Life in Africa seems to be an endless cycle of war, famine, disease and destruction. Or so news reports of the continent would indicate, where the maxim “it bleeds, it leads” governs much of the coverage. But alongside these very real problems, there is an everyday life for the billion or so Africans that is not much different from the rest of the world.
“Everyday Africa” is an online photography project attempting to change the negative perceptions and stereotypes of the continent. Professional photographers living and working in different parts of Africa take photos on their smartphones and post them on the project’s Tumblr and Instagram feed.
“It’s not a place of war and famine and destruction and all these horrible things,” said Austin Merrill, a journalist and co-creator of the project. “It’s a place where normal people do normal things all the time, just like we do.”
Merrill and co-creator Peter DiCampo, a documentary photographer, conceived “Everyday Africa” while covering a story in Ivory Coast last March, snapping casual photos on their iPhones along the way.
“To me, the place that I know best is a place that’s very normal,” said Merrill, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ivory Coast and later worked as a reporter in different parts of Africa. “It feels very much like life here, where people go to school and go out to restaurants and do their laundry and play a musical instrument in a band. And that’s what we’re trying to capture.”
The Instagram feed is nearing 20,000 followers and has about 350 images from 16 countries. They range from cheerleaders at a soccer match in Zimbabwe to a teen boy rollerblading through cones on a street in Senegal to a couple getting married in Uganda.
“It’s a huge uphill struggle to change people’s perceptions,” said Merrill. “So we decided, let’s start a new conversation, let’s distribute our own images. It is a small drip in a large ocean but our hope is that it can little by little change perceptions.”
The images of Everyday Africa can be found on the project’s Tumblr page and on its Instagram feed, @everydayafrica.
A selection of images from the online collection are on display in New York City at the Walter Reade Theater at the Film Society of Lincoln Center through April 25.