The Troubles With Africa, and AfricanLens
Among the problems facing Africa are war, starvation, disease, and the somewhat myopic media of the northern hemisphere (mostly the US and Europe) that can't see much beyond the human tragedies of the continent.
That, at least, is the view of many Africans, including Victor Acquah, who has just launched AfricanLens.com to showcase photojournalism that tells a broader, more balanced story. Acquah, a US-educated Ghanian who makes a living as a web analytics consultant in the Washington, DC area, is soliciting stories about Africa for his new Web site.
Captivated by the stories about the lives of regular people on The New York Times Lens blog and Pictorymag.com, Acquah went searching for sites that told stories about Africa and Africans.
"I couldn't find one source with a balanced view of Africa," he says, so he started AfricanLens.
"The goal of the site is not to deny or rebut any of the pictures of Africa that are shown," he emphasizes. "There's horror and tragedy, but also vibrancy and culture. AfricanLens is looking to show the complete story."
An admirable goal, but AfricanLens is another labor-of-love photo site that doesn't pay contributors, at least not yet. "I fully understand that most of the interesting stories may come from established photojournalists who may expect payment for their work," Acquah says. Until he can find sponsors to pay contributors, he's settling for any contributions he can get, including work from amateurs.
Another challenge for Acquah is that he had hoped to feature more African voices, but he's finding that many Africans lack the technology–cameras, lenses and internet connections–that they need to tell stories. And African audiences may lack the bandwidth necessary to view the site, Acquah surmises.
In short, challenges abound, but Acquah does have dream, a mission, and a stake in the game, all of which make for a good starting point, at least.