research as it gives people in aid receiving countries the opportunity to voice their opinions on the type of imagery used to depict their continent. Instead of stigmatising poverty and focusing on problems, I hope that aid organisations will respond by showing the positive outcomes of development programmes too.

One of the things I often discuss with students, academics and communications professionals is that development organisations produce a massive amount of  communications materials, and the vast majority of them are neglected in critiques by the media and academia. Social media offers organisations the opportunity to tell more nuanced and contextualised stories which are not restricted by an expensive 15-30 TV adverting slot or a billboard with limited space. I hope this report will encourage NGOs and charities to continually improve their representations of poverty and inequality by showing a broader range of stories. Participatory photography and video are excellent tools to enable recipients of aid to tell their own stories and I see these tools being used more and more in the future.

Here is a link to the full Radi-Aid Research report.

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Radi-Aid Research is a collaboration project between the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) and the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia.

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Photography and Development – An interview with EveryDay Mumbai

I’m off to Mumbai next week to speak at a Conference on Social Media for Development, Innovation and Freedom. During my research I came across Everyday Mumbai and spent hours looking at some of the wonderful images that creator Chirag Wakaskar has curated. So I contacted Chirag to ask him a few questions:

What inspired you to start @everydaymumbai

Back when I started this project (6th July 2014) there were probably very few working photographers from India on it and the pictures on the medium were mostly the typical oversaturated fluff of sunsets, mountains, beaches etc but there were a few western photojournalists on the medium sharing some interesting work and while I was on it with moderate success perhaps because photojournalism based content is not as popular in India as something that provides a much more departure from daily dreary lives such as a beautiful sunset or your favourite celebrity having fun is (I guess). I loved what @everydayafrica was doing and thought of having something on similar lines but since there weren’t really a lot of photographers around that I knew personally I decided on a curated platform rather than a collaboration. There was also a thought in the back of my mind of seeing the city through local eyes, which included a lot of non professional photographers who also contribute to the project.

How do you select which images to curate? Are there certain issues that you deliberately focus on e.g. I noticed that there are many images documenting the LGBT community in Mumbai and also on pollution. What is the motivation for highlighting certain issues?

I generally look at photographs which have something to say beyond the visual. I often feel many times images of such issues are sidelined in mainstream media in India which is more focused around political news, celebrities and sports coverage. Even Instagram is primarily dominated by Bollywood & vanity. I hope to make space for highlighting various issues and making a strong case for photographers who document such issues.

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Do you think that @everydaymumbai can be used as a tool for development? If so, how?

I would like to think it can be used as a ‘model’ because it reaches an audience through a medium that is easily accessible to them so that they can understand or know a little more than they usually would. I would love to see communities self documenting to better understand for themselves as well as others. I’ve actually written a guide and put it up on the website so that someone who wants to start off a project like this would know how to go about it. It can be found here – http://www.everydaymumbai.com/how-to-start-your-own-everyday-project-on-instagram-by-chirag-wakaskar/

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Have you ever been contacted by local government or NGOs about your work?

I have never been contacted by government. A couple of times NGO’s have reached out to share something. Though I have often proactively shared something I think would help share a good message or help someone out.

You mostly provide quite detailed supporting text – how long does this take?

The credit is all to the photographers. I will often egg them on to write more in terms of either jouralistic captions or even what they may think about what they have photographed. I also share with them resources such as  caption methodology such as AP or NPR so that they can get an idea as well or even some photography resources that I have found helpful. I maintain a small database of articles Ive liked – http://www.everydaymumbai.com/resources/

You receive lots of comments on the images that you curate. How long does it take for you to maintain the Instagram account?

I share just one photograph a day after looking at the hashtag and usually will message the photographer if I need to have any more details included. I have notifications off except for comments so that something inappropriate doesnt pass through. I’m generaly quite liberal in terms of comments and even with negative feedback but never outright for any hatred, lewdity, violence, etc

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Do you know if any of the photographers that work you curate have received photography commissions as a result?

This is a difficult one for me to quantify, but I do share the work of lot of young photographers with the hope that journalists, editors, curators who follow the project will commision them work or perhaps write articles about them particularly when they have some projects, exhibits, books & so on.

What is next for @everydayMumbai

I’m currently working on creating an offline exhibit in public spaces so that a wider audience can reached, particularly those who may not be on social media or even the internet. I’m also looking to reach out to mariganlized communities to help train them to document themselves and create social media based projects like these for their communities so more people can know about them.

Thank you Chirag for such an interesting and inspirational interview. I can’t wait to see some of the projects working with marginalised communities.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Catholic Relief Services – A day in the life of Immaculate

I recently saw a campaign which followed the day in the life of a young girl, Immaculate in Northern Ghana. The Twitter Moments series starts with Immaculate doing her daily chores to help the family at 6:15am and ends with her walking home from school with friends at 4.00pm. I spoke to Michael Stulman who is the Regional Information Officer for CRS in West Africa who lead this campaign.

What inspired you to produce the Day in the Life of Immaculate campaign? / What is the main purpose of the campaign

We wanted to create content that would inform and inspire our audiences on Twitter. Just like any book or film, there is typically one main character. When you focus on too many people, people can become overwhelmed. By highlighting Immaculate’s experience, it became more personal. And photos and video provide more context and make it more engaging, which is especially important on Twitter, where everything moves so quickly and content is easily missed.

How did you select Immaculate and how long did the filming take?

CRS staff that are based in that area know the community quite well, and they spoke to the school administrator to get his recommendations on who might be willing and available. I met with a few families, and in the end, we chose Immaculate because of her willingness and availability. We filmed for just one day.

Did Immaculate receive payment in any way?

We are really grateful that Immaculate and her parents allowed us to follow her throughout the day. Her participation was completely voluntary. Our staff in that area had met with her in advance to explain what we were hoping to accomplish, and she was happy to participate.

In what ways was the campaign successful and how would you do it differently next time? 

We looked at key metrics after the campaign was launched, and found that a lot of the content performed better than average, in terms of engagement. We’re always trying new things, and hoping to improve how we tell stories. For example, we’ve used Twitter Moments to highlight specific donors or issues and people. And for each Moment, we’re experimenting with different types of video, GIFs, memes, photos and quotes that help tell a story.

I brought a lot of photography and videography equipment with me – much of which was useful at some point during the trip, but my iPhone was probably the most productive tool for collecting content we can use on social media. Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple!

And like most trips to the field, you need to do a lot of advanced planning, but that’s mostly to set expectations around what you’re hoping to accomplish and why. In terms of what actually happens day-to-day and hour-by-hour, everything can change quickly and you need to be flexible.

With social media, I’m always testing, testing and testing. Next time I’m in the field and collecting content, I’d like to try the “Day in the Life” format again, but I may try adding more depth to the story by incorporating perspective from other friends and family. I’ll probably focus more on video content, as well.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather