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Sharing African stories

African photography is on the rise. Following decades of photographic misrepresentation by observers from outside the continent, African photographers are now showing the world what they see through their lens. This is Africa spotlights them in a series of interviews.

“For the most part photography started as a love-hate relationship”, Sam Vox admits. The Tanzanian photographer didn’t have an easy start in the passion that now means the world to him. But that all turned around after he left school and could do his own thing. “People motivate me to go out and photograph, I enjoy storytelling; people have so much to share. I’m curious about people’s lives, cultures, traditions, languages and food. It’s the means of life.”


For Vox it all kicked off in 2007 when he was doing his BA in Professional Communications in Malaysia. “Being far away from home and alone for the first time in a foreign country was an overwhelming experience,” he says. “One thing was for certain, and to most people’s surprise I disliked my photography class, which was compulsory during my foundation year. The class was very technical and consisted of lessons spent indoors most of the time. For that reason I never used my camera after class. Sadly, I have to confess it would just end up on my bottom shelf.”

Photo: Sam Vox
Photo: Sam Vox Photography

By the end of his first year Vox had saved up enough money to join friends on a road trip to the outskirts of Malaysia. He took his camera with him; “the best decision I ever made.” At the beginning of his adventures the passion was reignited. “I documented our road trip along the way and took photos of people we met along our travels. I was attached to my camera for the full period of two weeks. For me my camera was so much more, it became my tool to connect with strangers, make new friends and share stories.” After graduating in 2012 and moving back to Tanzania, Vox never left his camera behind again.

Photos: Sam Vox Photography


“I don’t go out targeting specific people; for me everyone has something to share,” Vox explains. Joining the Everyday Africa project made that even more encouraging, and well worth the time. I don’t necessarily have an aim or try to educate my audience, but I’ve noticed that my photographs and stories have changed many people’s views on Tanzania and Africa in general.” For Vox his photography is a channel which enables him to share parts of Africa’s heart and her people. Ultimately his aim is to show the ordinary everyday life in an African country, by sharing stories of people, places and their different cultures and traditions.

Photo: Sam Vox
Photo: Sam Vox Photography


Yet he certainly doesn’t go out with the intention or pursuit of finding images that would change the world’s view on Africa or Tanzania in particular. “I go out to connect with people and share their stories. That is what is most important to me, and most likely what could set my photography aside from other photographers out there. I have the advantage of connecting well with the people I photograph, especially in Tanzania.” Vox think they are more likely to share with him than a foreigner, mainly because he doesn’t treat them as my ‘subjects,’ but rather as new friend he’s made. “As mentioned before, personally it is the focus of having that connection which is is important and I feel like I can reach out to people that can be easily ignored. It could be a coffee seller on the streets or a taxi driver. If I had a task, it would be to show a little fraction of such a person’s daily life.”



Photo: Sam Vox
Photo: Sam Vox Photography

Though his work revolves around people and places, Vox tries not to limit himself when it comes to photography. “I experiment with different styles and enjoy the whole process of learning new things as it is a never ending journey of learning and growing. At the moment my stronghold would be portraiture; I like the whole process of engaging with the person and trying to reflect that into my images. I also experiment a lot with fine art photography and double exposures, it keeps my creativity flowing and sparks more ideas.” Quite aware of all the struggles people face in their everyday life, he still likes meeting the ones that are actually trying to make a change, either for themselves or the community. “There is so much to learn from the continent, the different languages, cultures and traditions. Africa is growing rapidly and an outsider may not be able to see it as we do. I think once the deeper meaning behind storytelling is met by more viewers, a greater respect and interest will arise for it.”

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