The famous documentary photographer on the importance of Nigerians archiving their own history.
Stanley Greene, whose solo photo exhibition, Black Passport, opened in Amsterdam just the week before he arrived, came to Lagos Nigeria as a guest of the African Artists’ Foundation to workshop with Nigerian photographers as well as work on a photo documentary, personal E-waste project.
Stanley facilitated a 3-day workshop for local photographers where he taught them the principles of photojournalism and photo documentaries. He also reviewed portfolios’ of participating photographers and gave critiques.
Below, he talks about the challenges facing Nigerian photographers.
—Glenna Gordon for Guernica
Guernica: Why did you want to work with Nigerian photographers?
Stanley Greene: I wanted to work with Nigerian photographers, because of some of the examples of the work I seen from
The First NOOR/ Nikon workshop, which was held a couple a years, even though it was open to all African shooters, from what I’ve seen the young Nigerians seem to have a real fire in the belly, passion and desire.
Lagos based photographers like George Osodi, Caline Chagoury for example. And in the workshop I taught there was Stephen Sangotoye, Ohwo Sunday, Olalekan Adedeji, and Wome Uyeye—they came every day and sat through everything with a real thirst to learn and experience the passion. I got to work with Olayinka Sangotoye, and Ohwo Sunday – they came a ong to help me to document the e-waste problem in Lagos. Olayinka Sangotoye, who could be a great photographer some day—he just needs guidance.
Guernica: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Nigerian photographers today?
Stanley Greene: Access! Putting them in front of international editors and understanding the other side of the business. Today’s top agencies do not have African photographers, and that means Nigerians. There is abundance of talent in this country, just needing a chance to shine.
Guernica: How can Nigeria’s rich artistic past be incorporated into today’s photographic present?
Stanley Greene: Photographers, curators, historians should and must begin to collect references to the history of Nigerian photography, covering the last 100 years. This will require a lot of research and funding needs to be allocated to doing this, as we spend time collecting modern and contemporary arts, we should spend the same amount on contemporary photography and set up permanent places, for such an important collections.
Guernica: Nigerian politics are in the headlines around the world these days. How
can Nigerian photographers respond to this? What are the difficulties of
photographing charged political situations?
Stanley Greene: Today, Nigerian photographers have a great chance to document their own history. It used to be that international press would send foreigner shooters to cover a story. In other places in the world, local photographers in their own countries are the ones the international media editors are turning to for stories. It should be the same mind set for Nigerian photographers, but they seriously must step up to the plate and the challenge. In other words, they must be seen as the best of the best, because they will be watched and marked, and the trailblazers for the future of Nigerian photography. They must remember what makes a great journalist is the one who comes back with the story.
And when you live in the country or the state it’s important to remember that you must be objective. Personal feelings must be put aside – you are there to document and tell the story and come back safely.
Guernica: What is your impression of the art scene in Lagos?
Stanley Greene: At the African Artists Foundation, where I was staying and did the workshop, I was surrounded by art. Every room is full of breath taking art, a real rich visual feast, and this foundation is important because it shows the works in a space which offers a rawness that enhances the arts and adorn the walls, it’s vitality and magic. The African Artists Foundation has the great potential to be the absolute beacon to promote photography in Nigeria and Africa, and also with the respect it has gained, will bring the international community to its doors.
Stanley Greene was born in New York in 1949, and studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and at the Image Works in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has covered the war-torn countries Nagorno-Karabakh, Iraq, Somalia, Croatia, Kashmir, and Lebanon. He has been awarded a W. Eugene Smith Award and a Katrina Media Fellowship from the Open Society Institute in 2006. His book Black Passport was published in 2010 and published by Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam.