The Studio at work

In 1982/83 two young photographers, Morten Vest and Jørn Stjerneklar, went on the road in East Africa. With an old Rolleiflex, loads of Kodak Plus-X-Pan and 40 kilos of darkroom equipment. They travelled in Tanzania and Kenya and put up their studio in streets, in the bush, in hotel rooms. The idea was to copy the traditional African photostudio with a little twist. Instead of romantic backgrounds they brought 20 square meters of white cotton. People who wanted their picture taken got a free copy the next day - and the photographers kept the negative for making a book.

It worked wonderfully, even in a place like the notorious Nyama Kema in Nairobi. The project was self financed - the book just an idea. But eventually they found a publisher brave enough to print it. The two photographers will never accept blame for the publisher later went bankrupt!

What the photographers basically wanted was to give the Africans a chance to show the world how they saw themselves. The photographers did not decide the way the pictures should look. The people did. When they were ready in front of the camera, they gave a nod.

The films were developed under many challenging circumstances. Like using unfiltered well water - or even water from a muddy river.

The book got mixed reviews - mostly good ones. It did not sell many copies, though. A pity, because here 30 years later, the pictures are still very powerful.

© Black & White Photostudio/Morten Vest/Jørn Stjerneklar