March 25, 2015
Photography arrived in Africa shortly after the technology was introduced commercially in 1839. By 1880, it was widely practiced in Africa. White traders, explorers and adventurers first spread the use of the technology, according to a 2013 book on the subject, “Portraiture and Photography In Africa.”
Photos were taken initially by French and British Naval officers. Missionary societies soon realized the medium’s potential and Africans appropriated the technology and began to work as photographers, seeking clients who wanted their likenesses taken and had the cash to pay for it.
There are many unanswered questions about who the first African photographers were. One pioneer was African-American Augustus Washington, who moved to Liberia in the 1850s and ran photo studios in Senegal, Gambia and Sierra Leone.
Here’s a few photos that capture images of vintage Africa. Take a quick time trip back in black, white and sepia.
In this 1898 photo by C Vincenti, an African chief appears in a portrait with a woman.
Algerian woman in costume
This photo of an Algerian woman was shot in 1870 by French photographer A. Bertrand.
Rue Ancienne, Tananarive, Madagascar, 1900
This 1900 vintage photo is credited to an anonymous amateur photograph. It was shot on Rue Ancienne in Tananarive, the capital of Madagascar.
A Tanzanian woman in 1936, with cicatrice patterns on her face.
Queen Elizabeth II in Benin City
Queen Elizabeth II visited Benin City, Nigeria, in February 1956. In this photo she is meeting the Oba (king) of Benin at the Benin Aerodrome. Prince Philip can be seen on the extreme right of the photo.
John Brantley snapped this photo of the while he was posted to Kagnew Station in the late 1940s. A railway line between Massawa to Bishia was built in the early 20th century by the Italians, but it was destroyed by warfare in subsequent decades. It was rebuilt between Massawa and Asmara in the 1990s after Eritrean independence, and 1930s vintage Fiat Littorina railcars now operate on it.
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Here’s a photo from around 1960 of the shop at 120 Kingsway, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
These traditional Nigerian masks were worn by the Isu tribe (part of the Igbo) during the Okorosia masquerade in 1931.
De Waal Drive, Cape Town
De Waal Drive is one of the most scenic lookout points in Cape Town. The view has changed a bit since 1933 when this photo was taken.
Photography of Musa Katuramu (1913-1986), Uganda
At a time when most camera owners were non-native missionaries and colonists, Musa Katuramu began documenting his community in Western Uganda in the 1930s. A carpenter and teacher from Toro, he worked with a basic camera and built his studios on site. Katuramu would go around his neighborhood shooting portraits of family and friends.
Source: AFK Insider