Christina Engell Anderson only produced six issues of After 5: A Photographic Journey in Kenya, her online magazine dedicated to showcasing high quality images by Kenyan and Kenya-based photographers. But six was enough for her to put together a goldmine of great photography sent her way. And thus, After 5 was born.
The other stipulation that Christina had made when she initially sent out calls for photographers to contribute to her online magazine was that the images sent should reflect the passions, preoccupation and top priorities that people pursued after their work days were done, in other words, after 5pm.
Her challenge as editor and curator of the book was to select not just beautiful images but also ones that exposed the imaginative ways that specific photographers (some professional, a few amateurs) could interpret the world around them with eyes that made the ordinary look extraordinary and unique.
The images in After 5 are anything but ordinary. Every one of the 22 photographers whose photos appear in Christina’s just-published coffee-table sized book have a sense of artistry, imagination and innovation in the images they have shared.
In fact, some of the photographs could pass for beautiful paintings, some naturalistic, others surrealistic, and others simply striking for their unassuming authenticity.
One reason for the plethora of exquisite photographs that Christina had to choose from is probably due in part to Kenya’s long-standing tradition of attracting people from all over the world to snap shots of its lovely landscapes and wildlife.
It’s said that both amateur and professional photographers flooded Kenya following the return home of American President Theodore (‘Teddy’) Roosevelt from his Kenyan safari in the early days of the last century. Teddy was full of great safari stories as well as exquisite images of all he’d seen in Kenya, inspiring others to follow his lead and come here to see and shoot for themselves.
That long-standing tradition undoubtedly spawned a number of indigenous photographers early on. But After 5 doesn’t have any of the ‘‘old-timers’’ represented in the book.
The book is all about what’s happening right now, it is filled with images taken by a younger generation keen to shoot what’s happening today.
One advantage of this perspective is that the book captures both classic and ephemeral images, some that seem iconic, others spontaneous and fresh. Divided thematically into sections called ‘around Kenya’, ‘creative contemporary’, ‘documentary’, ‘portraits’ and ‘wildlife’, Christina made room for locals to share unusual images from their ‘travel’ as well.
But the one section that I feel best reflects the way Christina has sought to focus on fresh works by a younger generation is the one entitled ‘instagram’. Taking seriously this element of social media puts her on the cutting edge of where a new generation of citizen photographers are rapidly being born.
One aspect of the book that I initially found problematic from a journalistic perspective was the fact that the magnificently published photos had no attribution attached to them. Instead, they were placed according to theme, not according to the photographer.
But then, the last chapter of the book features brief biographies of all the contributing photographers along with mini-images of all their photos plus a lovely mug shot of each.
Christina’s own brief bio and photo is also there at the end.
Reviewed by Margaretta wa Gacheru