Photography has maintained a vital presence in African culture for over a century. But the recognition of African photographers and their unique visual language has come about only recently. When Western photography engages Africa, it often evokes pathological images of disease, corruption, and poverty. The global media almost never depict contemporary Africans in ordinary situations; images of crisis frequently eclipse other representations. In response to this partial view that overlooks the complexities of daily life across a vast continent of over fifty nations, Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography forces a recognition of the contradictory and varied forms of photographic practice that are now arising across Africa.

Snap Judgments highlights a shift away from the commercial studio portraiture that predominated in Africa in previous decades, revealing a new and surprising emphasis on conceptual art, documentary, and fashion photography. Most of the works shown here were produced since 2000. Many were made within the past year, and several were commissioned specifically for the exhibition.

Snap Judgments brings together some of the most forceful propositions by contemporary artists and photographers on how to look at Africa. In so doing, it seeks to demonstrate how artists can use photography as a tool to trace the arc of different social realities. A number of distinct themes run through the exhibition: local responses to the international media and the touristic gaze; framing the African body; identity and postcolonial memory; urban sites; and the machines and institutions of modernity. By posing pertinent questions about the role of images in African public narratives, the exhibition opens the way to unexpected and penetrating insights into a rapidly changing social dynamic.

—Okwui Enwezor, ICP Adjunct Curator


Doa Aly, Lara Baladi, Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé, Yto Barrada, Luis Basto, Zohra Bensemra, Zarina Bhimji, Mohamed Camara, Ali ChraÏbi, Allan De Souza, Depth of Field (DOF) Collective, Andrew Dosunmu, Hala Elkoussy, Theo Eshetu, Mamadou Gomis, Kay Hassan, Romauld Hazoumé, Moshekwa Langa, Maha Maamoun, Boubacar Touré Mandémory, Zwelethu Mthethwa, James Muriuki, Lamia Naji, Otobong Nkanga, Omar D. (Daoud), Jo Ratcliffe, Tracey Rose, Fatou Kandé Senghor, Randa Shaath, Mikhael Subotzky, Sada Tangara, Guy Tillim, Michael Tsegaye, Hentie Van Der Merwe, Nontsikelelo "Lolo" Veleko

Past Tour Venues

Miami Art Central | Miami, Florida
June 29–August 27, 2006

Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo | Mexico City, Mexico
February 14, 2007–May 6, 2007

National Gallery of Canada | Ottawa, Canada
October 12, 2007–January 13, 2008

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art | Memphis, Tennesee
February 28–May 25, 2008

Stedelijk Museum | Amsterdam, Netherlands
June 27, 2008–September 30, 2008

A person jumping on colorful floor.
Four young women in blue uniforms armed with AK-47s.
Two young teenage girls in colorful outfits.
A shirtless man sitting on a chair surrounded by bright Christmas decor.
Three men talking among themselves, while a boy behind them stands in front of a wall entirely covered with ladies from The Star newspaper.
A hazy cityscape of identical apartment buildings.
A partially destroyed snapshot of children in the middle of a field looking up.
An out of focus soldier's top.
The roof of a grey building, with someone walking to the edge where colorful clothes were hung up to dry.
Someone standing in front of a massive wall of pink hydrangeas.
Two people cleaning out the inside of a empty pool, as seen from above.
A man standing in his kitchen, while a white cat next to him cleans itself.

Special Thanks

This exhibition was organized by the International Center of Photography with lead support from Altria Group, Inc., and the ICP Exhibitions Committee. Additional funding was generously provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Christian K. Keesee, Roberta and Steven Denning, Eni S.p.A., Marjorie G. and Jeffrey A. Rosen, Artur Walther, Association Française d'Action Artistique, Robert Scully and Nancy Peretsman, Meryl and Robert Meltzer, Andrew and Marina Lewin, Jane K. Lombard, Prince Claus Fund, the Government of Flanders, Mondriaan Foundation, Pamela and Arthur Sanders, and the British Council. Support for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.