Since 2012, Lou Jones has been at work on the panAfricaproject, a growing archive of images that depict Africa free of the violence, poverty and suffering that often color depictions of everyday life there. Shot by Jones and others, the images from Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal, Lesotho, Namibia and other countries show regular moments of commerce, education and culture—children have a snack on a grassy hillside, workers assemble high tech products, a musician records in a studio, a pilot in a cockpit prepares to take off. Jones plans to expand the project to cover the entire continent, but for now a selection of images are on view at Boston Arts Academy until December 17. “Country by country, we are creating a repository of photographs that will become a unique educational, research, and artistic resource for anyone interested in hard-to-get imagery of positive, non-clichéd life in contemporary Africa,” writes Jones in a statement.
Jones sees the project as a corrective to decades-long portrayals of Africa that have focused on the negative. “For the last several generations, media coverage of sub-Saharan Africa has been both naïve and slanted. The imbalanced portrayal has created false stereotypes and caused damage to the perceived image of Africa. What [Western] media deems newsworthy has largely been limited to pestilence, poverty, conflict and wildlife, when the real image is much more complex,” he writes. “It is the panAFRICAproject’s contention that photography is the best method to illuminate examples of such diversity and bring them to the eyes of a global audience in the most engaging, balanced, and compelling way possible. Photography is not only the most efficient, comprehensive, and flexible means of documentation, but the most universal ‘language’ with which to inspire people’s imagination.”