The Photography Landscape in Zimbabwe

Photography | By Steven Chikosi, Photographer | 12 January 2014
PHOTO: © Steven Chikosi

There is a popular belief that for one to comment on an issue, they have to be a recognized player in the game, a veteran or have few awards to show for it. On the contrary, outsiders trying to find their way in, sometimes give a more balanced commentary since they have the best vantage point. So this is my disclaimer, I am no veteran, award-winning photographer, but I am a passionate Zimbabwean with a camera. I am a freelancer still trying to find where my strengths lie. This commentary sums up my personal views from my vantage point.

Photography in Zimbabwe is a passionate topic for me. We have a lot of photographers, the most common photography in our country is wedding and event photography closely followed by photo journalism. Specialists in other disciplines such as dedicated Fine Art Photographers, Landscape Photographers, Action/Sports Photographers, Pet Photographers, Real Estate & Architecture Photographers, Concert Photographers, Baby Photographers, Advertising Photographers etc are few and far between in the industry. One wonders, could this be the reason we have only a handful of really good photographers whose work can be truly dubbed 'inspiring'. Some argue that the industry is not big enough to specialize, but  I still feel that clients risk being taken for a ride for over relying on one “expert” for all their photographic needs.

In the wedding photography field, there is a recent trend of photographers flying in from neighboring South Africa. While individuals are entitled to their own choice of service provider, the fact that a photographer should be paid to travel to Zimbabwe from SA alone should spell the existence of a few things that the locals are not getting right. Methinks Shouldn't we be flying to SA to shoot weddings of fellow Zimbabweans in the diaspora, because we understand how a Zimbabwean wedding goes? Could it be  that our levels of skill and quality are not as good. Could this have something to do with our near non-existence online presence? Could it be that noone trusts any creative product from Zim?

The public generally has no respect for photographers. There is a constant negotiating downwards with regards to quotations from large corporates to individuals. The root cause of this problem is there are very few photographers who take their work seriously. Seriously means making business sense out of it. The masses know they can always get someone cheaper whether the work will be just as amazing that’s a completely different story. Therefore there is need for more dialogue among photographers. If we educate one another, we self regulate the industry, we choose what is acceptable and what isn’t.

So solutions, solutions right? We need more training workshops. There are a few workshops mainly beginner workshops targeting newcomers to photography in Zimbabwe. Yes, lets have as many photographers from SA coming through, but mostly to give workshops, specialized workshops on different photography fields.

There are not enough exhibitions, and not too many photographers’ networks. The few events that exist are bundled up with Film and little focus is on photography. Let us have more photography clubs in schools, towns and neighborhoods. Lets have degrees in Photography at our universities. Lets get photographers talking!

The professionals/veteran/established photographers are more concerned about their jobs and projects, and whine every time they see a billboard or newspaper advert with a very amateurish photo on it. They need to pioneer this dialogue.  As long as there is no dialogue, SA will continue to take all our jobs in the advertising, wedding and other photography industries. That said I salute all the groups and communities who are already doing this. I salute Gwanza for their efforts in promoting photography; I salute Davina Jogi and the ZAFP (Zimbabwe Association of Female Photographers) efforts to 'Encourage Professionalism Locally' Now we need one for everyone, for both boys & girls! Long live photography in Zimbabwe!