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Reading Task – The Impossibilities to shoot as a white photographer on the African Continent by Jan Hoek hotographer-on-the-african-continent.html

Jan Hoek wrote a reply to Wolukau-Wanambwa’s critique of Sassen’s, de Midel’s and his work defending his non-racist intentions. Perhaps, we must all ask ourselves can we truly ever be totally unprejudiced as a human race?

Notes and Quotes

  • In an article on (, Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwawiped the floor with the work of artists Vivanne SassenCristina de Middel and myself.
  • ….according to Wolukau-Wanambwa there is one more similarity: all three of us reduce the black body to an object and thus reflect colonial balance of power.
  • Now, it’s hard to defend yourself if you are in possession of the ‘white privilege’, as I am, and are being accused of photographing in a way that directly originates from colonialism and therefore has racist aspects.
  • What is seen as racist, exploitative or stereotyping is not a fixed notion, but comes in different forms depending on time, space and person. The only way to make sure you don’t find yourself guilty of doing it is to continuously be as receptive as possible to all criticism.
  • The three of us do make objects of our models, although I don’t think that is problematic, as it’s inherent to photography. As soon as living person gets photographed, he or she changes into pixels or static photo paper afterwards. A model always becomes an object in that sense.
  • the colonial era is over and now is the time to find a way to heal the hurting wounds this era has inflicted. One aspect is that we have to reinvent a way to deal with photography and the disturbed intercommunications between Africa and the West.
  • In the colonial era, photography gave a very limited view of reality and I think we want to work towards a point where photography represents a colour pallet that is as broad as possible. I don’t believe in a taboo on stereotypes, because taboos create impoverishment in the photographic colour pallet. I believe we have to bring more nuances into the stereotypes, that we have to blend stereotypes with new images and conceptions until they aren’t clichés anymore.
  • We have to be aware of the fact that intercommunication between Africa and the West isn’t equal yet, and from this knowledge we should grow closer together. The first step in my opinion should be more room for the non-Western view in photography. Africans themselves should be the ones to determine the imaging of Africa and should be able to photograph white people too. Fortunately, this is slowly, yet steady developing.
  • My position is a western one and the consequence of the solution above would be me saying: “Now it’s the African’s turn, I’m not touching any subject regarding Africans or people with another skin color than mine” which I would find immensely cowardly. My work is about the relation between photographer and model and the awkwardness this produces. 
  • When I photographed my mother in the dark room of a sex shop I used to work at during art school, the photographs were about this awkwardness….How far can one go as a photographer? Is it possible to give your models a say in the way they are depicted? In what ways is the photographer allowed to distort reality to avoid clichés? When I work in African countries I look for the same awkwardness as usual, I just happen to find it on the border of relations between black and white.
  • In general, I think Western photographers and artist should get into dialogue on how they should behave to our history, inequality and how to deal with that. Fact is that because of the complexity of the situation it isn’t possible to do this undisputed as a white, western photographer. The only thing to do is accept this, make work you stand for and open your eyes and ears to critics.
  • I hope that this piece emphasizes there are different ways to look at our work and that we slowly, without forgetting the past, can get to an era where curiosity for ‘the other’ will be seen as something good and that this curiosity will create a multiplicity of projects in which the world and its residents are being shown in as many ways as possible. And in which photographers of all parts of the world feel free (and have the economical possibility) to photograph each other as they want.

Published by shauncn512659

Hi, I am an OCA student studying for an Art degree in Photography , my student number is 512659. My e-mail is:

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