I feel that, in the West, we have a skewed image of Africa: a combination of the doom and gloom from the media and the plethora of photo projects that cover injustice, poverty, war and political horrors throughout the continent. It feels like from north to south, east to west, it comprises of misery and human suffering. There is, of course, much of that, all of which needs to be exposed to the world and not kept a secret, but there is also a vast and beautiful culture and history, which is seldom celebrated in the face of documenting all that is wrong with Africa.

Jonathan May’s “Tales from Africa” exhibits warmth, respect and admiration for African culture. It is refreshing to see a story of Africa that feels more celebratory than exploitative. We become students, soaking in the beauty, gazing into these people’s lives, learning and engaging on a human level.

The most important skill exhibited in “Tales from Africa” is May’s ability to act as the humble recorder, whilst still applying his style, skill and proficiency to the images. If an image evokes more of the photographer than it does of the subject, it is missing a key element of story telling. This is something May is acutely aware of and he elevates his subjects whilst remaining anonymous to us, the viewer

~ Gareth Dutton

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Head On Photo Awards 2024

Entries to the Head On Photo Awards 2024 open in May/June.

Image detail: Gary Ramage