A Collection of News Blurbs, FYIs and Commentaries

About African Lens - An Update

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Over two years ago, I was inspired by the thought that the transformative nature of photography can be harnessed to salvage Africa's broken image in western consciousness. Thus African Lens was born. It was an outlet to anyone who offered an unbiased and balanced view of Africa. The goal wasn't to present a counterbalancing alternative to the negative imagery of Africa, rather, I sought to use it to surface stories that would otherwise get lost in the din of negative imagery. Stories that informed on the African experience — who we are, how we live, our challenges and our efforts to lift ourselves up from our past experiences.

Right from the start, the challenge was to find good quality content and people who were willing to contribute freely, with their stories, to this effort. I was blown away by the initial response. It was a very fulfilling experience for me. African Lens is a non commercial project, however the thrill of being part of something like this and the joy of having great people to engage with on twitter required an investment of time and personal resources on a degree to which I never envisioned. Overall, it has been a very rewarding experience for me.

In recent months, I have thought about the way forward for African Lens. Story contributions have dropped off and the effort to generate a steady stream of stories has been difficult. More importantly, it has been rather difficult to reach the very group of people this platform is designed for — the African Photojournalist. These are photojournalists who by virtue of the length of their residency in a place and/or citizenship, bring a degree of context to any story which is otherwise not readily apparent to someone who is introduced to the story on short notice or someone with a preconceived opinion of Africa, seen through the very filter we seek to correct. Photojournalists whose stories are a reflection of the sentiments and narratives of the characters in the story. The difficulty is a direct result of the non commercial nature of African Lens.

I have therefore decided to take a step back from this effort to reflect on the best way forward. There are only 2 options - 1. Shut it down gracefully or 2. Completely change the core purpose or mode of operation of African Lens. The dependency on free stories is no longer feasible, as is the time and resource commitments it demands from me. In the interim, I will continue to keep the doors open for awhile and look out for any opportunity to present interesting stories, when content is readily available - such as the recent #kenya365 instagram project - a project whose originators willingly and gracefully granted African Lens access to the wonderful stream of photos it generates.

Many thanks to all who have been contributors and fans of the project. Your support has been invaluable.

Victor Acquah
African Lens - Sept 2012.  

Back Online

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back online after a week of tweaking to improve the user experience. It was necessary because I noticed that the user experience wasn't great for people on slow connections. Hopefully, it should be better now. I am constantly tweaking things to make the experience better.

But that isn't all - I took the opportunity to move things around a little bit.

  • There is a new "Topics" section - found under /Stories/, where I will introduce stories around special themes or topics. Users submit single photo stories around that theme and the best are selected for final publication. Not all pictures will make it but please join us! I am starting with a theme called "My Africa", which is designed to be a collection of pictures I have come across and like about Africa. I will keep adding to this and if you have something that fits, please ping me! Check it out here -
  • There is a new Videos section! I have always wanted to add videos to the site. I am starting with two great videos from TEDTalks - very inspiring. Please take time to check them out here -   ( browse in the "Recent Videos" section )

For the videos, I am experimenting with HTML5 videos. The player experience is not 100% solid but hopefully, these should be ironed out soon. Just note that it is an experimental area of the site. More importantly, I am looking for interesting videos about major events in African history. If you have something that is quite interesting, please ping me.

There is a lot in store for African Lens. it is still a labor of love at this point, however I am thinking through scenarios to make it more interesting and sustainable in the long term. Thanks for all your attention and participation.  

Marcus Bleasdale: Djibouti (Starved For Attention)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Less than one half of one percent of Djibouti's desert landscape is adequate for farming. As a result, almost all of the country's food is imported, adding to the already high cost of securing a nutritious meal.


Marcus Bleasdale - DJIBOUTI Frustration

The Starting Line

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The African Lens project can only be successful with the participation of people with stories to tell.  Our preference is for first hand accounts of Africans providing a narrative of their everyday lives. However, we recognize that there are journalists working in Africa today who are best placed to offer narratives on behalf of the people they interact with. We strongly encourage participation by everyone.